Millers hopes ended by WBA defeat......
ROTHERHAM United will be playing League One football next term after a 2-1 reversal at the hands of West Bromwich Albion confirmed their relegation from England’s second tier.
The Millers hopes of taking their survival fight to the last day were boosted when Clark Robertson put them ahead at The Hawthorns but goals from Jay Rodriguez, from the spot, and Rekeem Harper, within minutes, put pay to their brave challenge.
Following their home loss to Birmingham City last time out, Millers chief Paul Warne made three changes to his starting line-up for the trip to the West Midlands.
Michael Ihiekwe and Robertson were recalled to the heart of the Rotherham rearguard while Nigerian international Semi Ajayi was asked to ply his trade in a holding midfield role.
Will Vaulks was handed the skipper’s armband while Anthony Forde was expected to provide the ammunition from the flanks, at the expense of Ryan Williams, who was named on the bench.
The Millers could only field six substitutes with Jerry Yates ruled out at the 11th hour, because of illness.
The visitors started in a positive vein and after Matt Crooks forced an early corner from Ahmed Hegazi, former Baggie Billy Jones latched onto the pieces from the resultant centre to drag a low effort from distance harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, Jones showed his defensive instincts to prevent Kieran Gibbs from getting his cross over before Rotherham switched play to great effect and Forde cut inside to hang a centre which was met by the head of Ajayi, but the defender-cum-midfielder could not control his effort, as it blazed over the home bar.
In the next Millers attack, Ajayi looked to bulldoze his way into the Albion box but home skipper Chris Brunt put in a timely block to snuff out the danger before Gibbs was forced to head Forde’s whipped centre behind his own goal.
Warne’s side came within a whisker of the opener when Joe Newell delivered an inswinging corner which saw Robertson emerge from the ruck of bodies in the box to plant a header which, agonisingly, smashed against the angle of the home goal, but falling to safety.
With news of Millwall’s draw with Stoke filtering through to the Millers fans, a fine flowing move involving Jones ended when Forde’s low cross was hacked clear by a retreating defender before Ihiekwe was on hand to divert Holgate’s cross away from goal, at the other end, in the first home foray of note.
Just past the half-hour mark, Newell spotted Robertson’s near post run to find him with his corner, but the ex-Blackpool centre-half could only glance a header well wide before Mattock became the first to see yellow for cynically bundling over Rodriguez on halfway.
Minutes later, Dwight Gayle’ cross-cum-shot forced Marek Rodak into a sprawled save before Brunt lashed a left-footed effort, from just outside the box, into the home faithful behind into the goal, following Gibbs’ pullback.
With half-time approaching, the home side were indebted to Craig Dawson for maintaining parity at the interval when Will Vaulks’ exocet throw skimmed off the head of Kyle Bartley, as he attempted to clear, and with Sam Johnstone in no position to intervene, Dawson was forced to head clear from underneath his own crossbar.
Half-time- West Bromwich Albion 0 Rotherham United 0
The hosts had the first sight of goal following the break when Stefan Johansen tried his luck from distance but his rising effort struck Gibbs en-route to goal before Rotherham dramatically took the lead, five minutes into the half.
There looked little danger until Crooks was felled by Dawson and following lengthy treatment to the tall midfielder, the Millers punished the mistake to the full when Newell’s free-kick was inviting for the run of Robertson, who planted a looping header over the attentions of Johnstone and despite Brunt’s efforts to clear from his own line, the referee following guidance from the goal line technology finally gave the goal, to the jubilation of the noisy band of Millers followers.
The goal seemed to spark the hosts to life and both Holgate and Harper flashed dangerous centre’s across the face of the Millers goal before Gayle twisted and turned in the box but his effort was deflected over by Robertson.
Moments later, Rotherham failed to clear the danger and Rodriguez acrobatically fired wide following Holgate’s centre before Smith failed to make the most of a quick Rotherham counter when his wayward pass evaded the attentions of a rampaging Crooks.
On the hour mark, Gayle fluffed his lines with the goal at his mercy, as he failed to connect with Hegazi’s knock down before Jones became the latest to see yellow for a clip on Johansen.
The Millers had a scare when sub Matt Phillips skipped past Forde to deliver a centre which flew over the head of Mattock to find Holgate, at the far post, but the Everton loanee blazed over when he should have done better.
The home side were cranking up the pressure and a backtracking Rodak was forced to tip Holgate’s deft effort over his own crossbar before West Brom were presented with the opportunity to level matters when they were awarded a controversial throw-in award and in the aftermath of the incident, the Millers failed to clear their lines and Gayle tumbled under the challenge of a trailing Rotherham leg in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Rodriguez kept his nerve from 12 yards to fire high into the roof of the Rotherham net – with Rodak wrong footed.
The game was then turned on its head, within minutes, when Albion attacked with purpose and following the breakdown of their initial attack, Harper pounced on the loose ball to lash a fierce left-footed effort from distance which beat the outstretched hand of Rodak to find the far corner of the goal.
In an exciting sixty seconds, sub Ryan Williams had a shot blocked but the ball fell kindly for fellow sub Kyle Vassell, who was denied by Johnstone before West Brom turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and with Rotherham throwing bodies forward, Gayle put Phillips, in the clear – but a combination of Rodak and Towell forced the Scotland winger to put his shot wide.
In a late Millers flurry, Vassell headed over from Newell’s corner before the same player stung the palms of Johnstone with a low effort from range.
In the late noteworthy action of the game, sub Hal Robson-Kanu skipped clear following Phillips’ through ball but he planted his effort wide when it looked easier to score before Newell summed up Rotherham’s day when he worked a shooting position to strike an effort, which took a slight deflection, as it struck the Baggies crossbar before Towell volleyed goalwards, in a frantic finish, but his effort was blocked by the ruck of bodies in the box before the referee brought the game and Rotherham’s participation in the Championship to an end.
Full-time:- West Bromwich Albion 2 Rotherham United 1
West Bromwich Albion 2
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- WBA- Johnstone, Gibbs, Bartley, Johansen (Phillips 67), Brunt, Gayle, Rodriguez (Robson-Kanu 86), Dawson, Hegazi, Harper, Holgate (Murphy 78). Unused- Bond, Townsend, Adarabioyo, Field.
Rotherham- Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks (Towell 71), Ajayi, Forde (Williams 83), Robertson, Crooks, Ihiekwe, Newell, Smith, Jones (Vassell 83). Unused- Price, Wood, Taylor.
Referee- R Jones