BURTON ALBION will be remembered by many for providing the opposition for Rotherham United’s first competitive game at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Sadly, last night’s events proved far less auspicious and historic than those on August 18, 2012 when the Millers triumphed 3-0 amid considerable fanfare as they christened their new home.
After the elation against QPR and the sheer relief of their Boxing Day triumph over Wigan, the hosts could not produce a home encore on an ultimately punishing night against another big rival towards the foot of the Championship table.
On an evening when three points would have ensured that talk of a ‘great escape’ repeat was not a mere pipe dream or flight of fancy after all, the Millers suffered a grievous wound.
The margin of victory for Burton – who claimed a league win on the road for the first time since April 23 – may have been narrow, but this was a crushing defeat for the hosts.
Few of a Millers persuasion would have needed to be told twice that victory would have cut the gap between themselves and the erstwhile fourth-from-bottom Brewers to six points.
But it was not to be. Sometimes, it is the hope that kills you.
Caretaker manager Paul Warne had spoken emotionally after the Millers lost the reverse fixture at the Pirelli Stadium on December 3.
Twenty-six days on and he will have been feeling every bit as gutted, if not more so.
Winning was simply the be-all and end-all and despite the Millers creating no shortage of chances, Burton took their opportunities at two key first- half moments.
One was presented on a plate by home goalkeeper Lewis Price, with Chris O’Grady – jeered, not for the first time, on his return to his former club – converting a rebound and Jackson Irvine soon added a second.
Despite Tom Adeyemi pulling one back, the Millers found no way through on the restart and while effort was by no means an issue, a lack of a clinical edge most definitely was on the night.
It proved an eventful – if slightly curious – first half, with the Millers asking virtually all of the questions in the opening 35 minutes, only to be hit by two quick-fire bodyblows in the space of five minutes.
But with the hosts craving the sanctuary of the dressing room to regroup after a bewildering spell, Adeyemi bundled home from close in to reduce the arrears to give the Millers a lifeline.
On the evidence of the vast majority of the first half, it was easy to see why the Brewers had been without a Championship win away from home so far this season before last night, as they struggled to piece anything cohesive together and looked unconvincing at the back.
Unfortunately, for the hosts’ sake, they could not take advantage, despite some smart build-up play and ingenuity on occasions.
Joe Newell further underlined his importance to the Millers’ cause by going close twice, while Richard Wood saw his follow-up thump into the side-netting after Jon McLaughlan had parried a thunderous free-kick from Danny Ward.
After bringing little to the party, Burton were handed a real gift on 36 minutes when Price meekly spilled Lloyd Dyer’s angled shot and O’Grady converted the rebound for his first goal in just over a year.
Worse was to come for the home side, with Jon Brayford – who re-entered the fray after initially being stretchered off after colliding with O’Grady in the build-up to the opener – sending over a fine cross that was headed home emphatically by Irvine via the underside of the bar.
Adeyemi gave the Millers hope after McLaughlan parried Wood’s header from Newell’s free-kick into his path and the game was very much in the melting pot once again.
But the Millers’ initial second-half salvos lacked the intent of much of their first-half offerings, with Dyer firing over and O’Grady heading straight at Price as the visitors scented a game-clinching third.
It took a moment of quality from Newell to conjure the hosts’ first chance of the second period, with Ward’s low shot grasped by McLaughlan before Anthony Forde and Izzy Brown spurned presentable chances as the opportunities started to stack up – and be passed up.
Next, it was the turn of Darnell Fisher to show a distinct lack of composure after a rebound dropped for him invitingly in front of goal, but he contrived to sky his effort.
The lingering impression that it might not be the Millers’ night was further reinforced when Brown’s cross-shot flew inches wide –and despite a frantic finale, it proved Burton’s evening.
Rotherham United: Price; Fisher, Wood, Belaid, Mattock (Blackstock 85); Forde (Odemwingie 67), Adeyemi (Halford 79), Frecklington, Newell; Brown; D Ward. Unused substitutes: Bilboe, Kelly, Broadfoot, Taylor.
Burton Albion: McLaughlan; Mousinho, McFadzean, McCrory; Brayford (Flanagan 45), Irvine, Naylor, Palmer (Barker 90), Dyer; Akins, O’Grady (Harness 72). Unused substitutes: Bywater, Williamson, Beavon, J Ward.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).
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