Manning's brace from the spot earns Millers' comeback victory...
ROTHERHAM United produced a stirring second-half fightback to overturn a half-time deficit and claim a memorable victory over former Premier League outfit Swansea City in the most dramatic of circumstances.
The South Wales side looked on course for victory thanks to Oliver McBurnie’s opener but following a string of fine saves from Marek Rodak, Rotherham turned the game on its head when sub Ryan Manning struck twice from the spot, in the space of eight minutes, near the end – to send the AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful into ecstasy.
Following their hard fought points at the road at Middlesbrough and Preston North End, respectively, Millers chief Paul Warne kept faith with his starting line-up at Deepdale with Clark Robertson retained at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard alongside in-form Semi Ajayi.
Speedster Jon Taylor shrugged off a sore knee to take his place at the AESSEAL New York Stadium with last week’s goalscorer Michael Smith, once again, leading the Millers line.
The visitors were the quickest out of the blocks and Rodak took a smart catch from Connor Roberts’ vicious cross before the Slovakian stopper was called into action, just seconds later, to parry Daniel James’ dangerous corner to safety.
In the Millers’ first foray, Ajayi’s floated ball over the top looked inch-perfect for the onrushing Ryan Williams but the ball skipped off the slick surface to evade the attentions of the Australian winger.
Moments later, a sweeping move from the Welshman paved the way for James to cut inside with menace, as he looked to work a shooting position but he was felled on the edge of the box by a retreating Taylor but Matt Grimes failed to make it count from the resultant free-kick when his curling effort flew into the home faithful behind the goal.
In the next Swans’ attack, Grimes’ pinpoint ball over the top took Zak Vyner out the game and James fizzed an inviting centre which was smothered by Rodak at his near post before a late tackle by Vaulks on James near the touchline sparked a melee involving both sets of players, which saw the referee brandish yellow cards to the Millers midfielder, as well as Smith and Leroy Fer, who squared up to each other, in the aftermath of the incident.
The visitors opened the scoring on 25 minutes when Bersant Celina’s delicate pass saw James show Vyner a quick pair of heels and the highly-rated winger kept his nerve to deliver a perfectly-weighted cross across the face of goal and with neither Rodak or the Rotherham defence in a position to intervene, McBurnie was on-hand to turn the ball home from close range.
Minutes later, Swansea again attacked with purpose and James worked a yard of space on Vyner to fire a rasping effort which whistled narrowly over the Rotherham goal before good work by McBurnie and Roberts gave James another glimpse of goal but the winger fired over, at the near post.
The Millers were indebted to Rodak for keeping them in the game when Kyle Naughton’s floated ball over the top saw Celina beat the offside trap to bare down on the Rotherham goal but the home ‘keeper won the battle of wills between the two to deny the Swans playmaker.
Warne’s side were struggling to create any chances of note until Taylor’s free-kick saw Ajayi rise highest but his tame header was plucked out of the sky by Kristoffer Nordfeldt before Williams got around the back to deliver a hanging cross which was met by the head of Smith, but his effort was diverted to safety by a backtracking defender.
With half-time approaching, Rotherham turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye following good work by Smith, Richie Towell and Kyle Vassell and the ball fell invitingly for Taylor, who fired a snap shot which was blocked at close range by the body of Grimes – with the referee waving away a few appeals for a spot-kick.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Swansea City 1
Just minutes into the second half, Swansea almost doubled their advantage but Rodak kept the Millers in the game with a superb reflex save.
A defensive splitting pass from Naughton saw Roberts break clear before playing a slide-rule pass into the path of Fer, who looked a certain scorer, from about eight yards out, but the Rotherham ‘keeper produced a fantastic save to deny the Dutchman.
Sub Manning was introduced at the break and the move almost paid dividends when the QPR delivered a tantalising centre which was superbly cleared by Joe Rodon, who had initially lost his balance – with one or two Rotherham attackers lurking for a tap-in.
Warne also threw Joe Newell into the fray, in an attempt to spark life into his side, but it was Swansea, who next threatened the Millers goal, when Jay Fulton’s marauding run split open the Rotherham defence but he was unable to control his shot from the edge of the box, as it flew narrowly over the home bar.
The visitors were looking the most likely and Roberts got around the back to play the ball invitingly into the path of James, who took aim with his weaker right-foot, but Vyner, to his credit, put in a brave block to deny him before Celina fired a snap shot from distance, which fizzed over.
However, the Millers, who were second best for much of the afternoon, were still in with a chance of a share of the spoils and Manning curled a delightful free-kick which forced Nordfeldt into a full-length save before Naughton headed Vaulks’ whipped centre to safety.
Minutes later, Celina became the latest to see yellow for kicking the ball away but he almost redeemed himself, in the next phase of play, when he latched onto James’ lightning counter-attack, to drill a low effort from distance which forced Rodak into another smart save.
However, Rotherham were given an opportunity to level matters with eleven minutes to go when Vaulks’ hopeful ball into the box caused indecision in the Swansea rearguard and Nordfeldt, in attempting to deal with the bouncing ball, appeared to bundle over sub Jamie Proctor, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Manning kept his cool with the resultant spot-kick when he fired low to the corner and despite Nordfeldt getting a hand to his effort, the ball found the Swansea net, to the delight of the AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful.
The Millers were sensing a turnaround could be on the cards and the home fans were in full voice when Mike Van der Hoorn tugged down Newell on the edge of the box and Newell dusted himself down to play the ball back to Vaulks, who fired a rasping drive from the edge of the box and the ball struck Fer, and the referee adjudged he had blocked the ball illegally, by pointing to the penalty spot once again.
In a carbon copy of his earlier goal, Manning kept his nerve to drive an effort high to Nordfeldt’s left and find the top corner of the Swans goal, despite the ‘keeper’s best efforts to keep the ball out.
Full-time- Rotherham United 2 Swansea City 1
Rotherham United 2
Swansea City 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Taylor (Newell 62), Towell (Proctor 75), Robertson, Vassell (Manning 46), Williams, Smith. Unused- Price, Wood, Wiles, Forde.
Swansea- Nordfeldt, Van der Hoorn, Fer, McBurnie, Celina, James, Grimes, Rodon, Roberts, Naughton (McKay 90), Fulton (Baker-Richardson 90). Unused- Mulder, Olsson, Asoro, Carter-Vickers, Dhanda.
Referee- T Harrington
Attendance- 9006 (778)