Millers slip to home defeat....
Rotherham United’s three-match unbeaten run in the Sky Bet Championship came to an end as bogey team, Stoke City, secured a narrow victory at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
The Potters – who beat the Millers’ handsomely in both the league and EFL Cup earlier in the season - made it a trio of victories thanks to Lewis Baker’s superb free-kick in first-half stoppage time.
Head Coach Leam Richardson made two changes to his starting line-up since their last league outing at Blackburn Rovers on New Year’s Day.
Lee Peltier returned to the defensive ranks for his 50th appearance in Rotherham colours while Jordan Hugill was recalled to the home attack.
There was a familiar face in the Potters sticks in the shape of one-time Millers loanee Daniel Iversen.
Iversen was in the early action when he had to punch clear under pressure following Christ Tiehi’s lob forward before smartly diffusing a long throw from home skipper Sean Morrison with a good catch.
In Stoke’s first foray of note, Andre Vidigal took advantage of a flowing visitors’ move with a flashed cross which Sead Haksabanovic was unable to get under his spell at the far post and the chance was lost.
There was little to report until Sam Clucas – almost came back to haunt his former club – when he let fly from distance and Iversen was scrambling across his goal, as his fierce effort whistled narrowly past the upright.
At the other end, Ki-Jana Hoever threaded a ball into the feet of Vidigal – who tormented the Millers in the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season – and he almost did it again with a fierce effort from just outside the box which was arrowing into the roof of Rotherham’s net until Viktor Johansson’s late, but timely intervention tipped the ball over the bar.
Just past the half-hour, Johansson punted a long free-kick which was flicked on by Hugill into the path of Sam Nombe but Iversen was quick off his line to snuff out the danger although the offside flag had already been raised.
The decisive moment of the game came in its last act deep in first half stoppage time.
The visitors attacked with purpose and Clucas was penalised for hauling down Jordan Thompson on the edge of the box.
The Potters penalised the Millers to the full for the indiscretion from the resultant free-kick when Baker hovered over the ball with Thompson – but it was he, who struck a lovely right-footed effort which fizzed past the Rotherham wall while giving Johansson no chance as it flew into the top corner of the home goal.
Half-time: Rotherham United 0 Stoke City 1
With the words of Richardson ringing in their ears, the Millers started the second half in a more positive fashion and Nombe tried his luck from distance but his effort cleared the crossbar.
Moments later, Bramall skipped down the touchline before planting a cross which saw Hugill outjump his marker at the far post, but he could not guide his header goalwards.
At the other end, Stoke launched a quick counter-attack led by Haksabanovic and Baker turned provider this time, but Vidigal curled his effort harmlessly over the home bar.
Rotherham were making a better fist of it in the second 45 and Bramall was getting a little joy down the left-flank but Michael Rose was well-stationed to hack his centre to safety before Hakeem Odoffin failed to make a telling connection on the edge of the box with a volley following excellent build-up play by Nombe.
In a matter of minutes, Peltier and Clucas forced corners which were well-defended by the visitors while Tiehi floated - what suspiciously looked like a cross - onto the top of the Stoke goal.
Richardson made a quartet of changes, in two bursts, with Tom Eaves and Cafu firstly introduced before Arvin Appiah and Jamie Lindsay soon joined the fray.
Nevertheless, Stoke were managing the game well and home frustration was summed up when Appiah ballooned a centre which evaded Rotherham runners in the box.
Wouter Burger became the first to see yellow for a foul on Appiah before Eaves soon joined him in the book following a hefty challenge on the visiting skipper.
The game was still in the balance heading into the final stages and sub Tyrese Campbell poked wide from point-blank range after Vidigal’s cross caused havoc in the home box, although any goal would have been chalked off for offside.
Late on, Vidigal stung the palms with a snap shot before sub Ben Pearson was yellow-carded.
However, Steven Schumacher’s side withstood six minutes of injury-time by successfully running down the clock to condemn the Millers to home defeat.
Full-time: Rotherham United 0 Stoke City 1
Rotherham United 0
Stoke City 1
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Bramall, Clucas (Lindsay 73), Hugill (Eaves 64), Rathbone (Cafu 64), Peltier (Appiah 73), Odoffin, Morrison, Tiehi, Revan, Nombe (Kelly 83). Unused- Phillips, Bola, McGuckin.
Stoke- Iversen, Rose, Burger, Vidigal, Baker, Thompson, However, Mmaee (Campbell 80), Haksabanovic (Leris 65), McNally, Cundle (Pearson 90). Unused- Bonham, Gayle, Johnson, Wilmot, Wesley, Lowe.
Referee- K Stroud
Attendance- 11002 (2184)