Millers slip to away loss......
Rotherham United’s Sky Bet League One automatic promotion hopes were dealt a severe blow when they slipped to a disappointing defeat at Burton Albion.
Goals either side of the interval by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and John Brayford condemned the Millers to a fourth loss in fifth games but remarkably it was as you were at the top of the standings with Rotherham hanging onto second spot by the skin of their teeth as nearest challengers, Milton Keynes Dons also lost their match.
Millers boss Paul Warne made just one solitary change to his starting line-up following the hard fought weekend victory over Ipswich Town.
Mickel Miller was the one to miss out after sustaining a hamstring strain against the Tractor Boys.
Midfield maestro Dan Barlaser, who replaced him at the weekend, was recalled to the Millers engine room.
Fellow midfielder Ben Wiles was again entrusted with playing a little bit further forward, in the number ten role, just behind top-scorer Michael Smith.
The Millers made the worst possible start, in Staffordshire, when Albion broke the deadlock with their first foray of note on three minutes.
Tom Hamer launched a long throw into the box, and a slight flick on from Sam Hughes caused havoc in the Millers rearguard, and with both Michael Ihiekwe and Barlaser unable to clear the danger, Borthwick-Jackson was on-hand to smash the ball into the roof of the net from point-blank range.
Warne’s side responded superbly to the disappointing early setback and Jordi Osei-Tutu got the better of his marker to drill a low cross which was cleared into the path of Wiles, whose shot was blocked at close quarters, before Ollie Rathbone shot into the Pirelli Stadium turf, and his effort amazingly bounced over the home crossbar.
Osei-Tutu was a danger in the early stages and his pull-back presented Jamie Lindsay with the chance to strike and the Scottish midfielder duly obliged by curling a lovely effort which brought a full-length save from Matej Kovar, which was arguably one for the cameras.
The Millers were doing their utmost to get back on level terms and Chiedozie Ogbene’s low drive was diverted behind by William Kokolo.
From the resultant corner, Barlaser swung over a centre which Kovar made a hash of and Rarmani Edmonds-Green hooked over the bar, when he really should have done better.
Minutes later, Barlaser planted another corner which threatened the home goal but Kovar smartly plucked the ball out of the sky under pressure from several Rotherham runners before Edmonds-Green flashed a delicious cross which narrowly evaded the head of Wiles, who had got the run on his marker.
The Millers were indebted to their Swedish ‘keeper Johansson for keeping them at arms’ length of the hosts when Harry Chapman’s tantalising ball across the visiting backline was inch-perfect for Oumar Niasse, who looked well set to slot home, but Johansson won the battle of wills in the one-on-one situation to divert his low effort to safety.
The Brewers were looking threatening on the turnover and Wes Harding’s poor pass saw the home side launch a quick counter and Niasse showed the Jamaican international a clean pair of heels to skip away, before drilling a low cross which looked inviting for a Burton forward in the box, but Edmonds-Green showed great awareness to cut the ball out with a sliding challenge.
The Millers were skating on thin ice and Kokolo’s drilled effort through a ruck of bodies from the edge of the box was smartly gathered on his own line by Johansson.
Just past the half hour mark, Warne was forced into an enforced change when Osei-Tutu landed awkwardly following an aerial challenge and he was unable to continue with Northern Ireland international Shane Ferguson replacing the Arsenal loanee.
Ferguson immediately made his presence felt with a lovely cross into the box from the left flank and Smith got the jump on the Burton defender to head goalwards but Kovar snuffed out the danger with a smart catch.
Wiles had a snap shot blocked en-route to goal before Warne made a brave tactical switch by bringing Freddie Ladapo into the fray and going two up top – with Barlaser sacrificed from the midfield ranks.
The Millers had a half scare when Chapman was upended on the edge of the box by skipper Michael Ihiekwe but Joe Powell failed to punish the visitors by firing the resultant free-kick into the grateful hands of Johansson.
In the last noteworthy acts of the half, Kokolo became the first to see yellow for hauling down Ogbene in full flow before Ladapo had a low drive deflected behind by a well-stationed home defender.
Half-time: Burton Albion 1 Rotherham United 0
The Millers made their third and final change at the break when substitute Ferguson was replaced by club skipper Richard Wood.
The Brewers came close to doubling their lead when Kokolo latched onto a loose ball to flash an effort, from just outside the box, which went inches wide.
The Millers’ goal was living a charmed life and Niasse’s deft flick on, before being clattered by Wood, saw Chapman advance into the visitors box before stinging the palms of Johansson with a clipped effort. Wood was retrospectively yellow-carded for his involvement in the move.
It was more of the same when sub Christian Saydee fired a stinging drive from distance which Johansson did well to keep out.
The Millers fans were doing their best to raise the spirits of their side and it almost had the desired effect when Rotherham had a spell of pressure which ended when Wiles’ dangerous corner was ushered towards goal by a visiting forward, but Kovar could watch the ball sail harmlessly wide of the target.
Wiles was a driving force, once again, and the Rawmarsh-born midfielder’s tantalising cross following an incisive run was not anticipated by the Rotherham front line.
Just past the hour mark, Edmonds-Green had to be on toes to deny Niasse at the far post, who looked on course to head home from close range, before Rotherham’s frustration was summed up when Rathbone was needlessly booked.
The Brewers rubbed salt into Millers wounds when Powell swung over an inviting free-kick, from the resultant play, and skipper Brayford rose highest to power a downward header which Johansson got a hand to, but to Rotherham’s anguish, the ball still managed to squirm over the visitors line.
The Millers now had a mountain to climb and Ladapo’s wayward header was gathered by Kovar before the home ‘keeper was called into action to deny Wiles.
There was a rare blot on Burton’s copybook when Hamer was cautioned for a pull back before Rotherham’s night almost went from bad to worse when Deji Oshilaja’s broke clear before Powell tried an audacious back flick which almost caught Johansson out at his near post, but the ball whistled wide.
Time was running out for the Millers and Rathbone blasted over from long range before Kovar was fully tested when Wiles met Smith’s cross to direct a header goalwards, but the Burton stopper kept the ball out with a fine save, at his near post.
It was not to be Rotherham’s evening, and Wiles made a lovely break before presenting Ogbene with the chance to skip past Oshilaja, before striking a left-footed effort towards goal but Kovar was his equal with a great save.
Wiles was a rare bright spot on a miserable night for the Millers and Edmonds-Green swung over a hopeful ball which fell into his path, and he cleverly worked a shooting position with fleet of foot in the box, but his deflected effort looped narrowly wide.
The Millers woes were best summed up when Wiles was again the architect with a threaded ball but Ladapo smashed his effort against the foot of the post.
In the dying seconds, Wood had a point-blank effort bravely blocked by Oshilaja, but Rotherham were forced to make the short hop back to South Yorkshire empty-handed as Burton ran out worthy winners in the end.
Full-time: Burton Albion 2 Rotherham United 0
Burton Albion 2
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Burton- Kovar, Brayford, Borthwick-Jackson, Oshilaja, Powell (Shaughnessy 85), H Chapman (Saydee 54), Hughes, Niasse (Moult 90), Kokolo, Hamer, Mancienne. Unused- Garratt, Ahadme, Maddox, Lakin
Rotherham- Johansson, Harding, Ihiekwe, Edmonds-Green, Ogbene, Rathbone, Lindsay, Barlaser (Ladapo 39), Osei-Tutu (Ferguson 33, Wood 46), Wiles, Smith. Unused- J Chapman, Mattock, Odoffin, Kayode.
Referee- T Reeves