Millers survival hopes dealt a blow at Swansea...
Rotherham United’s Sky Bet Championship survival hopes were dealt a cruel blow in a seven goal encounter which saw Swansea City come from behind to prevail as 4-3 victors at the Liberty Stadium.
Twice the Millers took the lead but twice they were pegged back by a Swansea side free from pressure. Michael Ihiekwe’s header was cancelled out by Oli McBurnie before Matt Crooks restored the lead – all in the first half. The goals continued to flow after the break with Mckay, Byers and McBurnie again on target, but the Millers kept on fighting as Vaulks struck to make it 4-3 and only a smart save from Kristoffer Nordfeldt denied Michael Smith a goal and a point for Rotherham.
Warne rewarded towering midfielder Matt Crooks with a place in his starting XI following an impressive substitute performance a week previously at Stoke City, which included a goal for the former Northampton Town man.
That change in personnel the engine room marked the only difference to the side that turned in an excellent display against the Potters, with the Millers boss opting to name the exact same bench, with Richie Towell the man conceding his place to Crooks.
The visitors would have been well-aware of the importance of the Good Friday fixture without any words from their manager, but whatever was said in the dressing room before the game certainly reiterated the message.
The Millers stated their intentions to begin the game brightly from the first whistle and had their first corner after just 15 seconds. After Anthony Forde’s initial delivery was repelled at the near post, the Irishman made ground down the left to the byline to turn in a low cross which was hastily cleared with blue and black shirt piling into the box.
The aerial bombardment continued from dead ball situations and it was Wales international Will Vaulks’ long throw that was next to test the Swans’ defensive resilience, but the hosts passed the early examination as Kristoffer Nordfeldt picked up the pieces.
Swansea threatened themselves from a corner shortly afterwards and Scottish forward Oli McBurnie may have felt he should have done better with his early opportunity, which saw him fail to make telling contact on a wicked cross in from a corner in the six yard box, allowing the Millers to clear.
There was no change in tact for the Millers unsurprisingly and it would be another of those Vaulks’ throws which would pave the way for the opener. There were just 10 minutes on the clock when the former Falkirk man launched another throw into the area, only to see it initially cleared. However, an intelligent header from Joe Mattock kept the move alive, gifting Vaulks possession in a wide position where he delivered a tantalising inswinging cross which Michael Ihiekwe stretched to reach and make the most minimum of contact with to nod it beyond the ‘keeper.
Those energy levels were maintained as the first half minutes passed and the relentless high press from the Millers almost paid dividends. Semi Ajayi’s commitment to the cause allowed him to pinch back possession and lay it to Crooks, whose ball out to Jon Taylor saw the winger cut in and sting the palms of Nordfeldt with a low strike.
The hosts had a spell of getting the ball into wide areas for the dangerous duo of Wayne Routledge and Daniel James to try and plunder an opening, but the Millers stood up the test defensively with both Mattock and Zak Vyner sticking to the task, with help from the retreating wingers Anthony Forde and Jon Taylor.
Otherwise, despite their best efforts, Swansea hadn’t forged any big chances until their equaliser came on 36 minutes. Despite being highly-regarded for their intricate passing style, it was a set piece that produced their equaliser. Matt Grimes’ superb delivery saw McBurnie rise highest in the box to power a header past Marek Rodak to restore parity in Wales.
There was no crestfallen look over the visiting players’ faces nor anyone of a Rotherham United persuasion feeling in any way sorry for themselves and that told, as just two minutes later Warne’s men edged themselves back in front.
Crooks, who had been immense as part of the Millers’ attack in the opening 45 minutes, made it two goals in as many games as he applied the most calculated of finishes on the half turn to ensure that Vaulks’ long throw and Michael Smith’s subsequent flick on resulted in a goal. It looked anything but a certain goal as the ball bounced unfavourably behind the big man in the box, but his maths was all right as he steered his volley home out of the reach of Nordfeldt.
The Millers could have had an all-important third on 42 minutes and it could have been Crooks adding a second for the afternoon. Taylor’s teasing cross hung in the air with Smith and Crooks both awaiting it’s arrival and it was the latter who made contact, forcing the ‘keeper into an impressive reaction save from the header.
Half-time | Swansea City 1 v 2 Rotherham United
The hosts began the second half with much more urgency than the first and following a spell of five minutes of pressure, found themselves on terms once more.
This time the Millers were unable to stop the impressive James, who skipped to the byline and clipped in a perfectly-weighted cross, which McKay stooped to head and steer beyond the outstretched figure of Marek Rodak.
The Millers tried to make headway down the wing themselves and came close to a chance when Forde and Smith combined before Vyner supplied the ammunition, only to see Grimes turn away the low cross in the area.
The visitors had Rodak to thank for the scores remaining level in an unfortunate couple of minutes which saw Zak Vyner go down injured and gifted the Swans a golden chance to attack. The hosts came within a super save of capitalising, as James found himself without a mark because of the injury, but Rodak’s brave stop somehow kept out the winger’s effort at the back post where he looked certain to score.
Warne’s side’s fortunes went from bad to worse with just over 20 minutes remaining as Swansea took the lead. George Byers’ connection on the volley wasn’t all that convincing, but it proved to be telling enough as it bounced through a crowded penalty box and beyond Rodak, with Naughton claiming the faintest of final touches a couple of yards from goal.
Further damage was inflicted 10 minutes from time when Rodak was beaten by a well-placed curling effort from McBurnie, who broke into the box and shaped up to bend a ball into the far corner and double the gap between his side and the Millers.
In typical Rotherham United fashion, Warne’s men refused to roll over and after some inspired goalkeeping from Rodak once more, they had a lifeline. Vaulks’ thundering volley on the charge in the box crashed against the underside of the crossbar before hitting the back of the net to set up a tense finale.
The visitors then asked question after question of the home rearguard, going all the way to the wire in the eight minutes of added time and Nordfeldt drew the plaudits on two separate occasions, denying both Crooks and Smith with unbelievable saves late on.
Full-time | Swansea City 4 v 3 Rotherham United
Millers | Rodak; Vyner, Ihiekwe, Robertson, Mattock; Ajayi (Towell 57); Taylor (Williams 79), Vaulks, Crooks (Wiles 82), Forde; Smith.
Unused | Price, Wood, Newell, Vassell.