Jutkiewicz hat-trick gives Blues win
ROTHERHAM United are still searching for their first away points of the season as Lukas Jutkiewicz’s fine hat-trick saw Birmingham City run out comfortable victors at St Andrew’s.
The Millers were giving as good as they were getting in the early stages of the game until Jutkiewicz struck twice in three first-half minutes – with a header and tap-in, respectively.
Paul Warne’s side responded positively to the setback for the remainder of the first half but any hopes of a Millers fightback were extinguished when Jutkiewicz claimed the match ball with a fine left-footed effort, after the break.
Despite the deficit, the Millers were finally rewarded for their efforts when they notched a late consolation when Jon Taylor turned home sub Kyle Vassell’s cross with a close range finish.
Following their hard-earned draw with Bristol City, Millers chief Warne kept faith with midweek starting line-up for the visit to England’s second city.
Will Vaulks was retained at the heart of Rotherham’s rearguard alongside in-form Semi Ajayi while Ryan Williams was asked to play in support of lone frontman Michael Smith in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Zak Vyner and Vassell were added to the Millers bench while one line Millers ‘keeper Lee Camp was between the sticks for the hosts.
The hosts had the first sight of goal when Ryan Manning’s tackle in avertedly fell kindly for Che Adams, who advanced with menace towards the Millers box to drill an effort which was bravely blocked by Billy Jones, before the ex-Blade pounced on the rebound to fire a low shot which had Marek Rodak nervously scurrying across goal, as it shaved the visitors’ upright.
Minutes later, Ajayi was penalised for hauling down Adams on the edge of the box but Gary Gardner failed to make it count from the resultant free-kick, when his curling effort from an inviting position flew into the Millers travelling contingent behind the goal.
In Rotherham’s first foray of note, Smith nipped the pocket of Harlee Dean and Williams latched onto the loose ball to waltz past the attentions of two home defenders before firing a left-footed effort which was blocked en-route to goal by the outstretched leg of Kristian Pedersen before Jutkiewicz got the better of Vaulks in the box, at the other end, but his cross-cum-shot deflected off Jones into the grateful hands of Rodak.
Minutes later, Vaulks temporarily lost his footing which looked to given Jutkiewicz a free run on goal but the converted centre-half regained his composure to deny the home frontman with a superb sliding challenge before Birmingham took the lead on the 20 minute mark.
A timely interception from Ajayi failed to prevent a home corner and Jota swung a deep corner to the far post and Jutkiewicz, who had ghosted away from the ruck of bodies in the box, planted a header, from an acute angle, which squeezed through the tightest of angles at the near post – with Rodak getting a hand to his effort, but the Slovakian stopper could not keep the ball out.
The Millers were given a mountain to climb when Birmingham doubled their advantage, just minutes, when Jota got on the wrong side of the marker to ghost into the box and the ball was played back into the path of Gardner, who drilled a low effort, from the edge of the box, which was only parried by Rodak and Jutkiewicz was on hand to tap the ball home into the unguarded net.
Warne’s side responded positively to the double setback and the Blues failed to deal with a long punt forward and Williams’ perseverance was rewarded when the ball dropped kindly for Taylor, who worked a shooting position, but he could only fire a tame effort which was straight down the throat of Camp.
Minutes later, Gardner dwelt in possession and Joe Newell stripped him off the ball to burst into the box and although Pedersen denied the Tamworth-born midfielder a shooting opportunity, the ball fell for Williams, who bizarrely elected to pass rather than shoot – with the goal at his mercy, and Taylor failed to get his shot away under pressure from home defenders before Manning latched onto a weak home clearance, from a Millers’ free-kick, to fire a rising effort which a backtracking Camp was forced to tip-over the bar.
Half-time- Birmingham City 2 Rotherham United 0
Following the break, Rotherham’s frustration boiled over when Mattock became the first to see yellow for hauling down Jota in full flow near the touchline – with the Millers full-back requiring lengthy treatment, in the aftermath of the incident.
The Spaniard was in the thick of the early second-half action and following an incisive run, Jacques Maghoma had the opportunity to cut inside to strike a fierce effort which whistled over the Millers bar.
Moments later, Jota and Jutkiewicz combined smartly on the edge of the visitors’ box, as the latter clipped a ball over the top to present Maghoma – with another chance to strike and the former Wednesday winger dribbled an effort which was hacked clear by Vaulks, from near his own line – with Rodak a helpless bystander.
In the next Blues attack, Jutkiewicz was dragged down, as he looked to latch onto Jota’s corner and the referee awarded a free-kick, just inches outside the box, and the home frontman exacted retribution, from the resultant set-piece, when a training ground move, paved the way for the ex-Middlesbrough and Burnley forward to drill a low, left-footed effort which flew past the outstretched hand of Rodak, to find the corner of the Millers goal.
However, Rotherham refused to throw in the towel and after sub Vassell was twice denied by Camp with long range efforts, the ex-Blackpool frontman turned creator when he dug out a cross which saw Taylor nip in front of his marker, to divert the ball past the attentions of Camp from close range, by finding the heart of the home goal.
Despite a late Millers rally, the hosts almost added gloss to the score line when sub Connor Mahoney showed fleet of foot to ghost into the box, by leaving Vaulks in his wake, but Rodak was quick off his line to narrow the angle, by blocking his near-post effort.
In the last noteworthy action of the game, Mattock swung a deep cross which evaded the attentions of Smith but Taylor was able to get his shot away although Dean was well-placed to snuff out the danger.
Full-time- Birmingham City 3 Rotherham United 1
Birmingham City 3
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Birmingham- Camp, Pedersen, Colin, Kieftenbeld, Adams (Lubala 90), Jutkiewicz, Dean, Maghoma (Mahoney 73), Gardner, Jota, Morrison (Roberts 75). Unused- Trueman, Solomon-Otabor, Lakin, Harding.
Rotherham- Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Palmer (Vyner 88), Taylor, Manning (Wiles 62), Newell (Vassell 55), Williams, Smith, Jones. Unused- Price, Forde, Onariase, Lewthwaite
Referee- K Stroud