Late misery for Millers...
Rotherham United’s Sky Bet Championship survival hopes remain in the balance after Cardiff City came out on top in their rearranged clash at the AESSEAL New York Stadium thanks to Cedric Kipre’s late winner.
Matt Taylor’s side looked set to inch closer to safety with the game heading for a draw but Kipre broke home hearts when he smashed home from close range after Viktor Johansson had denied Kion Etete just before.
Etete had put the Bluebirds ahead but Chiedozie Ogbene levelled matters before the break.
The Millers made three changes to their starting line-up following their last-gasp defeat at the hands of Bristol City last time out.
Skipper Richard Wood was asked to provide some much-needed experience and know-how at the heart of the Rotherham defence while Wes Harding was recalled in a right wing back role.
Ollie Rathbone took his place in the Millers engine room, despite managing a groin injury while Ashton Gate starters Tariqe Fosu and Domingos Quina were named on the home bench.
The Millers made a lightning start and Chiedozie Ogbene’s pull back presented Harding with the chance to deliver a delicious cross which was met by the head of Jordan Hugill, who headed goalwards but a combination of Jak Alnwick – with a strong hand and good reflexes – and the woodwork, kept the home side at bay.
From the resultant corner, Cohen Bramall put the ball into the danger area and Wood emerged from the ruck of bodies to meet his centre, but his downward header from point-blank range failed to trouble the target.
Minutes later, Rathbone latched onto a loose ball on halfway before planting a ball behind the Cardiff backline and Hugill found himself on the wrong side of Kipre, before entering a footrace with his visiting counterpart. Hugill appeared to be bearing down on goal before tumbling under his challenge, but the referee deemed there was minimal contact, and nothing was given.
Cardiff had their first foray of note when skipper Joe Ralls perfectly weighted pass presented Mahlon Romeo with the chance to strike but Johansson – who is still playing with a shoulder injury - was his equal with a fine save.
However, Cardiff were not to be denied in their next attack and they broke the deadlock on 11 minutes when good work from Jaden Philogene initially paved the way for Perry Ng to put a ball into the Millers box, and Etete anticipated the cross and bounce of the ball to get across his marker before steering his close range header past Johansson and into the home net.
The Millers had naturally lost a little momentum from their promising start and they almost had a mountain to climb when Sory Kaba capitalised on some sloppy home defending to drill a low effort which Johansson did well to divert away from goal.
Just before the half hour mark, Bramall swung over another dangerous corner and Wood managed to knock the ball back into the six-yard box but Cardiff managed to scramble the ball away, somewhat fortuitously.
With so much at stake for both sides, tensions boiled over on the touchline with both Bluebirds manager Sabri Lamouchi and one of his coaches, Sol Bamba, involved in an altercation with a number of Rotherham players, and Bamba was shown a yellow card.
The Millers fans were off their seats and in fine voice when the home side got themselves back on level terms eight minutes before the break.
Following a spell of home pressure, Harding planted a lovely cross which skimmed off the slick AESSEAL New York Stadium surface and with both Wood and Hugill causing havoc in the Bluebirds defence, Ogbene ghosted in at the far post to power a header into the visitors net giving Alnwick no chance.
The home side’s joy may only have been short-lived though as Cardiff had a golden opportunity to regain the lead just before the break.
There looked little danger for the hosts as Cardiff worked the ball forward but Philogene shielded the ball well before having his legs taken by Coventry, in and around the edge of the box, and the referee pointed to the spot.
Kaba took on the responsibility from 12 yards, and with Johansson correctly diving the right way, the Cardiff striker was unlucky to see his fierce, rising effort smash against the woodwork, before the ball flew to safety to the immense delight of the home faithful.
Half-time: Rotherham United 1 Cardiff City 1
With both sides now attacking their own set of supporters, Etete had Cardiff’s first shot in anger but Johansson smartly got his body behind his long-range effort.
The decibel levels were being ramped up around the stadium and Bramall’s inviting free-kick tantalisingly evaded the attentions of Hugill, who was at full stretch, just yards out from goal.
Just before the hour mark, Rathbone deservedly became the first to see yellow for cynically hauling back Etete to halt a quick Bluebirds counter-attack with the hosts short of defensive cover.
Minutes later, Ralls spooned a shot over from distance before Taylor made a change in his attacking ranks with Kelly introduced at the expense of Hugill.
The Irish striker made an instant impact when he dragged a low shot harmlessly wide of the visitors goal.
It was game of risk and reward for both sides – with one point inching them closer to safety – but three, all but mathematically guaranteeing their second tier status with two games to go.
It was Cardiff, who grabbed the initiative late on, when firstly Philogene sneaked clear before working a shooting opportunity but Coventry narrowed his angle, and blocked his shot at close quarters before Ryan Wintle volleyed over soon after.
Nevertheless, Cardiff snatched the all-important winner with three minutes to go when Etete brought a fine save from Johansson, but Rotherham failed to clear the danger, and the visitors made it count when the ball was played back into the danger area, and Kipre got a yard on his marker, before firing high into the roof of the home net.
Rotherham rallied near the end, but it was not to be, and sub Domingos Quina tested Alnwick from long range before wasting their last chance, in stoppage time, with a wayward snap shot.
Full-time: Rotherham United 1 Cardiff City 2
Rotherham United 1
Cardiff City 2
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Harding, Bramall, Coventry (Wiles 85), Wood, Hugill (Kelly 67), Ogbene, Lindsay, Rathbone (Fosu 70), Peltier (Quina 85), Humphreys. Unused- Hemfrey, Ferguson, Hjelde.
Cardiff- Alnwick, Romeo, McGuinness, Wintle, Ralls, Etete, O’Dowda (Simpson 46), Kipre, Philogene (Sawyers 90), Ng, Kaba (Wickham 71). Unused- Luthra, Ojo, Harris, Rinomhota.
Referee- O Langford
Attendance- 10219 (864)