Millers edge out Hatters....
Rotherham United could potentially be pitting their wits against the cream of English football as they booked their place in the Emirates FA Cup third round draw, at the expense of National League outfit Stockport County.
Paul Warne’s side were indebted to Michael Smith for notching the decisive winner with his 15th goal of the season in all competitions, but they were pushed all the way by the Greater Manchester, who were looking for another Sky Bet League One scalp, after disposing off Bolton Wanderers in the first round.
Warne reshuffled his pack once again following the midweek Papa John’s Trophy shootout victory over Port Vale.
There were just two changes from their last league outing at Oxford United last weekend.
Josh Vickers returned between the Rotherham sticks while club skipper Richard Wood added some experience and know-how as one of the trio of defenders, in the home backline.
The Millers had the first foray of note, in the early minutes, when Smith switched play to great effect and Chiedozie Ogbene got the ball under his spell, before shooting goalwards with his weaker left-foot, but Mark Kitching deflected his effort away from goal.
The National League side were acquitting themselves well in the early stages and Will Collar had their first shot in anger with a low skimming drive from distance which brought a smothered save from Vickers.
Mickel Miller failed to make the best of a couple of crossing positions from the left flank before Ogbene made light work of Collar, to dart for the box, before being cynically felled by the visiting player, who received the first yellow card of the evening,
Miller almost exacted retribution, from the resultant free-kick, when he fired a fierce left footed effort which had Ben Hinchliffe scrambling, as it whistled just over the Stockport bar.
Miller was in the thick of the action, and he nodded harmlessly wide following Rarmani Edmonds-Green’s floated centre.
The Lancastrians gave the Millers a scare when Hinchliffe’s long punt forward was taken in his stride by Scott Quigley, who tried his luck with a rasping effort from long range which was arrowing into the top corner of the goal, until Vickers pulled off a top drawer save, to keep the ball out.
Just before the half hour mark, Macauley Southam-Hales delivered a delicious centre which narrowly evaded the attentions of an unmarked Antoni Sarcevic, at the far post.
The Millers had a good opportunity when Stockport failed to clear the danger decisively and Ben Wiles pounced onto the loose ball to drill a low effort goalwards, but Hinchliffe, who looked initially wrong-footed, did superbly to regain his balance, and palm the ball air in the air, before gathering it at the second attempt.
There was a moment of controversy when Stockport countered with purpose and Ollie Crankshaw produced a through ball which looked inviting for Quigley, who was looked to race clear, before Miller launched a hefty challenge, which felled the County frontman.
The incident saw Miller earn yellow and he may have been saved from further sanction, from an earlier offside award.
Smith soon joined him in the book following a clash with Kitching but the Millers top scorer went from villain to hero, by opening the scoring just minutes before the break.
Miller injected pace into a home move with a direct move before threading the ball to Ollie Rathbone, who expertly picked out the run of Smith, who had got a yard on his marker, and the home frontman stroked the ball out of the reach of Hinchliffe, and into the bottom corner of the goal.
The Millers were boosted by the breakthrough and Miller was the next to threaten by letting fly from distance, but Hinchliffe parried the ball to safety.
Half-time: Rotherham United 1 Stockport County 0
The Millers were knocking on the door at the start of the second half when good interplay involving Ogbene and Smith paved the way for Rathbone, to shoot from a tight angle, but his snap effort was deflected into the side netting.
Minutes later, Ogbene’s direct run ended with a left-footed effort, from the edge of the box, which whistled past the upright.
Dave Challinor’s men were very much in the contest and Ryan Rydel hit a sweet strike from distance which Michael Ihiekwe bravely headed away from goal before Sarcevic prodded goalwards, following a goalmouth scramble, but Vickers was his equal with a smart catch.
The Millers squandered an opportunity to give themselves some much-needed breathing space when Rathbone broke clear, before calmly picking out Freddie Ladapo, who looked to slide home, but Ben Barclay came out of nowhere with a fine block to deny him.
Southam-Hales became the next to see yellow for a late clip on Miller before Stockport missed a gilt-edged chance to level matters.
Ihiekwe was penalised for illegally towering over Quigley and Rydel swung over an inch-perfect free-kick which looked inviting for Ash Palmer to head home, but the County skipper planted his header wide when it looked easier to score.
The Millers had a half chance when Ogbene’s dinked ball appeared to set Wiles through but Hinchliffe was quick off his line to snuff out the danger.
Ladapo was harshly carded following a clash with Hinchiffe which was deemed dangerous play and the Hatters ‘keeper was called into action to deny Wiles and then Miller, with back-to-back saves.
The Millers were looking for the all-important second goal and Smith was inches away from tapping home Miller’s low centre, but the ball was taken off his toe, before Ihiekwe headed wide, from the resultant corner.
There was a pivotal moment in the tie when a quarter of an hour to go when Rydel delivered another wicked free-kick into the box, and following the slightest of flick-on’s, sub Paddy Madden stooped low to head home from close range, and send the large travelling hordes into raptures, but their joy proved short-lived, as the assistant referee had already raised a flag.
Time was running out for the visitors and County frustration boiled over when Sarcevic was carded and sub Joe Mattock joined him in the book for a needless foul.
County pressed hard for an equaliser, in the five minutes of stoppage time, but Rotherham, who had earlier brought on Mattock and Hakeem Odoffin, to consolidate their advantage showed good game management in the latter stages, to edge out the visitors, whose players and supporters can take great credit for a fine showing in South Yorkshire.
Full-time: Rotherham United 1 Stockport County 0
Rotherham United 1
Stockport County 0
Teams: Rotherham- Vickers, Barlaser (Odoffin 81), Wood (Harding 46), Wiles, Ladapo, Ogbene, Miller (Mattock 81), Rathbone (Lindsay 66), Ihiekwe, Edmonds-Green, Smith (Grigg 75). Unused- Johansson, Sadlier, Bola, Kayode.
Stockport- Hinchliffe, Kitching (Raikhy 85), Palmer, Barclay (Hogan 77), Southam-Hales, Collar (Madden 55), Rydel, Croasdale (Rooney 85), Quigley, Sarcevic, Crankshaw (Jennings 77). Unused- Ross, Minihan, Fish, Fryers.
Referee- O Yates
Attendance- 6466 (2318)