Late heartbreak for the Millers...
Rotherham United suffered Valentine’s Day heartbreak as Reading overturned a half-time deficit to record victory thanks to sub Tyrese Fornah’s late winner.
Ex-Newcastle and Liverpool striker Andy Carroll was the Millers tormentor-in-chief, by firstly cancelling out Lee Peltier’s first goal in Millers colours with a trademark header before providing the crucial assist for Fornah late on.
Boss Matt Taylor made two changes to his starting line-up. Sunderland loanee Bailey Wright made his first start for the Millers while Conor Washington was recalled to form a strike partnership with Jordan Hugill.
The Millers reverted to a 4-1-3-2 formation at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
The Royals had the first sight of goal when a fine flowing move involving Tom Ince and Shane Long paved the way for Junior Hoilett to deliver a cross which was needlessly turned behind by Peltier.
From the resultant corner, Jeff Hendrick tried his luck with a low drive which was blocked by Cameron Humphreys’ en-route to goal.
The home side threatened again when Andy Yiadom scuffed a shot narrowly wide of the target.
There was a moment of controversy when Ince appeared to be tripped by his own team mate, and a free-kick was awarded but thankfully, Rotherham cleared the danger from the resultant set-piece.
Hakeem Odoffin had Rotherham’s first shot in anger following a lovely move involving Washington, Hugill and Conor Coventry but his weak effort from distance was blocked.
Victor Johansson was quick off his line to diffuse the danger after Hendrick looked to latch onto Ince’s floated ball over the top of the Millers rearguard.
Just past the quarter hour, Washington’s deflected cross looped into the grasp of Joe Lumley in the home goal.
Minutes later, Tariqe Fosu’s slide-rule pass gave Washington a glimpse of goal but Tom McIntyre’s timely tackle prevented the Northern Irish striker from getting his shot away.
The Millers were more than matching their hosts and they came within a coat of paint of the opener, just past the half hour mark, when Hugill was felled by Naby Sarr.
Cohen Bramall clipped the resultant free-kick into the box and Odoffin headed back into the path of Peltier – who at full stretch – hooked the ball towards the Royals goal, but the ball struck the bar before falling to safety.
The Royals failed to heed the warning though as Rotherham broke the deadlock in their next attack on 37 minutes.
Following a long stoppage of play, Coventry delivered a teasing free-kick into the danger area and Peltier – despite being earlier denied by the woodwork – was not to be outdone this time, and he emerged from the masse of players in the box to meet his centre, and power a header which beat the outstretched hand of Lumley to find the bottom corner of the home net.
Peltier wheeled away in delight, and it was no surprise, as he last hit the net for Leeds United during the 2013/2014 season.
It almost got better for all those with a Millers persuasion, in stoppage time, when Fosu mesmerised the Royals defence with some dazzling footwork in the box and the Brentford loanee drilled a low cross into the six-yard box but Odoffin wastefully blazed over the bar, when he may have done better.
Half-time: Reading 0 Rotherham United 1
Paul Ince’s side made a double change at the break and they had the first effort of note in the second 45 when Hendrick stabbed towards goal but Johansson made a comfortable save.
At the other end, Rathbone – with his weaker left-foot - had a shot blocked on the edge of the box.
The Millers were kicking themselves on 52 minutes when Odoffin gave away a needless free-kick near the touchline as he felled sub Nesta Guinness-Walker, and Reading punished the visitors for their indiscretion from the resultant free-kick.
Fellow sub Femi Azeez put over the centre into the box and Carroll showed his aerial prowess by getting a run on his marker and rising highest to guide a bullet header into the bottom corner of the Millers goal giving Johansson no chance.
Rotherham responded positively to the setback and Odoffin almost atoned for his error straight away but he headed wide from Bramall’s cross.
Yiadom became the first to see yellow for hauling down Hugill before Johansson was called into action with a fine, reflex save to deny Guinness-Walker, who had shrugged off the attentions of Peltier to ghost into the box.
Both sides traded chances when Ince ballooned a shot into the home fans behind the goal before Washington took advantage of a long punt up field to race away but his initial effort was blocked by a retreating Royals defender before he planted his follow-up effort narrowly wide.
With just over quarter an hour to go, Taylor reshuffled his pack with a triple change, including Chiedozie Ogbene, and it almost paid immediate rewards when Bramall sped down the left flank before pulling the ball back to Fosu, but the Ghanian international saw his low shot blocked at close quarters.
One of those replacements, Shane Ferguson presented Bramall with the chance to shoot and he duly obliged with a deflected strike which almost fell kindly for Washington, but the Millers striker could not get the ball under his spell.
The game was in the balance and Johansson had to race from his goal on two occasions to snuff out danger from the Royals before Fornah volleyed narrowly wide of the target.
In the dying minutes, Ogbene almost caught out Lumley with a speculative effort from a tight angle but there was further drama to come, as Reading grabbed the all-important winner on 90 minutes.
Guinness-Walker floated a deep corner to the far post, and Carroll tormented the Millers once again with a towering header back into the danger area and Fornah took advantage of the visitors' indecision to nod home from close range.
Full-time: Reading 2 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams: Reading- Lumley, Yiadom, Mbengue, Sarr, Baba (Guinness-Walker 41), Hoilett (Azeez 46), McIntyre, Hendrick, Ince, Long (Fornah 46), Carroll. Unused- Bouzanis, Dann, Casadei, Meite.
Rotherham- Johansson, Bramall, Humphreys, Wright, Peltier (Harding 74), Coventry, Fosu (Kelly 90), Odoffin (Eaves 90), Rathbone (Ferguson 78), Hugill (Ogbene 74), Washington. Unused- Vickers, Hall.
Referee- J Busby