NEIL REDFEARN called for a huge reaction amid a damning condemnation of his Rotherham United squad in midweek and he got just that.
The Millers, so abject in losing to Huddersfield Town just four days earlier, claimed a welcome three points as Hull City’s promotion hopes suffered a blow.
A goal in each half from Lee Frecklington and Joe Newell settled the all-Yorkshire clash and helped banish the memory of that loss at the John Smith’s Stadium.
In the wake of that loss, Redfearn had labelled his squad “not good enough” for the Championship but that didn’t seem the case against the Tigers.
As for Hull, it was another disappointing show on the road after losing to Leeds United and drawing at Bristol City in the past month.
After the debacle that had been Rotherham’s first half performance in losing 2-0 at Huddersfield Town in midweek, Redfearn opted for a cautious approach against the high-flying Tigers.
The Millers chief packed midfield and left just Danny Ward up front on his own, the clear inference being he wanted to frustrate the visitors.
It worked in a first 25 minutes that, barring a couple of nonsensical decisions from referee Eddie Ilderton against both teams, was lacking in much notable action.
Richie Smallwood did curl an early free-kick just over after Joe Newell had been tripped, while for Hull Andrew Robertson charged forward impressively before releasing Abel Hernandez.
Instead of shooting, however, the City record signing opted to try and pass to Chuba Akpom and the ball was cut out.
Just after the midpoint of the first half, Rotherham suddenly came alive. First, Danny Ward did brilliantly to create a chance for himself that Curtis Davies did well to block.
Then, after the resulting corner had been only half cleared, Moses Odubajo made a mess of completing the clearance and, in the process of trying to rectify matters, managed to clatter Kirk Broadfoot to the ground.
Ilderton rightly pointed to the spot and Lee Frecklington did the rest from 12 yards.
Lee Camp had to react quickly to scoop away a Jake Livermore header as City pressed for an instant response.
Chuba Akpom also went close with a smart turn and shot after Livermore had released Ahmed Elmohamady down the right flank.
As the first half drew to a close, Allan McGregor had to get down smartly to prevent Frecklington netting a second of the afternoon but it was Akpom who had most grounds for looking sheepish at the break after an amazing miss.
A wonderful cross from Hernandez left the Arsenal loanee with the simple task of tapping in but instead he tried to chest the ball in and made a hash of things.
Akpom fired against the post with the first meaningful action of the second half after being released by Robertson.
At the other end, Joe Newell did brilliantly to evade four tackles before firing narrowly wide for the Millers before doubling the hosts’ advantage on 57 minutes.
Robertson, unwisely trying to dribble deep in City territory, was dispossessed and the ball broke to Newell who thundered a shot in off the underside of the crossbar.
Hull huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a way back into proceedings, an inviting cross from Elmohamady being perhaps their most threatening moment but Akpom was unable to apply the finish.
There was still time for Harry Maguire to somehow head wide from four yards out despite being unmarked to cap a miserable afternoon for the Tigers.
Redfearn hailed a “stellar” performance from his side, saying: “It was well deserved to be honest, right from the first minute. As a performance it was really pleasing.
“There were some harsh words said and you can put one or two noses out of joint, but that is football, at the end of the day it’s a business. We have got to get results.
“We had a good reaction, the lads really responded well. One thing they have done since I have been here is fought and they fought today, but they also passed well. We looked like a good side.
“Today we were organised and switched on, aggressive and we looked dangerous. They could have had goals, but we could have had more than the two that we got. There were a few stellar performances.
“That’s three wins in the last six so we can take heart from that. They are a good side. We had the belief today.
“I have said all along there will be games that we lose that we are expected to win and games that we win that we are expected to lose and that’s one of those today.”
Hull boss Steve Bruce was left to reflect on a miserable day, admitting: “That’s the Championship and on a day like today when it’s swirling around the one thing you can’t do is make the defensive errors we have made. We have gifted them the two goals.
“We have have given them a lifeline with the penalty.
“The first goal for them was always going to be important and then to top it all off with some of the chances we have missed, we really needing to be taking them if we are going to come here and win.
“If we are going to be where we want to be then we have to be more clinical our finishing in good positions was awful.
“We have created six or seven really good chances and we haven’t taken one so that adds up to a really miserable afternoon. I really want to go home and start again tomorrow.”
Rotherham United: Camp; Kelly (Buxton 46), Broadfoot, Rawson, Mattock; G Ward, Frecklington (Andreu 84), Smallwood, Hyam, Newell; D Ward (Clarke-Harris 81). Substitutes (not used): Collin, Collins, Green,, Derbyshire.
Hull City: McGregor; Odubajo (Diame 56), Maguire, Davies, Robertson; Elmohamady, Livermore, Meyler (Huddlestone 67), Maloney; Akpom, Hernandez (Diomande 67). Substitutes (not used): Jakupovic, Taylor, Clucas, Hayden.