Millers hit four in home romp.....
ROTHERHAM United brought Coventry City’s ten game unbeaten league run to an end in spectacular fashion as braces from Michael Smith and Matt Crooks made it a miserable Millers return for former player and manager Mark Robins.
Paul Warne’s side took an early grip on the AESSEAL New York Stadium affair when Crooks headed home before Smith gave the Millers a two-goal lead at the break – with the first of two spot-kicks.
Smith kept his nerve again from 12 yards in an incident which saw Coventry skipper Kyle McFadzean sent for an early bath before Crooks put the icing on the cake with a fourth goal, with 15 minutes to go.
Following their disappointing defeat at the hands of Bristol Rovers in their last outing, Millers chief Paul Warne rang the changes for the visit of the high-flying Sky Blues outfit.
Club skipper Richard Wood was recalled at the heart of the Millers rearguard to face his former side, at the expense of Clark Robertson, while American full-back Matt Olosunde returned to the right-back slot, following his impressive substitute cameo at the Memorial Ground.
Dan Barlaser was given an opportunity to impress in the Millers engine room while Michael Smith was asked to lead the Rotherham line – with both Freddie Ladapo and Carlton Morris having to settle for substitutes’ berths.
The Millers almost caught the visitors cold early on when Liam Walsh’s errant pass was latched upon by Jamie Lindsay, who gave Smith, a glimpse of goal but Fankaty Dabo put in a timely tackle to prevent him getting his shot away.
Moments later, Jake Hastie embarked on a trademark mazy run which saw him burst into the Coventry box but the Rangers loanee was snuffed out by a retreating defender before Smith headed over from Hastie’s centre, in the next Millers attack.
The Sky Blues had a scare when Olosunde’s run was halted but Matt Crooks floated a cross which evaded the attentions of Wood, but Brandon Mason, in attempting to clear the danger, headed back towards his own goal but Marko Marosi was well-stationed to collect the ball.
However, Rotherham were rewarded for their early superiority by breaking the deadlock, just before the quarter hour, when the ball was innocuously threaded into the right channel and Smith delivered a delicious centre into the visitors box and Crooks towered above his marker to plant a powerful downward header in the heart of the Coventry goal and the ball squirmed under the body of Marosi, to put the home side ahead.
The Millers were granted an opportunity to double their lead when a hopeful ball saw Crooks in a footrace with McFadzean, who under pressure from the home midfielder, under hit a back pass to Marosi, and Smith nipped in front of the former Doncaster stopper, who clipped his heels and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Smith dusted himself down from the resultant penalty when he kept his nerve to stroke the ball past the outstretched hand of the Slovak ‘keeper from 12 yards to find the far corner of the net.
The Millers were running riot and they came close to a third goal when Hastie was put in the clear, almost immediately, but the Coventry ‘keeper made amends for his earlier error, by smartly blocking his goalbound shot before Crooks’ follow-up effort was blocked by a backtracking defender.
The visitors were struggling to clear their heads and Smith rose highest to meet a cross from the left-flank but his downward header floated narrowly wide of the target – with Marosi in no position to intervene.
Just before the half-hour mark, Coventry threatened the home goal, for almost the first time, when O’Hare took advantage of a short corner to fire a deflected effort which skimmed off the head of Michael Ihiekwe, to turn the ball away from goal before Wood put his body on the line to deny Walsh, moments later, following good work by Gervene Kastaneer, in the build-up.
Minutes later, Mattock became the first to see yellow for a late lunge on Kastaneer, who reacted angrily to the challenge, before Rotherham almost added a third when Wiles robbed Jordan Shipley of possession to advance menacingly towards the visitors box before giving Smith the chance to play a tantalising ball which flew past the attentions of the home grown youngster, but fell invitingly for the on-rushing Hastie, whose first-time effort smashed into the side netting.
In the last noteworthy action of the half, Olosunde was cautioned for a foul on Callum O’Hare before Rotherham weathered a late Coventry rally to maintain their two-goal advantage going into the interval.
Half-time- Rotherham United 2 Coventry City 0
The Millers were quick out of the blocks, at the start of the second 45, and Hastie got Wood’s clipped ball under his spell to drive hard at McFadzean, before firing a low left-footed effort which shaved the far post.
Moments later, Mattock and Wiles combined to great effect to pave the way for Lindsay, to take aim from distance but Marosi dived smartly to his left to smother his well-struck effort.
Coventry almost grabbed a foothold in the clash when Dabo injected pace into a home move and Matt Godden was the grateful recipient of a smart one-two on the edge of the box to fire a rasping effort which brought a fine, reflex save from Daniel Iversen, in the home goal.
Moments later, Dabo dragged a low shot harmlessly wide of goal before Smith headed wide from Mattock’s curling centre.
Coventry made a double substitution, in an effort to get back in the game, but Rotherham put the game to bed, almost immediately, when Coventry dallied in possession on the edge of their box, and McFadzean was caught napping by the ever-alert Crooks, who stripped him of possession, before hauling down the former Northampton midfielder in the box and the referee awarded his second spot kick of the afternoon before brandishing a red card to the Sky Blues’ captain.
From the resultant penalty, Smith made the visitors pay for a second time – when he struck a well-struck effort which beat the outstretched hand of Marosi to find the bottom corner of the net.
The Millers came within a whisker of a fourth goal when firstly Mattock got the better of O’Hare to fizz a delicious centre which had Marosi scrambling across goal, but it narrowly evaded Rotherham runners before Wiles went on a slalom-line run from the right flank to work a shooting position before testing the Coventry ‘keeper with a powerful drive - which he parried to safety.
However, Rotherham were gifted another goal, with fifteen minutes remaining, when another piece of kamikaze defending from the visitors saw Dominic Hyam’s poor back pass leave Marosi in no man’s land and Crooks couldn’t believe his luck, as he toe-poked the ball past the hapless visiting ‘keeper and the ball dribbled into the unguarded net.
In the latter stages of the game, Smith was given a standing ovation by the home faithful as he was replaced by Freddie Ladapo before Coventry’s miserable afternoon was summed up when Amadou Bakayoko blazed into the home faithful with the goal at his mercy before O’Hare dragged a shot well wide, from a promising position.
Deep in stoppage time, O’Hare was yellow carded for hauling down Crooks in full flow as Ladapo headed over from Wiles’ free-kick before forcing Marosi into a sprawling save following a fierce effort, in the last act of a rousing Millers performance.
Full-time- Rotherham United 4 Coventry City 0
Rotherham United 4
Coventry City 0
Teams- Rotherham- Iversen, Mattock, Wood, Wiles, Barlaser (MacDonald 73), Lindsay, Crooks, Ihiekwe, Olosunde, Hastie (Morris 79), Smith (Ladapo 83). Unused- Price, Jones, Morris, Robertson, Lamy.
Coventry- Marosi, Mason, McFadzean, Hiwula (Rose 61), Hyam, O’Hare, Walsh (Kelly 56), Dabo, Godden, Shipley, Kastaneer (Bakayoko 56). Unused- Wilson, Watson, Westbrooke, McCallum.
Referee- D Handley
Attendance- 10337 (2567)