Rochdale end Millers' unbeaten run...
ROTHERHAM United tasted defeat for the first time since early December as Rochdale returned over the Pennines with maximum points thanks to Stephen Humphrys second-half winner.
Keith Hill’s men breathed new life into their League One survival push with their second away win, in the space of a week, as the Millers were unable to replicate the form, which has seen them go from mid-table obscurity to the verge of the automatic promotion places, following an impressive unbeaten run, either side of the new year.
With their scheduled encounter with Gillingham postponed, last weekend, owing to the wintry conditions, Millers boss Paul Warne kept faith with his starting line-up following their last-gasp victory over near neighbours Doncaster Rovers, a fortnight ago.
In a low-key opening, the Millers had the first sight of goal when Josh Emmanuel’s throw paved the way for David Ball to deftly flick the ball into the path of Anthony Forde, who raced into the box with intent to curl a left-footed effort which fizzed narrowly wide of the ‘Dale goal.
In the visitors’ first foray of note, Brad Inman slide-rule pass bisected the Rotherham rearguard to give Andrew Cannon, a glimpse of goal, but home ‘keeper Marek Rodak raced off his line to smother his goalbound effort before the Millers were indebted to Forde for a superb goalline clearance, under pressure from Rochdale runners, after Humphrys’ near-post flick from Joe Rafferty’s centre threatened the Rotherham goal.
Moments later, Will Vaulks’ long throw into the box was met by the head of Semi Ajayi, who knocked on into the path of Michael Smith but the in-form striker was unable to direct his looping header goalwards before Josh Lillis showed good handling to snuff out Joe Newell’s dangerous free-kick after Emmanuel’s run was illegally halted near the touchline.
In the next phase of play, the Millers were caught napping from a quickly taken free-kick and one-time Rotherham target Matt Done sneaked around the back to play the ball across goal but home skipper Richard Wood superbly anticipated the danger to hack clear from underneath his own crossbar.
Just before the half-hour mark, Forde’s pulled back corner presented Vaulks with the opportunity to strike from the edge of the box and the Millers midfielder fired a rasping effort which whistled narrowly over the visitors bar before the home fans had their hearts in their mouths, at the other end, when Humphrys’ latched onto a loose ball to drill a fierce effort which fizzed across the home goal.
Moments later, Rodak was forced to dive at the feet of Humphrys to prevent the ‘Dale frontman turning the ball home after Ian Henderson showed great skill to pluck Lillis’ long punt out of the sky, in the build-up, before the Slovakian ‘keeper was called into action, just shy of the break, when he smartly punched Callum Camps’ vicious half-volley from distance to safety.
In the last action of the half, there was a moment of controversy when Newell was upended near the corner flag. Forde curled the resultant free-kick into the box and Wood emerged from the masse of bodies in the goalmouth to head into the heart of the visitors goal, but after initially appearing to point to the centre circle, the referee adjudged that the Millers captain had fouled Lillis, in the action of scoring – with the visiting ‘keeper temporarily prone in the six-yard box.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Rochdale 0
The Lancastrians came within a whisker of the opener, just minutes into the half, when they turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and Henderson’s superb control and pass paved the way for Inman, to show Richie Towell, a quick pair of heels, to bare down on the home goal but Rodak diverted his toe-poked effort to safety.
The visitors had faint appeals for a spot kick when Vaulks needlessly felled Humphrys, as he looked to usher the ball out of play, but the referee waved away ‘Dale protests before Towell bravely put his body on the line to block Camps’ snap effort en-route to goal, in the visitors’ next attack.
The Millers were struggling to find their rhythm until Joe Mattock flashed a long range effort narrowly wide before Ball blasted over from a promising position.
However, Rochdale deservedly broke the deadlock with, just over twenty minutes remaining, when the Millers were split open by a threaded ball in the middle of the park and Inman’s superbly timed pass presented Humphrys with the chance to get a yard on Wood before confidently stroking home from the left.
The visitors were visibly buoyed by the strike and Camps drilled a low free-kick which was deflected narrowly of the target before Mattock, arguably, kept the home side in the game with a superb last-gasp tackle on Henderson – with the Dale striker poised to give his side a two-goal advantage after running through on goal.
The moment almost proved crucial when firstly Wood rose highest to meet Vaulks’ long throw but Lillis kept his nerve to gather smartly on his own line with Smith lurking for a tap-in before Newell’s incisive centre saw Ajayi nod the ball into the danger area but the ‘Dale ‘keeper nipped in front of Wood, to snuff out the danger.
With time running out, sub Sam Hart bizarrely saw yellow for impeding a quick throw from the home side, despite being off the pitch, at the time, before home frustration was summed up when Wood joined him in the book for a late foul on Cannon.
Warne’s men were unable to recreate their late Donny heroics, as the Red Rose side successfully ran down the clock to earn a much-needed victory in their fight for survival.
Full-time- Rotherham United 0 Rochdale 1
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel (Palmer 77), Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood, Forde (Williams 59), Ball (Lavery 69), Towell, Newell, Smith. Unused- Price, Taylor, Ihiekwe, Yates.
Rochdale- Lillis, Rafferty, McNulty, McGahey, Humphrys (Davies 77), Camps, Done, Inman (Rathbone 82), Delaney, Cannon, Henderson. Unused- Moore, Wiseman, Adshead, Hart, Dobre.
Referee- G Salisbury
Attendance- 8418 (399)