Swansea City withstood a late Millers rally to record a solitary goal victory, thanks to skipper Matt Grimes’ first-half effort.
The Millers will take huge credit for going toe-to-toe with Steve Cooper’s highly fancied side, for large spells, at a rain-soaked Liberty Stadium, but, they had nothing to show for their efforts, at the end, as Grimes’ strike turned the game in the Swans’ favour.
For the long trip to South Wales, Jamal Blackman returned between the Rotherham sticks, after he missed the victory over Preston in the last outing, due to an ankle injury. Following treatment at his parent club, Chelsea, during the recent international break, Millers boss Paul Warne was able to call on his services, once again.
Angus MacDonald was handed a recall to the heart of the Millers defence while Wes Harding continued to ply his trade in the unfamiliar left-back berth, as American flyer Matt Olosunde was rewarded for his impressive display against the Lancastrians, by retaining his place on the opposite flank.
In midfield, Matt Crooks was promoted to the first eleven following his goalscoring cameo last time out while Florian Jozefzoon and George Hirst also made the step up from the bench for the Liberty Stadium outing.
Club skipper Richard Wood, Freddie Ladapo and Joe Mattock were missing from the Millers squad, as Warne named just seven substitutes from a permitted nine available.
In the early stages of the game, the home side penned the Millers deep in their own half, but Warne’s side weathered a succession of early throws and set-piece situations.
However, it was Rotherham, who had the first sight of goal when Ben Wiles threaded a ball into the channel and Hirst showed good awareness to pick out the on-rushing Jamie Lindsay, but Jay Fulton put in a timely block to snuff out the danger.
Moments later, Swansea launched a swift counter-attack and Connor Roberts exchanged passes with a colleague before racing into the Rotherham box, but Harding diverted his centre to safety but the home side threatened from the resultant corner when Liam Cullen rose unchallenged to meet Grimes’ centre but Blackman got down well to tip his goalbound header around the post.
At the other end, Hirst was flattened by Ryan Bennett and Jozefzoon planted a dangerous free-kick into the box which narrowly evaded the attentions of Crooks, at the far post before the Millers midfielder had a snap shot blocked en-route to goal after Freddie Woodman’s weak punch fell into his path.
As may have been expected, Swansea commanded large swathes of possession but there was little in terms of goalmouth action until Cooper’s side broke the deadlock, just before the half-hour mark.
A left-wing corner from Roberts was planted into the danger area and Blackman was forced to parry clear under pressure from home runners but the ball fell invitingly for Grimes, who fired goalwards with his trusted left-foot, from the edge of the box, and despite his effort not being the cleanest of strikes, it made it’s way through the masse of bodies in the box, before squirming under the body of the unsighted Blackman, who agonisingly failed to keep the ball out.
The Millers were temporarily unsettled by the strike and Blackman was called into action to smother Jamal Lowe’s cross-cum-shot before Bennett became the first to see yellow for hauling down Hirst, but the following free-kick came to nothing.
Minutes later, Swansea attacked with menace and good work from Yan Dhanda paved the way for Jake Bidwell to fizz a cross which was met by Lowe, at the far post, but off-balance, he screwed his shot wide – although a flag had been raised by the assistant referee.
The Swans then came within a coat of paint of doubling their advantage when a harmless cross looked to be heading out of play with Blackman racing from his own goal, but the ball held up on the wet Liberty Stadium turf, and Roberts pounced on the hesitation to put the ball back into the box, and with Harding failing to clear the danger, Lowe looked set to make it two, but he failed to make the most of the unguarded goal, as he smashed his shot against the outside of the post.
Just prior to the break, Rotherham gradually grew in authority and MacDonald rose highest to meet Dan Barlaser’s corner but his downward header flew harmlessly wide before Barlaser was again the architect with a neat pass into the path of Lindsay, who instinctively shot goalwards, from the edge of the box but Woodman was his equal with a smothered save.
Barlaser was in the thick of the action and he was harshly cautioned for a high clip on Cullen, in the last noteworthy action of the half.
Half-time- Swansea City 1 Rotherham United 0
With the rain continuing to fall in South Wales, Warne reshuffled his pack at the break by making a double change as Mickel Miller and Trevor Clarke, in his first seasonal outing, were introduced.
However, it was Swansea, who started the half the stronger and Cullen stung the palms of Blackman with a low shot after good work by Lowe before the same player prodded towards goal, following some sloppy defending from the visitors.
In an attempt to add some much-needed potency to the Rotherham attack, Michael Smith and subsequently Kyle Vassell, were the next to come off the bench, and the game sprung to life, just after the hour mark.
Firstly, Cullen was chopped down in an inviting position and Dhanda almost exacted retribution from the resultant free-kick when he curled a free-kick around the Millers wall, but Blackman, with a touch, ushered the ball away from goal before Rotherham threatened almost immediately when Barlaser worked an opportunity but Miller failed to make the most of it, when his tame cross was deflected by Ben Cabango and the ball looped into the grateful hands of Woodman.
Warne’s side were seeing more of the ball in the second period, but they were struggling to create anything of note until Woodman plucked Harding’s hanging cross out of the sky, before Vassell almost capitalised on some hesitancy in the home defence, but he could not get the ball under his spell.
However, Swansea almost put the game out of sight when firstly Lowe got the better of Clarke to pull the ball back to Bidwell – and with Blackman in no man’s land, the ex-Brentford and QPR wing-back looked set to score, but Harding heroically diverted his effort to safety, with a brave headed clearance from just underneath his own crossbar before Bidwell almost made amends when he latched onto Dhanda’s promptings and cross to nod across goal, just seconds later, but his effort failed to trouble the target.
With just the odd goal separating the sides, the Millers were sensing an opportunity and Clarke, who was a bundle of energy on the left-flank, throw over a cross which Vassell stooped to head goalwards, but Woodman was well-stationed to collect his effort with ease.
Rotherham were upping the tempo and Vassell made something out of nothing to dig out a cross and Smith emerged at the back post, to head goalwards and with Woodman in no position to intervene, the ball was heading to the far post, before appearing to strike the arm of the retreating Bennett, as Fulton hacked clear from near his own line – but the referee waved away Rotherham protests for a spot kick.
Moments later, Barlaser planted a corner under the nose of Woodman, who dropped the ball on his own line, under pressure from Vassell, and with no whistle from the referee, Miller was agonisingly close from tapping home from close range as sub Korey Smith scrambled the ball clear.
The Millers were throwing the kitchen sink at the home side and MacDonald squandered a chance when he blazed over from Clarke’s free-kick before Rotherham’s frustrating afternoon was summed up when Vassell tried his luck with a hugely ambitious effort from distance, which released the late pressure on the hosts, who withstood five minutes of stoppage time to record victory.
Full-time- Swansea City 1 Rotherham United 0
Swansea City 1
Rotherham United 0
Teams- Swansea- Woodman, Bidwell, Naughton, Bennett, Cabango, Roberts, Fulton, Grimes, Dhanda (Palmer 77), Cullen (Routledge 74), Lowe (K Smith 87). Unused- Benda, Latibeaudiere, Manning, Rushesha, Williams, Cooper.
Rotherham- Blackman, Olosunde (Clarke 46), Ihiekwe, A MacDonald, Harding, Jozefzoon (Vassell 62), Lindsay (Miller 46), Crooks, Barlaser, Wiles, Hirst (M Smith 54). Unused- Johansson, Jones, Thompson.
Referee- M Donohue