Millers hit the goal trail......
Rotherham United produced one of their most memorable Sky Bet Championship performances by putting Reading to the sword following a first-half scoring blitz.
The Millers ran riot in the first 45 minutes on a sun-baked AESSEAL New York Stadium afternoon. Club skipper Richard Wood led from the front by putting them ahead early on before Conor Washington, in his first goal for the club, and Jamie Lindsay added two further goals, in a manic three-minute spell.
Chiedozie Ogbene put the icing on the cake in a first-half to remember when he notched a fourth goal on the stroke of half-time.
The Millers went into their second home league game in succession following last weekend’s postponement at Coventry City.
Manager Paul Warne kept faith with the starting line-up which took to the field against Swansea City in the Sky Bet Championship opener.
The only changes were on the home bench with Ollie Rathbone and recent signing Lee Peltier involved in the 18-man squad after taking part in the EFL League Cup victory over Port Vale in midweek.
The Millers had a scare in the early seconds when Tom McIntyre delivered a long hopeful punt forward and Viktor Johansson had to race off his line to prevent Shane Long from latching onto it, although the Swedish ‘keeper bundled over the Irish forward in the process. There were half appeals from the visitors for a spot kick but the referee waved away their protests.
Wes Harding found himself in a couple of promising positions for the hosts but he failed to make the most of the opportunities.
However, it was Rotherham, who broke the deadlock on seven minutes, when Reading failed to clear their lines on a couple of occasions.
Harding planted a ball forward and although Washington was crowded out initially, the hosts penned the Royals deep, and Dan Barlaser, who was heavily involved in the move, paved the way for Ben Wiles to swing over a lovely centre into the box, and Wood, won the aerial duel with his marker, to cleverly guide a downward header into the far corner of the net giving Joe Lumley no chance.
Paul Ince’s side responded well to the early setback and Johansson was forced into a reactive save to deny Tom Holmes, who had met Junior Hoilett’s corner with a powerful header before the home ‘keeper had to show good hands to snuff out Hoilett’s driven centre, just seconds later.
Just before the quarter hour, Rotherham doubled their lead thanks to Washington’s first goal in Millers colours.
There looked little danger for the Royals until Barlaser caressed a superb defensive splitting pass which had the visitors defence backtracking, and Washington had timed his run to perfection. The Northern Ireland international had ran into the channel, and was facing a tight angle but he showed his experience by giving Lumley the eyes, and firing high and wide into the postage stamp of the goal, and the Royals ‘keeper was bemused as the ball found the heart of the goal.
The Millers were at their fluent best and they were going for the kill.
They came close to a third when Ogbene won a footrace with Lumley to skip past his attentions, before looping the ball back towards an unguarded goal and Washington headed the ball narrowly over the bar, with neither Lumley or the Reading defence in a position to intervene.
The visitors were at sixes and sevens, and Lumley’s afternoon was to take another unfortunate turn when Reading conceded another and the AESSEAL New York Stadium was now at fever pitch.
Barlaser again provided the assist with a timely pass to Lindsay, who on his weaker left-foot, struck a tame effort, at best, from just outside the box and with most of the home followers turning away, they were stunned to find the ball had escaped the grasp of Lumley, and squirmed over the line.
The Millers were in dream land and they almost made it four when Barlaser delivered a delicious free-kick into the box and Wood had escaped his marker, but he unfortunately failed to make any kind of telling connection with his head, despite looking a likely scorer.
The Royals were all over the place, and the water break came at a good time for them to clear their heads, and it worked when Tom Ince fired into the side netting following Nesta Guinness-Walker’s assist.
Minutes later, McIntyre was fortunate to escape sanction after being undone by a sublime piece of skill by Ogbene, before bringing down the Republic of Ireland star in full flow while Washington blazed a shot over, in the Millers next attack.
The Millers were playing some good stuff and Lindsay’s clever pass released Harding, who delivered a first-time centre which saw Cameron Humphreys crowded out at the front post by a few visiting defenders.
Both teams traded chances when Guinness-Walker volleyed harmlessly wide of the target from Hoilett’s cross when he should have gone with his head before Humphreys’ perfectly weighted pass saw Ogbene deliver another tantalising centre but Wiles, despite a lung-bursting run, could not direct his effort goalwards.
The Millers made an uncharacteristic mistake when Harding took one touch too many defensively, and Ince pounced on the error to prevent Hoilett, with the chance to strike but Johansson diverted his near-post effort to safety.
The Canadian international striker forced Johansson into another low, smothered save to his left before Rotherham added a fourth goal on the stroke of half-time.
Barlaser was again the architect with a lovely quarterback pass from deep and Ogbene timed his run to perfection to race clear and the Rotherham flyer kept his composure to lob the ball over the advancing Lumley, who had a half to forget, and he got the ball under his spell before firing into the heart of the undefended Royals goal with a crisp, left footed finish.
Half-time: Rotherham United 4 Reading 0
Despite their numerical disadvantage at the break, Reading, to their credit, refused to throw in the towel, and they threatened the Rotherham goal on a number of occasions.
The Millers had a stroke of luck when Guinness-Walker embarked on a mazy run, which was ended abruptly by Grant Hall, on the edge of the box, but to many the foul was inside the penalty area. However, only a free-kick was awarded.
Hoilett released the pressure on the hosts by blazing the set-piece over.
Reading frustration boiled over when Yiadom was yellow-carded before Wiles darted down the flank to plant a cross which a Reading defender almost deflected towards his own goal.
Attacking the KCM Waste Management Stand, Wood headed over from Barlaser’s resultant corner.
Warne had the luxury of making a triple change on the hour mark with the midweek test at Preston North End in mind. All the departed players got a standing ovation from the home faithful, who recognised their efforts.
Minutes later, Peltier got his first taste of home action as the fourth home substitute before the Millers almost had a fifth goal to cheer when Ogbene emerged from a cul-de-sac to leave a few visitors in his wake before clipping cross which Georgie Kelly nodded down into the path of Wiles, who looked set to volley home, but his effort was blocked at close quarters by a Reading defender.
Warne used his full complement of replacements when Cohen Bramall was introduced, and the summer signing made a telling early challenge, by denying Reading substitute Mamadi Camara, who appeared on course to notch a Royals consolation until his intervention.
Johansson was in no mood to be beaten, and he had to contend with Hoilett’s deflected shot, which he parried away from goal.
Shane Long was booked near the end for deliberate handball as he looked to turn home a right flank cross, but used illegal means to do so.
The AESSEAL New York faithful needed little encouragement to salute their players, and Ogbene was heralded after being awarded the man-of-the-match award, before the final whistle brought huge acclaim from three quarters of the ground for a fantastic, home display.
Full-time: Rotherham United 4 Reading 0
Rotherham United 4
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Harding, Barlaser (High 60), Wood, Wiles, Ogbene, Washington (Kelly 60), Lindsay (Rathbone 60), Ferguson (Bramall 74), Hall (Peltier 68), Humphreys. Unused- Vickers, McCart, Peltier.
Reading- Lumley, Holmes, McIntyre, Long, Hendrick (Camara 73), Ince, Yiadom, Guinness-Walker, Fornah, Loum, Hoilett (Ehibhatiomhan 87). Unused- Bouzanis, Abrefa, Clarke, Holzman, Craig.
Referee- S Martin.
Attendance- 9263 (637)