Crooks brace steers Millers to victory....
MATT Crooks was the Rotherham United hero as his well-taken brace helped his side to an eye-catching victory over table-topping Ipswich Town.
Paul Warne’s side weathered an early storm from the hosts to gradually take charge of the Portman Road affair when Crooks struck twice either side of the interval to reward an industrious, but, clinical Millers display.
Following their narrow defeat at the hands of Oxford United at the weekend, Warne made two changes to his starting line-up for the long trek to Suffolk.
Experienced full-back Billy Jones was recalled to the right-back slot with Matt Olosunde asked to play in a more advanced position on the right flank.
Trevor Clarke was handed his first league start in Millers colours on the opposite wing with Ben Wiles moved to his favoured central-midfield role.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and Daniel Iversen was called into early action to tip over Joe Mattock’s attempted clearance over his own bar following good work by Kayden Jackson in the build-up before Emyr Huws worked a yard of space in the Millers box to fire a fierce effort which stung the palms of the Danish ‘keeper, who showed good reflexes to keep the ball out before Will Keane was denied on the follow-up by the visiting stopper.
The Millers had a scare when Luke Garbutt tumbled under the challenge of Olosunde in the box but the referee waved away home protests before Mattock had Rotherham’s first foray of note when he tried his luck from distance but his left-footed effort took a slight deflection off home skipper Luke Chambers, which diverted the ball away from goal.
However, Warne’s men silenced the home faithful, by breaking the deadlock, on 11 minutes when Wiles took aim from distance and although an Ipswich defender blocked his effort en-route to goal, the ball fell kindly for Crooks, who kept his nerve to drill a low shot from the edge of the box which flew under the body of Tomas Holy to find the heart of the home goal.
The Millers were lifted by the early breakthrough and Michael Smith started off a move to release Mattock down the left, who delivered a tantalising cross which floated over the Ipswich rearguard to reach Olosunde, but the American player could not keep his half-volley down, as he blazed his shot into the home faithful behind the goal, from a promising position.
Minutes later, Clarke was unable to let fly from the edge of the box, as he was crowded out by a number of home defenders after excellent build-up by Smith worked the opening for the Irishman before the same player delivered a delicious free-kick which narrowly evaded the attentions of Crooks, at the far post, after the former Northampton midfielder had ghosted away from his marker.
Clarke was in the thick of the action and he deservedly became the first to see yellow for a mistimed sliding challenge on Kane Vincent-Young before Young, himself, was fortunate to escape sanction for a cynical clip on Clarke, just moments later.
With half-time approaching, Jones was cautioned for kicking the ball away before Rotherham wasted an opportunity to double their lead, in the final seconds of the half, when Mattock curled an inviting centre which flew over Crooks but fell for Smith, at the far post, but the Millers frontman headed over, when he really should have done better.
Half-time- Ipswich Town 0 Rotherham United 1
The Millers started the second stanza in a positive vein and they took a firm grip on the game, by grabbing a second goal, just minutes into the half.
Wiles showed great tenacity to block Cole Skuse’s attempted pass to advance menacingly towards the Ipswich box before calmly picking out a pass to find Crooks, in support, and the Millers midfielder kept his nerve to steer the ball past the outstretched hand of Holy and find the bottom corner of the net.
The visitors almost killed off the game with a third goal, minutes later, when Mattock planted a superb cross into the box which was met by the head of Smith, who guided a header goalwards, but Holy acrobatically kept the ball out before Jones slashed at an effort, from the edge of the box, with his weaker left-foot, from the resultant corner.
Minutes later, Smith got a hopeful ball under his spell to get the better of James Wilson in a duel before drilling a low effort narrowly wide of the target before Ipswich sprang to life when sub Anthony Georgiou drilled a goalbound effort which was diverted to safety by Jones, who had anticipated the danger, near his own line.
Minutes later, Garbutt injected pace into a home move to waltz his way through some static Rotherham defending but Iversen came to the rescue to halt his run with his legs, as the home full-back attempted to round him.
Chiedozie Ogbene was introduced into the fray, at the expense of Clarke, and the flying winger almost made an immediate impact when he latched onto Smith’s superb run and cross, but he could not control his effort, as he spooned his shot over the home bar.
Minutes later, Mattock became the next to see yellow for hauling down sub Gwion Edwards near the touchline but Garbutt failed to exact retribution from the resultant free-kick when his centre cleared the crossbar.
With time running out for the hosts, Rotherham almost sealed the deal when Wiles curled a tantalising corner into the danger area and Michael Ihiekwe emerged from the ruck of bodies, to head goalwards, but agonisingly his effort cannoned against the post, before falling to safety.
Home frustration boiled over when Edwards was cautioned for felling down Ogbene before Skuse headed wide from Georgiou’s corner, in one of Ipswich’s last acts.
Full-time- Ipswich Town 0 Rotherham United 2
Ipswich Town 0
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- Ipswich- Holy, Chambers, Wilson, Skuse, Jackson, Nolan, Rowe (Edwards 67), Vincent-Young, Garbutt, Huws (Georgiou 59), Keane (Norwood 67). Unused- Norris, Judge, Downes, Woolfenden.
Rotherham- Iversen, Jones, Mattock, Wood, Wiles, Lindsay, Crooks (Barlaser 79), Clarke (Ogbene 68), Ihiekwe, Olosunde (Morris 84), Smith. Unused- Price, Ladapo, Hastie, Lamy
Referee- J Busby
Attendance- 20550 (229)