It wasn't the Good Friday that the Millers had hoped for, as Jed Wallace’s second-half strike dished out some capital punishment, following a narrow defeat at the hands of Millwall.
The footballing gods were certainly against Paul Warne’s side at a sun-baked The Den when skipper Richard Wood saw red, following a clumsy challenge on Jed Wallace, who then put The Lions ahead with a well-taken strike.
Despite being down to ten men, the Millers rallied strongly but they fluffed the chance to claim an unlikely point, against all the odds, when Michael Smith’s penalty kick was smartly saved by Bartosz Bialkowski, near the end.
Despite their Sky Bet Championship campaign being brought to a temporary halt, due to the March international break, the Millers named an unchanged side from their comfortable victory over Bristol City, last time out.
Warne was given a massive boost, in the run-up to their first game of 12 in just 37 days, as he was able to call upon the services of long-term injury absentees Jamie Lindsay (hamstring) and Chiedozie Ogbene (knee), who took their place among the visiting substitutes.
With both teams operating with a 3-5-2 system, Millwall had the first glimpse of goal when they launched a quick counter-attack following the breakdown of a Millers foray but Lewis Wing diverted Scott Malone’s centre to safety.
Minutes later, Shaun Hutchinson hooked over following Jake Cooper’s knockdown before Freddie Ladapo had Rotherham’s first shot in anger when he fired a left-footed effort from just outside the box which had Bialkowski nervously scurrying across goal, as it whistled narrowly wide.
Just past the quarter hour, Ryan Giles almost burst into the Millwall box, following a clever flick from Smith, but the Wolves loanee could not get the ball under his spell.
There was an eventful sixty seconds when Angus MacDonald swung a hopeful ball into the box which Murray Wallace could only head skywards, and Ladapo looked odds-on favourite to latch onto the loose ball – with the goal in sight – but Shaun Hutchinson appeared to covertly drag back the Millers frontman, but the referee waved away the Rotherham protests.
With the Millers heads still at sixes and sevens, Millwall almost rubbed salt into their wounds when they swept upfield, almost immediately, and Jed Wallace and Mason Bennett combined smartly, as the latter took aim, from just inside the six-yard box, but he failed to make a clean connection with his strike and the chance was lost.
Minutes later, Harding made a rare mistake and the home side almost punished him for the indiscretion when Malone appeared to pick out Jed Wallace, in acres of space in the box, but with a gusty wind in South London, the ball evaded his attentions.
The Millers had a half-chance when Dan Barlaser caressed a free-kick into the danger area and Smith won the aerial duel with a home defender to give Ladapo, a sniff of goal, but he was crowded out before he could get his shot away.
In a keenly-contested first 45, Warne’s side had the standout opportunity of the half when Barlaser – with another pinpoint free-kick delivery – found the head of Michael Ihiekwe in the box, and the Millers centre-half looked well set to claim his third goal of the campaign, with a powerful downward header, but Bialkowski, against all the odds, was his equal with a fine one-handed save, to keep the ball out.
With half-time approaching, MacDonald had to be on his toes to deny Jed Wallace before Bennett volleyed harmlessly wide from the resultant corner.
Half-time- Millwall 0 Rotherham United 0
The Lions made the early running, at the start of the second period, and Malone got the better of Harding to fizz a cross-cum-shot which forced Viktor Johansson to take evasive action with an acrobatic save before Murray Wallace was denied on the follow-up.
At the other end, Rotherham had faint appeals for a spot-kick when Johansson punted the ball upfield and Smith flicked on into the path of Ladapo, who appeared to be wrestled to the floor by Cooper, but again, no further action was taken.
However, Rotherham’s cause was dealt a blow – just before the hour mark, when Bennett, from near the touchline, clipped a ball forward and Wood found himself in a foot race with Jed Wallace, and after an untimely shove and a tangle of legs, the Lions man tumbled under his challenge, just outside the box, and the referee brandished a straight red card to the Millers skipper.
In the aftermath of the incident, Jed Wallace fired straight into the Millers wall from the resultant free-kick before Danny McNamara drilled a snap shot which brought a parried save from Johansson.
Warne was naturally forced into a reorganisation with Ladapo withdrawn as a victim of circumstance, but it failed to turn the tide of home pressure, and Millwall breached Rotherham defences, soon after.
Malone launched an up-and-under which newly introduced sub Ben Wiles lost sight of in the sky, and Bennett picked up the pieces, to threaten the Millers goal, but Angus MacDonald came out of nowhere, to deflect his goalbound effort to safety.
However, Millwall made the decisive breakthrough, in the next phase of play.
Malone planted a left-footed corner into the danger area, and with no Rotherham defender taking charge of the aerial contest, the ball sat up kindly for Jed Wallace, who showed good composure and technique, to execute a superb strike, from a tight angle, and the ball arched away from the desperate dive of Johansson, to find the top corner of the Millers goal.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Millers responded positively to the series of setbacks – with Lindsay showing his usual tenacity on his return to the fray.
Firstly, Wing fired narrowly wide from distance before Smith turned provider with a delicious ball across the face of the home goal – but Ihiekwe, who was still upfield following a corner, was agonisingly inches away from making a telling contribution.
The Millers continued to threaten the home goal, and they were presented with the perfect chance, to take a much-needed point back to South Yorkshire, with six minutes to go, when The Lions failed to clear the danger and Smith, who looked to latch onto the loose ball, was sandwiched by a combination of Murray Wallace and sub Alex Pearce in the box, and the referee, after initial deliberation, pointed to the spot.
With all those of a Rotherham persuasion on the edge of the seats, Smith took on the responsibility from 12 yards, but the game took a cruel late twist, when Bialkowski correctly guessed his intentions to dive the right way and keep his low effort out with a strong hand.
Despite some late promptings, the Millers were left to rue that miss, as their recent impressive run of form on the road, came to a disappointing end, as Millwall repeated their AESSEAL New York Stadium feat, by earning another 1-0 victory over Warne’s side.
Full-time- Millwall 1 Rotherham United 0