Rotherham United 1 Middlesbrough 2
Smith 86 (pen) Assombalonga 28 (pen)
Rotherham United’s last game of the season saw them lose out narrowly to Middlesbrough yesterday at the New York Stadium.
Despite Middlesbrough needing the win it was the Millers who started the stronger with Joe Newell getting himself into the box only to see ‘Boro ‘keeper Darren Randolph get to the ball before a red shirted player. Minutes later it was Newell again who started a move that set Michael Smith on his way whose shot could only be punched away by Randolph as far as Joe Mattock but the skipper for the day over hit his cross. At the other end Anthony Forde did well to put a ball behind under pressure with the resulting corner coming to nothing before Matt Crooks did well to get a shot away under pressure only for Randolph to claim the ball which was followed by a Forde cross which again the visiting ‘keeper held onto. A lovely cross from the busy Ben Wiles found the head of Semi Ajayi with the tall Nigerian putting the ball just over before the hosts were caught on their heels allowing Britt Assombalonga the room to get one-on-one with Lewis Price but the Millers’ ‘keeper put him off and he put the ball wide. Forde was the next to have a go for the hosts seeing his shot hit the legs of a ‘Boro defender and go to safety. The visitors had a chance when Ashley Fletcher put a shot wide under the pressure of Clark Robertson followed by a Lewis Wing free-kick finding Ryan Shotton who headed over when it looked easier to score. Some super work from Crook saw an equally good ball find Smith but he seemed to get the ball under his feet before shooting wide. With twenty-seven minutes gone Assombalonga got himself into the Rotherham box and with Robertson at his side the ‘Boro top scorer went down. Was he pushed, did he fall? Well, it looked a bit dubious from where I was but referee Andy Madley had no hesitation in pointing to the spot with Assombalonga stepping up and making it one-nil to the visitors. And on the half-hour mark it could have been two after some good work between Fletcher and Assombalonga the latter put a shot horribly wide in front of the Millers fans he’d just been ‘celebrating’ with. At the other end Randolph did well to punch a shot from Smith away while he was there again to catch from Crooks. Nine minutes after the first goal, ‘Boro made it two after Paddy McNair rose above everyone to win a header and with the ball bobbing about the penalty area up stepped former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel to shoot past a host of bodies and into the net, getting his first goal on English soil for over five years. Newell and Mattock combined well with Mattock seeing a shot go inches over the crossbar followed by Randolph getting fingertips to a Newell shot to put the ball over.
The Millers started the second half with Ryan Williams on for Anthony Forde. Starting on the front foot some good work Michael Smith and Ben Wiles saw the ball fall to Semi Ajayi who just failed to find Matt Crooks. Minutes later Crooks did well to get the ball off a visiting midfielder and flying down the pitch found Ajayi whose shot from distance flew over the crossbar. Muhamed Besic was given too much space and was allowed to run down the pitch into the area but he blazed over with only Lewis Price to beat. Darren Potter came on for Crooks for his first appearance of the season. Joe Newell and Williams combined well with the substitute getting the ball back to Newell only for his shot to be blocked by George Saville before a super cross from Clark Robertson found Williams who won a corner for the hosts with the corner finding Ajayi who brought off a great save from Darren Randolph. A cross from Williams appeared to strike the arm of Saville and with eight and a half thousand fans and the Millers players expecting a penalty Mr Madley shook his head while the linesman in front of the family stand didn’t flinch either – though, to be fair, he’d been next to useless all game so that was no surprise. The Millers brought on Kyle Vassell for Joe Newell and ‘Boro replaced Ashley Fletcher with Stewart Downing. A Potter cross found Williams who saw his shot go just over while Vassell brought off a good save from Randolph. Adam Clayton came on for Muhamed Besic followed by Marcus Tavernier coming on for Lewis Wing for the visitors. Some super work from Wiles sent Vassell on his way and getting into the box he let fly only to see the ball come back off the woodwork and to safety. All the Millers fans wanted was a goal to celebrate and with four minutes to go they got one after John Obi Mikel brought Vassell down in the box and up stepped Michael Smith to put the ball into the back of the net. In time added on a good ball in from Billy Jones was cleared by a ‘Boro defender before it could reach Ajayi which was followed by the only yellow of the game which went to Mikel for kicking the ball away.
A shame we couldn’t end the season with something to add to the final table but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
I think we all knew what a hard task this was going to be in August and we start next season in League One – but, apart from a handful of games, the Millers have shown what they could do with a bit of money behind them and probably a bit more belief.
What do we wish for next season? To take our chances, learn to defend, hold onto a lead and definitely better officials.
Up The Millers.
Crowd – 11,051 (2,608 ‘Boro fans)
Referee – Andy Madley