Rotherham United picked up a valuable three points to move further away from the League One trap door as they beat Sunderland 2-1 at the New York Stadium on Tuesday evening. Strikes from captain Ollie Rathbone and Shane Ferguson helped pull the Millers five points clear of the drop zone. The result saw the visitors lose further ground on the top six, with play off chasers Blackburn, Norwich and Millwall all picking up at least a point on the same evening.
The South Yorkshire side made only two changes from the side who lost at home to Coventry City on Saturday. That 2-0 defeat saw Cohen Bramall and Hakeem Odoffin replaced in the starting XI by Leeds loanee Leo Hjelde and Tarique Fosu. The visitors also made two changes from their draw against Bristol City, with full back Dennis Cirkin replacing Trai Hume and Alex Pritchard replacing Patrick Roberts. Hume and Roberts both dropped to the bench.
The game began rather cagey with no real openings for either side, with a few needless challenges thrown in. After 19 minutes though, it was the home side who took the lead. Just inside the opposition half, Rathbone played a one-two with Fosu, and after a good run planted the ball past the despairing Anthony Patterson in the Sunderland goal from just outside the area.
To the Black Cats’ credit though, they nearly equalised almost straight after with Alex Pritchard forcing a great save from home keeper Viktor Johansson. He got his right hand to the effort and pushed it wide as it look destined for the top corner. The resulting corner saw Dan Ballard head just wide of Johansson’s post. Ten minutes before half time saw Millers forward Jordan Hugill go down under a challenge from Luke O’Nien in the penalty area, Referee Chris Kavanagh quickly dismissed the claims. Hugill seemed to seek retribution however immediately after and stuck in a nasty challenge on Ballard which saw him pick up the game’s first yellow card.
Sunderland full back Dennis Cirkin also earned himself a booking towards the end of the half for a needless challenge on forward Chiedozie Ogbene. The last chance of the half fell to the visitors as Jack Clarke’s lung busting run from the left began the move off as he squared to Amad Diallo, who fired over Johansson’s crossbar. There was a late change too as an injury to Millers’ Grant Hall forced him off. He was replaced by Wes Harding.
The visitors saw a goal disallowed 10 minutes after the restart, as Leeds loanee Joe Gelhardt converted Dan Neil’s cross from the right. The linesman flagged for offside, which appeared marginal, and the score remained 1-0. Sunderland seemed to rue that disallowed goal though as just two minutes later, the hosts made it 2-0. Tarique Fosu fed Shane Ferguson 30 yards from goal and similar to their first, he powered the ball low past Patterson from just outside the box with a little help from the woodwork.
This didn’t seem to deter Sunderland however as they were much the dominant side from that point onwards, and they halved the deficit just after the hour. Luke O’Nien’s cross was converted by the head of Gelhardt inside the six yard box. This was the Leeds’ loanees first goal since arriving from the club on loan last month. The Black Cats’ continued to dominate and had a glut of chances, with the Millers defence playing a key role in keeping them at bay. Rotherham substitute Conor Washington went very close to extending the Millers lead though, as he began a run from his own half and his right footed effort came back off the post.
Patrick Roberts was introduced by manager Tony Mowbray and he was a constant nuisance. He played in fellow sub Jewison Bennette but his shot was blocked well. Roberts’ also played in Gelhardt but his close range header was straight at Johansson and saved. As six minutes of added time was shown, Sunderland continued to push. Gelhardt was again denied by Johansson and he was given time and space to turn on the ball and force a save. There was further controversy though as Alese turned the ball home from close range, but the referee had blown for a foul on the goalkeeper in the build up, which seemed very debatable. Sunderland ran out of time and the Millers secured the victory.
Rotherham boss Matt Taylor was pleased with the overall performance, and knew the win was coming after recent slip ups. He said:
“We were incredible performance-wise against Reading, we played pretty well in the first half against Coventry but we didn’t pick any points up and all of a sudden the pressure builds, the frown gets bigger and the weight of your head gets heavier than previously. We started the game well, we needed Ollie’s goal to go in to settle our attacking play down, that was the best we have been in an attacking sense. The second half was having to see out some moments from some very good opposition. I am delighted we have done that.
This was Sunderland’s first defeat on the road since October and boss Tony Mowbray feels his team shouldn’t have lost this game. He said:
“We shouldn’t be losing the game in the way we did. Rotherham make it really difficult, they are very good off the ball. If you want to be a top team you have to overcome that and the first half wasn’t good enough. Tonight was a really, really tough game.”
Rotherham: Johansson; Peltier (Odoffin 79′), Hall (Harding 45+2′), Humphreys, Hjelde; Coventry, Rathbone (C) (Washington 79′); Ferguson (Lindsay 64′), Fosu, Ogbene; Hugill (Kelly 80′).
SUBS NOT USED: Vickers (GK), Bramall.
Sunderland: Patterson; O’Nien, Batth (C) (Hume, 63), Ballard, Cirkin (Alese 63′) ; Michut (Roberts 62′), Neil; Diallo, Pritchard (Ba 85′), Clarke (Bennette 84′); Gelhardt.
SUBS NOT USED: Bass (GK), Ekwah.
|Rotherham: 7 ATTEMPTS ON GOAL Sunderland: 13|
|Rotherham: 4 CORNERS Sunderland: 6|
|Rotherham: 36% BALL POSSESSION Sunderland: 64%|
|Rotherham: 2 YELLOW CARDS Sunderland: 1|
|(Hugill 37′, Coventry 82′) (Cirkin 40′)|
Match Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Attendance: 10,522 (2,190 away)