Millers slip to narrow defeat.....
ROTHERHAM United made the long trek from Suffolk empty-handed as Will Keane’s first-half strike gave Ipswich Town a much-needed victory, in their fight for Championship survival, at the expense of the Millers.
Following a lacklustre first-half display, the Millers were trailing at the break due to Keane’s point-blank effort and despite a much-improved second-half performance, they were unable to breach a resolute home defence.
Following their narrow victory over Preston North End, in their last league outing, boss Paul Warne made three changes to his starting line-up for the relegation clash.
Zak Vyner was recalled to the right-back slot while Sean Raggett and Clark Robertson formed a new-look Rotherham central defensive partnership – with Semi Ajayi asked to play a holding midfield role, in front of the back four.
Jon Taylor and Anthony Forde were expected to provide the ammunition from the flanks with Michael Smith plying his trade as the lone frontman at Portman Road.
The hosts, who had four January signings in their starting line-up, had the first sight of goal when Trevoh Chalobah’s marauding run and cross was diverted to safety by Robertson before Ajayi showed his defensive instincts to usher the ball into touch under pressure from Keane.
Moments later, Marek Rodak kept his nerve to deal with a heavy backpass from Robertson – with Collin Quaner ready to pounce before Vyner became the first to see yellow for a hefty challenge on Freddie Sears near the touchline.
The Millers had a scare when Cole Skuse took aim from distance with a low effort which took a slight deflection before appearing to strike the arm of Raggett, but the referee waved away vehement home appeals.
Just before the half-hour mark, Vyner showed bravery to deny Sears on the edge of the box before Joe Mattock had the Millers’ first shot in anger with a miscued effort which was hacked away by a retreating home defender.
However, Ipswich broke the deadlock, just seconds later, when Sears showed fleet of foot to dig out a cross from the left flank and with Raggett failing to take charge of the situation, the ball fell kindly for Keane, who fired into the bottom corner of the net from point-blank range.
The Millers responded positively to the setback and Taylor’s snap shot was blocked en-route to goal before Robertson prodded wide in the ensuing melee. Moments later, Vyner curled in a tantalising centre which was only half-cleared by the home defence into the path of Taylor, who could only balloon an effort over.
The Millers were forced into a defensive reshuffle when Raggett collided with Luke Chambers, who left both players needing treatment, but the Norwich loanee did not return to the proceedings and Ajayi was moved back into the back four – with Ryan Williams entering the fray.
Moments later, Ben Wiles was felled by Cole Skuse in an inviting position and Forde swung the resultant free-kick into the danger area and Ajayi, in a duel with his marker, almost in avertedly diverted the ball towards goal, but the ball flew wide.
Just shy of the break, Jack Lankester’s corner was nodded into the path of Sears, who appeared to have nudged Wiles, before hooking over from close range before Mattock had a glimpse of goal, at the other end, but he dragged a tame effort harmlessly wide of the target.
Rotherham squandered an opportunity to level matters, in first half stoppage time, when Forde drove hard down the touchline to deliver a tantalising cross which fell invitingly for Taylor, who got the ball under his spell, before volleying over when he really should have done better.
In the last act of the half, Skuse became the next to incur the wrath of the referee with a late tackle on Williams, which earned the home midfielder a caution.
Half-time: Ipswich Town 1 Rotherham United 0
With the words of Warne ringing in their ears, the Millers started the second half in a positive vein and Vaulks rose above his marker to meet Forde’s free-kick but he could not control his header, as it looped over the home crossbar.
Moments later, Wiles showed great tenacity to win possession and Smith picked up the pieces to unleash a fierce effort from distance which brought a fine parried save from Dean Gerken.
The Millers were looking a transformed outfit after the break and Wiles’ tapped free-kick paved the way for Vaulks, to drill a low effort which was smartly diverted to safety by Gerken before Wiles was the next to threaten the home goal with a snap shot which took a slight deflection of a home defender, as it whistled narrowly wide.
Just before the hour mark, Ipswich were somewhat fortuitous when Williams’ ball over the top narrowly evaded the attentions of Taylor, who could not control the ball before Gerken snuffed out the danger, at the second attempt.
The Millers were penning the home side deep inside their own half but they missed an opportunity to equalise when good work from Wiles and Mattock saw Smith find Forde, who hung the ball back into the air and Smith arched his neck to head goalwards from six-yards out, but his effort narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Smith was in the thick of the action and moments later, he cleverly worked a yard of space on James Collins, to curl a long-range effort which flew into the home faithful behind the goal.
Moments later, Vaulks clipped a delicious cross into the box but agonisingly for the Millers, both Smith and Taylor were unable to meet his centre, despite being just yards away from goal before Gerken showed fleet of foot to pluck Williams’ hanging cross out of the sky, under pressure from Robertson.
In the next Millers attack, Mattock fluffed his lines when he fired over from an inviting position on the edge of the box after the home side failed to deal with a long-throw into the box before Vaulks drilled a daisycutter which forced Gerken in a smart, low save to his right.
In a late visitors’ flurry, the home side were riding their luck when Williams’ dangerous centre fizzed across the box before Robertson’s nodded flick on looked inch-perfect for Mattock to tap home, but the full-back was unable to meet a clean connection, despite having the goal at his mercy and Gerken managed to bundle the ball clear.
Deep in stoppage time, Rotherham launched the ball into the box and following pinball in the box, a number of Millers’ players, including Ajayi, attempted to stab the ball forwards before Mattock prodded goalwards, but his effort was hacked clear from near the home line – to the relief of all those with an Ipswich persuasion.
Full-time- Ipswich Town 1 Rotherham United 0
Ipswich Town 1
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Ipswich- Gerken, Chambers, Pennington, Chalobah, Skuse, Keane, Sears (Nsiala 90), Elder, Lankester (Dawkins 73), Collins, Quaner (Downes 65). Unused- Bialkowski, Harrison, Bishop, Huws.
Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner (Wood 89), Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Forde (Yates 70), Taylor, Robertson, Smith, Wiles, Raggett (Williams 37). Unused- Price, Palmer, Ihiekwe, Jones.
Referee- J Linington
Attendance- 20893 (729)