United slipped to their sixth league defeat in a row as the Millers ground them down this afternoon. Having taken the lead through Sean Rigg’s first of the season United were beaten by two strikes from Michael O’Connor, the first a penalty, and a late third from Jason Taylor to give Rotherham a 3-1 win.
There was a new role for Harry Worley at the back of a midfield three alongside the fit again Jake Forster-Caskey and Lee Cox, while Rigg, Tommy Craddock and Alfie Potter formed a flexible front three full of movement and ideas.
It took seven minutes for that intelligence and movement to pay off as the Boys in Blue took an early lead with a move straight from the training ground. Forster-Caskey took their first corner, from the left hand side and as everyone got sucked into the six yard box Forster-Caskey took the whole ground by surprise by drilling a low ball across towards the edge of the area. Rigg was lurking and moved swiftly to latch on to the ball and smash it first time past keeper Scott Shearer to make it 1-0.
It might have got even better for the U’s had Worley’s close range header not flashed wide after ten minutes or Potter’s dipping effort from the edge of the box on 15 gone a yard to either side of Shearer.
At the other end Wayne Brown, preferred to Ryan Clarke, looked confident in his handling and accurate with his distribution, but having seen his side dominate the first quarter of the game Brown’s goal started to come under increasing pressure after the first 22 minutes.
There was a let off on 25 as Brown’s handling for once let him down and Ben Pringle was left with the seemingly simple task of putting the ball into the net, but somehow Batt on the line got enough of a touch to lift the ball on to the bar and away from danger.
After surviving that scare United then must have thought it was to be their day as Lionel Ainsworth crashed a 29th minute effort off the bar again, but there was to be no third reprieve when the ball span to Kayode Odejayi and he was knocked over by Batt right on the line. Ref Salisbury had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, from where Michael O’Connor comfortably beat Brown to make it 1-1.
United recovered quickly and Forster-Caskey tested Shearer’s handling with a 38th minute free-kick from 25 yards, but it took a superb tackle from the hard-working Cox to block Pringle on 41 so it was very much honours even over the first 45 minutes.
The second half picked up tempo and United might have twice retaken the lead with headers from corner. Harry Worley saw his effort go just over then Rigg saw his tipped away by Shearer. The Millers were also grinding their way through the gears and Brown saved well from Ainsworth just before the hour mark as both sides continued to throw men forward.
Worley, excellent in that defensive role, made way for the more attack minded Peter Leven soon after, while Brown made another good stop from a low drive from the dangerous Ainsworth on 65. The splendid new New York Stadium certainly holds the noise in and with the atmosphere growing it was an open flowing game with both sides going for the win.
Sadly the goal came at the wrong end from a United point of view on 74 minutes. Odejayi once again held the ball up well, using his strength and ushering the ball into a dangerous area with United players gathering round him. That left too much space in other areas and when the ball ran out to the edge of the box O’Connor was on hand to thump a low drive into the bottom right corner to make it 2-1.
With Leven driving them forward United did their best to get back into the game, Craddock, Potter and sub Smalley all stationed on half way ready to spring forward but that left dangerous gaps at the other end and Brown needed to make a magnificent save on 78 to fingertip a Pringle effort over the bar.
The game then hinged on ten seconds right at the end. United threw men forward and Constble's goalbound effort was tipped on to a post by Shearer, Smalley latched on to it and fired at goal but somehow Shearer was there again to block. Immediately the Millers broke forward and sudden;y were 3 on 1 at the other end. Brown blocked the first shot but was powerless as Taylor rolled the ball home to kakie it 3-1 and seal their fate.
Harsh on the U's who could have snatched something out of the game just seconds earlier, but again come away from a game empty handed.
Report by Chris Williams. Pictures by Darrell Fisher. Stats by PA Sports