Rotherham United’s Sky Bet Championship survival hopes were dealt another blow as they fell victim to their fifth successive single goal defeat, this time, at the hands of play-off chasing Reading.
Michael Morrison was the Royals matchwinner with a first half strike and despite Rotherham’s best efforts either side of the interval, they were again left empty-handed.
Following their reversal at the hands of Nottingham Forest, Millers boss Paul Warne freshened up his starting options, by making three changes.
In a tweak of system to 3-5-2, Warne kept faith with three centre-halves, despite Michael Ihiekwe being absent after picking up his tenth yellow card of the campaign in midweek. Wes Harding was now part of the trio, alongside Angus MacDonald and Clark Robertson.
Midfielders Shaun MacDonald and Ryan Giles were recalled as Dan Barlaser and Ben Wiles were named on the bench while Freddie Ladapo joined Michael Smith in attack.
Matt Crooks, who moved back into one of the central midfield areas, was handed the Millers armband for the first time.
At a sun-kissed AESSEAL New York Stadium, the Millers had an early chance when Omar Richards was penalised and Lewis Wing delivered a delicious free-kick into the danger area and Smith got the run on his marker to meet his centre, but he blazed his header over, when he maybe should have done better.
Moments later, Reading hoofed the ball upfield and Viktor Johansson, a star man in recent games, was caught in two minds, and ex-Owls striker Lucas Joao had the chance to loop the ball into the empty net, but, fortunately for the home side, he failed to make a clean strike and the chance was lost.
In the next Royals attack, Rotherham only half-cleared an inswinging corner and Richards had the chance to strike from the edge of the box, but Johansson was his equal, by parrying his effort over the bar.
Just before the quarter hour, Warne was forced into a defensive reshuffle when Robertson required treatment following an innocuous challenge with Michael Olise, and the Scottish defender was unable to continue, following a hamstring complaint.
Warne reverted to a back four with Ben Wiles being asked to ply his trade in the left-back slot.
The Millers were visibly unnerved by the disruption but they were the next to threaten when Crooks had a shot blocked en-route to goal before Smith hooked the ball back into the business end and Ladapo rose highest to head goalwards, but his effort looped narrowly over the bar.
The home side then had a slight scare when Andy Yiadom over ran the ball and Angus MacDonald smashed an attempted clearance which ricocheted off the Reading man, and the ball fizzed just wide.
However, Rotherham failed to heed the warning as Reading opened the scoring with 26 minutes on the clock.
Following a spell of Royals pressure, the Millers failed to clear the danger from a corner and Richards swung a delightful centre to the far stick and Morrison, who had almost ghosted in unnoticed, headed goalwards, but Johansson found his point-blank effort too hot to handle, and the Reading centre-half was quickest to react, by poking home the rebound despite Angus MacDonald’s best efforts to keep the ball out.
The Millers’ early woes were almost compounded, just minutes later, when Liam Moore, sprang the Millers offside trap, despite being in an advanced position, and he burst into the box, before playing a slide-rule ball into the path of Joao, who looked certain to steer the ball home from close range, but he fluffed his lines, by scuffing the ball wide.
Warne’s side gradually regained their composure and good work from Giles, on the right flank, paved the way for Matt Olosunde to dart menacingly towards the Reading goal, but he snatched at his shot, which was deflected behind.
Minutes later, Rotherham pumped a ball forward and Angus MacDonald flicked the ball on, but Ladapo, despite getting away from his marker, blasted over from a promising position – with Smith also being in close attendance.
In an eventful finish to the half, Olise threaded a ball to Joao, who got the ball from under his feet, to dig a shot, which had Johansson anxiously looking over his shoulder, as it floated narrowly over before Smith had a sniff of goal, at the other end, with Giles the provider, but Rafael made a smart take at his near post.
In the dying seconds, Rotherham almost found themselves two behind at the interval when Ovie Ejaria planted a low free-kick which Joao side-footed goalwards, and Harding, was on his toes, to turn the ball away from his own-line, but his clearance struck Alfa Semedo, and the ball fortuitously fell wide – with all those of a Rotherham persuasion breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Reading 1
With the words of Warne ringing in their ears, Rotherham were quick out of the blocks and Ladapo’s run and shot was deflected high into the air by Semedo, and Smith executed a superb half-volley, from the edge of the box, which flew into the Royals net with venom, but the assistant referee had already raised his flag.
Moments later, Giles’ whipped centre was cleared by a retreating visiting defender before Joao broke clear at the other end, but his attempted lob over Johansson, was anticipated by the Swedish stopper.
The Millers, who are never short of endeavour, had a couple of half chances when Smith headed over from Wing’s centre before Ladapo, in a carbon copy move, nodded over the bar following Crooks’ stand-up cross.
Just past the hour mark, Angus MacDonald became the first to see yellow for a high challenge on Andy Rinomhota before Warne made a double substitution, as Kieran Sadlier and Trevor Clarke were introduced into the proceedings.
In a scrappy period of play, the Millers were guilty of squandering possession on a number of occasions and failing to make the most of counter-attack situations.
With quarter an hour to go, Wing’s eye-of-a-needle pass presented Ladapo with the chance to strike, but Morrison blocked his effort at close quarters before Wing blazed over from distance, in the aftermath of the move.
With Reading clearly intent on defending their slender advantage, Ladapo had a few glimpses of goal without making it count before Smith tried his luck from long range, but it failed to trouble the target.
In a final throw of the dice, George Hirst and Florian Jozefzoon were thrown on but it was Reading, who threatened next, when Olise fired a left-footed effort which curled away from goal.
On a frustrating afternoon for the Millers, Wiles and Olosunde were cautioned before everyone had their heads in their hands, in stoppage time, when Wiles’ goalbound strike was deflected wide by Morrison – with the ball grazing the outside of the post.
Full-time- Rotherham United 0 Reading 1
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Olosunde, Harding, A MacDonald, Robertson (Wiles 15), Giles (Sadlier 66), S MacDonald (Clarke 66), Wing (Hirst 80), Crooks, Ladapo (Jozefzoon 80), Smith. Unused- Blackman, Barlaser.
Reading- Rafael, Yiadom, Richards, Morrison, Moore, Rinomhota (Esteves 86), Laurent, Semedo, Ejaria (McIntyre 76), Olise (Holmes 90), Joao. Unused- Southwood, Tetek, Camara, Aluko, Baldock, Puscas.
Referee- D Coote