Millers slip to defeat.....
ROTHERHAM United suffered a disappointing day at the office as Rochdale ran out comfortable victors at the Crown Oil Arena.
An injury-hit Millers side were not at the races for the majority of the Lancashire clash and they were punished when former Rotherham loanee Ian Henderson struck twice either side of the interval before Matthew Lund rubbed salt into their wounds with a well-taken third goal.
For the trip over the Pennines, boss Paul Warne was forced into a defensive reshuffle, from the last outing with MK Dons, with Michael Ihiekwe and Joe Mattock ruled out because of injury.
January singing Curtis Tilt was handed his first start in Millers colours while experienced operator Billy Jones was asked to ply his trade in the left-back slot.
On the opposite flank, Adam Thompson was given a recall, at the expense of birthday boy Matt Olosunde, who had to settle for a substitutes berth.
In front of a healthy travelling contingent from South Yorkshire, the Millers had the first sight of goal when Ben Wiles floated a corner into the danger area and Richard Wood, who notched Rotherham’s winner in their last visit to Spotland, rose highest to head downwards, but the ball dribbled harmlessly wide of the target.
Wood was in the thick of the action, in an attacking sense, and he nodded down Jamie Lindsay’s free-kick paving the way for Tilt to volley goalwards, but his effort cleared the home stand before Chiedozie Ogbene injected pace into a Millers move to skip past Paul McShane to drill a low effort which stung the palms of Robert Sanchez.
In the Millers next attack, Smith’s knockdown presented the in-form Freddie Ladapo with the opportunity to strike a fierce effort from distance but Robert Sanchez was his equal with a fine save before Wiles and Jones combined to great effect – with the latter bursting into the ‘Dale box, but Eoghan O’Connell stuck out a timely leg to snuff out the danger.
However, Rochdale came close to breaking the deadlock when Henderson took advantage of being in acres of space to race clear before playing the ball into the path of the evergreen Aaron Wilbraham, who fired a low effort goalwards but Thompson’s superb block, from near his own line, kept the ball out before Daniel Iversen was on his toes to deny the home side on the rebound.
However, Rotherham failed to heed the warning as the home side opened the scoring, just shy of the half-hour mark, when Aaron Morley’s dink over the top caught Jones flat-footed and with Iversen slow to race from his line, Henderson kept his nerve to hook the ball over the Danish ‘keeper, at his near post – with a backtracking Jones vainly failing to prevent the ball finding the net with a last-ditch clearance.
The Millers responded superbly to the setback but they suffered heartbreak when Matt Crooks won possession before Ogbene clipped an inviting cross which was flicked on by O’Connell with Sanchez in no-man’s land and Wiles looked set to nod home from a tight angle, for an equalising goal, but Smith, who tapped home to make sure on the goal-line, was adjudged to have been in an offside position and the goal was disallowed.
Half-time- Rochdale 1 Rotherham United 0
Following a below-par first-half performance, Warne would have been looking for a response from his side, at the start of the second half, but it was Iversen, who came to Rotherham’s rescue when Morley swung a delightful centre which was met by the head of Henderson, who looked likely to make it two with a powerful close range header but the Leicester loanee produced a top class save, to tip the ball over the bar, against all the odds.
The Millers seemed to take heart from Iversen’s heroics when Smith got on the end of Wiles’ centre to threaten the home goal but Lund hacked clear before Thompson headed over, from the resultant corner.
The visitors were then given a scare when they were caught napping from a Rochdale corner and Callum Camps’ superbly picked out the unmarked O’Connell at the far post but the home centre-half inexplicably headed straight into the grateful hands of Iversen, when it looked easier to score.
Just before the hour mark, Thompson squandered a gilt-edged chance to level matters when he met Wiles’ near post corner, but he headed over with the goal at his mercy before Warne made a double substitution, introducing Josh Koroma and Kyle Vassell, in an attempt to spark the Millers to life.
The move almost paid dividends when Crooks blasted over from the edge of the box before Smith headed harmlessly wide from Lindsay’s inswinging delivery. Moments later, the two substitutes combined when Vassell shot on the turn following good work from Koroma, but his effort was straight down the throat of Sanchez.
However, Rochdale took a firm grip on the game, by doubling their advantage, with 20 minutes to go when Camps showed fleet of foot to get the ball under his spell before playing a perfectly-weighted pass into the advancing run of Henderson, who kept his nerve to slide the ball past the advancing Iversen and find the bottom corner of the net.
Minutes later, the home side effectively sealed the deal with a third goal, five minutes later, with Camps again the architect with a clipped ball over a square Rotherham defence and Lund timed his run to perfection to beat the offside trap and loft the ball over Iversen, who was caught in no-man’s land, to find the heart of the Millers goal.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Warne’s side refused to throw in the towel and Smith fired over from a promising position before Ogbene’s cross-cum-shot was headed clear from underneath his own crossbar by O’Connell.
The Millers grabbed a consolation goal, in stoppage time, when Lindsay ghosted in almost unnoticed to deftly flick Wiles’ cross into the bottom corner of the goal before Henderson came within a whisker of a hat-trick, in the last noteworthy action, with a speculative lob with his back to goal – but the ball drifted narrowly wide with Iversen beaten.
Full-time- Rochdale 3 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Rochdale- Sanchez, O’Connell, Williams, Camps, Keohane, McShane, Wilbraham, Lund, Morley (Rathbone 83), Henderson, Matheson. Unused- Lynch, McNulty, Dooley, Andrew, T Smith, Done.
Rotherham- Iversen, Thompson, Tilt (Koroma 59), Wood, Jones (Olosunde 76), Ogbene, Lindsay, Crooks, Wiles, Ladapo (Vassell 59), M Smith. Unused- Price, Clarke, MacDonald, Adelakun.
Referee- R Joyce
Attendance- 4142 (1672)