Rotherham United 2 Preston North End 1
Vaulks (45+1) Nmecha (78)
Rotherham United started 2019 off with three points from a two-one win over Preston North End at the New York Stadium.
Due to injuries and suspensions the Millers started the game with Semi Ajayi at right-back with skipper Richard Wood, Sean Raggett and Matty Palmer in the starting eleven and Jerry Yates on the bench after being recalled from his loan spell with Carlisle alongside two academy players Akeem Hinds, Jake Southern-Cooper.
The visitors started the better and twice Raggett had to be on his mettle to stop them getting into scoring positions as well as Millers’ ‘keeper Marek Rodak having to stop a shot from Lukas Nmecha. Palmer became the first player to see yellow from referee Lee Probert when he stopped Tom Barkhuizen from getting a shot away with the resulting free-kick seeing Rodak get down well to stop. Rodak was in action again five minutes later when Barkhiuzen sent Graham Burke on his way but the Millers’ ‘keeper did well to stop him shooting. Ben Wiles, who was starting his first home league game, was kept busy marking Daniel Johnson and when he shot from some twenty yards out it took the fingertips of Preston ‘keeper Declan Rudd to keep the ball out of the net. At the other end Johnson did well to get past his marker but his shot went out for a corner which came to nothing followed by Raggett going into Mr Probert’s book for an alleged foul on Nmecha. Minutes later a foul on Wiles got the same punishment for Ryan Ledson. As the board went up for two minutes of added time a poor challenge by Tom Clarke on Ryan Williams saw the Millers get a free-kick in a good position. Jon Taylor placed the ball, the referee replaced it and Taylor put it down again but it was a cracking strike from Will Vaulks that bulged the net to send the Millers in at half-time one-nil up.
Rotherham started the second half with a double substitution seeing Joe Newell and Anthony Forde replace Jon Taylor and Matty Palmer. Forde was the first of the pair in action with a cross into the box that had to be cleared by a Preston head before the visiting defenders did well to clear away a cross in from Ryan Williams. At the other end Marek Rodak did well to punch clear through a sea of bodies before both Williams and Michael Smith saw shots cleared. Will Vaulks was the next to try his luck from some twenty-five yards out but the ball went just over before Williams got to a deflected shot from Forde but the Preston defence stood firm. After a couple of injury scares Preston took off skipper Andrew Hughes replacing him with Callum Woods. Sean Raggett got to a Forde cross but saw his shot go wide before he was up at the other end heading away a cross before Lukas Nmecha could get to it and was there minutes later to keep out a Paul Gallagher free-kick at the near post. Vaulks was the next to get a yellow after a late challenge on Daniel Johnson. A superb delivery in from Gallagher saw a powerful header from Nmecha was palmed away by Rodak before being hacked off the line by Raggett. On seventy-seven minutes the hosts doubled their lead after some lovely work down the wing by Newell saw him deliver a great ball into the area for Smith who headed superbly into the net to make it two-nil. But the Millers joy was short lived when two minutes later Preston halved the deficit with a good ball in from Clarke finding Nmecha and while Richard Wood tried to hook it away it went into the back of the net. That buoyed the visitors up and Ryan Ledson should have done better but sent his shot into the travelling Preston fans behind the goal. Wiles and Smith both saw yellow before the end of the game. Joe Mattock did well to block firstly a cross from Clarke and then a shot from Tom Barkhuizen before Wood did well to stop Burke get to the ball to shoot. It was definitely squeaky bum time for the Millers faithful and when a deflection hit Smith they were thankful to see Semi Ajayi there to hack it off the line with four minutes to go. When the Millers got the ball they took it into the corner with Wiles doing well up the other end to get a header to a ball from Ledson in time added on.
After a dull first half the game sprung into life in the second half with both teams throwing all they could at it as well as the Millers defending in numbers to keep Preston out.
Three points today sees the Millers move out of the bottom three and get their first win for two months.
A word about the officials today which were Mr Probert who referees in the Premier League (and I sympathise with those clubs) and the linesman in front of the Family Stand at the New York Stadium, who I believe was Andrew Garratt. I’m shaking my head as I’ve seen some poor officials in the last few years but these two were appalling. One was running round the pitch with a whistle not seeing fouls, pulls, pushes while the other was running the line and telling fans to ‘shut up’ and was very rarely up with play.
CROWD – 9,077 (1,141 Preston fans)