|Toby's view from the Press Box|
Rotherham United firmly moved themselves back into the fight for automatic promotion with a convincing 4-1 victory over play-off chasers Exeter City on Tuesday night.
|Steve Evans wasn't on the touchline but in the stands.|
Ahead of what Steve Evans billed as ‘the most important game of the season’ the Millers made three changes to their starting line-up. The most notable being the return of top-scorer Daniel Nardiello, who took his place upfront against his former club, the Grecians. This saw a return to the bench for ex-Aldershot loanee Lionel Ainsworth, after being substituted at half-time during Rotherham’s 2-1 defeat to Morecambe on Saturday.
Dale Tonge also found himself back in the starting eleven after Welshman Mark Bradley had started Saturday’s game at the Globe Arena. The move didn’t come as a surprise, however, with his imminent return to the side proving too much to start two games in a row.
The final change for Rotherham came with David Noble replacing suspended captain Johnny Mullins, whose position at centre back was taken up by part-time defender and captain, Kari Arnason.
The game started in the best possible fashion for the home side, as ex-Derby winger Ben Pringle ran onto Scot Bennett’s tame pass before drilling home a 25-yard shot into the bottom right corner of Artur Krysiak’s net. After finding himself out of favour in recent games, it was the perfect time for Pringle to score his ninth goal of the season.
With the confidence of the first goal behind them, the Millers’ players continued to push forward and when Kieran Agard was brought down by Pat Baldwin the first free-kick of the game was awarded. Ben Pringle stepped up, looking for his second goal of the game. However, his shot from the edge of the box was cleared with reasonable ease by the Exeter defence.
The first corner kick of the game was awarded just two minutes later when Daniel Nardiello’s attempted cross was knocked out of play by the Grecians’ number three, Craig Woodman. The corner was then taken by Michael O’Connor, who curled the ball over the top of the fully stretched Artur Kyrsiak. However, just as the ball appeared to be going in, Aaron Lawson scrambled the ball past the far post to keep the score at 1-0.
Exeter’s only real chance of the first-half came in the 14th minute when Craig Woodman tested Scott Shearer directly from a free kick. However, the ex-Crawley ‘keeper comfortably punched the ball behind for a corner kick that would be cleared by the Rotherham defence.
The Millers’ next outstanding opportunity came in the 25th minute. Michael O’Connor’s free-kick was nodded down by Craig Morgan before Kieran Agard’s close range shot was deflected wide by Aaron Dawson.
The pressure was fully on the Grecians and it was only a matter of time before Rotherham extended their lead.
The second goal finally came in the 28th minute when Ben Pringle and Daniel Nardiello combined well before the latter neatly chipped home past a helpless Krysiak to make the score 2-0 in Rotherham’s favour.
It seemed that the floodgates had now opened and the hosts added a third just two minutes later when an attempted clearance fell to Michael O’Connor who comfortably volleyed home from 30-yards out.
This would see the two sides into half-time, with the hosts comfortably and deservedly leading 3-0 at the break.
Half-time: Rotherham United 3-0 Exeter City
The second half began with a different tone as Exeter shared slightly more of the possession in the first five minutes. This would prove to be a false dawn, however, as in the 51st minute Rotherham scored a fourth to put the game beyond doubt. Alex Revell headed back across the box after an attempted Exeter clearance, before Craig Morgan emphatically volleyed home to score his first for the club.
The first yellow card of the game was shown just minutes after the goal, when the Grecians’ number 25, Lawson D'Ath heavily brought down Joe Skarz much to the discontent of the Millers faithful.
With Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers in the crowd, it was no surprise to see Exeter boss Paul Tisdale bring on Rodgers’ son in the 70th minute to replace Tommy Doherty in the centre of midfield.
A number of chances followed for the visitors before they finally pulled back a goal after much confusion in the Millers’ box. The confusion arose when Aaron Davies’ corner was headed downwards by Coles, the ball appeared to cross the line before hitting the arm of Ben Pringle. Play carried on, however, and Jamie Cureton made sure the ball had crossed the line. In the end the goal was awarded to Danny Coles sparing Pringle any punishment for his goal line antics.
The 83rd minute saw a return to action for Lee Frecklington after shaking off a virus in time to take his place on the bench. He replaced goalscorer Michael O’Connor and took his position back on the field for the first time in three matches.
Full-time: Rotherham United 4-1 Exeter City
Rotherham: Shearer, Tonge, Morgan, Arnason, Skarz, Agard (Ainsworth 73), O’Connor (Frecklington 83) Noble, Pringle, Nardiello, Revell (Odejayi 78)
Unused: Warrington, Rose, Ridehalgh, Rowe
Exeter: Krysiak, Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Davies, Cureton, Doherty (Rodgers 71), Dawson (O’Flynn 46), D’Ath, Molesley (Keohane 46)
Unused: Bauza, Evans, Reid, Moore-Taylor
Attendance: 6703 (222)