Millers fall to defeat in Essex...
Rotherham United’s bid to firm up their position in the Sky Bet League One Play-off places was dealt a blow as they were defeated 2-0 by Southend United at Roots Hall.
The Millers struggled to find the form that saw them cruise past Northampton Town a week previously, with Chris Powell’s side prevailing thanks to goals from Stephen McLaughlin and Simon Cox either side of the interval.
Paul Warne made one change to the side that beat Northampton Town last Saturday. Goalkeeper Marek Rodak was missing on international duty, with Lewis Price coming in for his first league start of the campaign.
The Millers efforts to take control of the game in the early stages were admirable but their attacking intent was partially the reason they fell behind just seven minutes into the Roots Hall encounter.
A throw in on the Millers’ right flank saw Warne’s side concede possession with the hosts opting to get it forward quickly. Simon Cox showed his experience as he held off the challenge of Will Vaulks as he broke for goal before displaying good presence of mind to pick out the unmarked McLaughlin, who steadied himself before coolly slotting beyond Price to give his side an early lead.
Price was certainly the standout player inside the opening 20 minutes for the Millers and arguably the busiest but without his intervention Marc-Antoine Fortune would have doubled the home advantage. Cox was again the architect as he slipped a nicely weighted pass in behind the Millers defence, which saw Fortune spring the offside trap, but Price was alert to the danger and made an excellent save at the forward’s feet as he looked to round him one-on-one.
Williams was the first Millers player to catch sight of former Miller Mark Oxley’s goal, but it was by no means a clear cut chance. The Australian’s endeavour in the final third saw him pinch possession from Elvis Bwomono in the Southend back line before he found room for a shot, which was well-blocked by a home defender.
In an otherwise uneventful first half in front of goal, the Millers almost restored parity seconds before the half time interval. Vaulks’ deep cross was kept alive at the back post by Michael Smith, who found strike partner David Ball, but his snapshot from close range trickled agonisingly wide of the far post with Oxley beaten.
Half-time | Southend United 1 v 0 Rotherham United
Millers boss Warne opted against any half time changes but his side continued to struggle to break down a resilient Southend rearguard.
Chris Powell’s side showed no signs of resting on their laurels at 1-0 and almost doubled their advantage five minutes after the restart when the dangerous Cox met a cross from the left at the far post. After taming the delivery in a bit of room, the forward lashed a thunderous effort at goal which looked destined for the target until Ajayi threw himself in the way to make a brave block at the expense of a corner.
The introduction of Anthony Forde and Jerry Yates in the places of Jon Taylor and Josh Emmanuel marked a shift in formation for the visitors to a 3-4-3 system, as Warne’s side looked for a way back into the game.
The reshuffle almost paid dividends soon after when Richie Towell caught sight of Oxley’s goal and took on an early effort from 20 yards out which could only be parried by the Southend stopper. Yates almost had his name on the scoresheet as he looked to sniff out a chance as the loose ball escaped Oxley’s grasp, but the substitute lost his footing at the vital moment and the chance went begging.
The Millers’ misery was compounded 10 minutes from time when Cox got his reward for a quality performance in the Southend attack with a classy goal. There looked to be little danger as the forward advanced with Ajayi for company, but he expertly tamed the bouncing ball to escape the defender’s attentions before slotting home with a cool finish and the near post to make it 2-0.
Warne’s side refused to relinquish in their attempts to find a way back into the game and came close to halving the deficit shortly after but McLaughlin’s goal line clearance from Michael Smith’s effort was enough to preserve the hosts’ clean sheet.
Towell’s looping cross almost inadvertently found it’s way beyond Oxley as it dropped out of the sky and onto the crossbar, before bouncing away from danger with Ajayi lurking in the hope of applying the finishing touch.
Substitute Joe Newell’s left-footed strike marked the Millers’ final foray forward but the winger’s effort summed up a disappointing afternoon for Warne’s side as it whizzed wide of the target.
Full-time | Southend United 2 v 0 Rotherham United
Southend | Oxley, Coker, Wordsworth, Turner, Fortune(Harrison 81) , Cox (Wright 89), McLaughlin, Yearwood, Mantom (Timlin 69), Bwomono, White.
Subs not used: Bishop, Ferdinand, Kightly, Robinson.
Rotherham | Price; Emmanuel (Yates 58), Ajayi, Vaulks, Mattock; Taylor (Forde 58), Palmer, Towell, Williams (Newell 73); Smith, Ball.
Subs not used: Bilboe, Cummings, Ihiekwe, Wood.
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Attendance: 7,719 (461 away)