Forest 2 Rotherham 0: Millers suffer costly loss with Arnason set to miss derby

Rotherham United's Lee Frecklington, left, is fouled by Nottingham Forest's Ben Osborn, right, during the Championship match at the City Ground.
Rotherham United's Lee Frecklington, left, is fouled by Nottingham Forest's Ben Osborn, right, during the Championship match at the City Ground.
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HISTORY boys in their previous away fixture they may have been, but unfortunately there was no wondrous encore for Rotherham United last night.

Joyous celebrations may have greeted the final whistle of the Millers’ previous road trip 11 days earlier after they clinched a first league win at Huddersfield Town since March 1964, but it was all rather more flat at the end by the River Trent. Again.

Against hosts who had previously lost just once on home soil in their history against Rotherham – whose sole win arrived almost 60 years ago in April 1955 – the Millers’ lengthy wait between toasting victories continues.

Counting home and away statistics, Rotherham have now not beaten Forest in 18 matches and while the Championship may have its obvious attractions, appointments against the red side of Nottingham didn’t figure highly on the list.

For Steve Evans, a pre-occupation with the here and now rather than historical footnotes is hogging his attentions, with the fourth-from-bottom Millers failing to extend the gap between themselves and Wigan on a night when they could have moved nine points clear of the drop zone with victory.

The upshot is that Evans’s side are still anxiously peering over their shoulders somewhat, although the Latics’ loss the previous evening essentially means it is as you were.

The game was effectively decided in two minutes just before the break, with Forest, laboured and pretty dire beforehand, conjuring two stylish goals from Dexter Blackstock and Michail Antonio to seal the deal.

It was the sort of quality that the Millers couldn’t manufacture offensively with their wait for a first midweek Championship away point in 2014-15 continuing.

The willingness was there and could not be questioned, with the Millers noticeably getting bodies forward in the second half.

But the incision and sparkle was largely lacking, with Forest’s resolute rearguard, aside from a couple of genuine second-half scares, having not too much to worry about.

At least, no more collateral damage arrived on the restart for the Millers, although Kari Arnason’s 10th booking of the season means he starts a two-game ban and will miss a high-octane derby with Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.

Rotherham were not overly troubled at all in the Reds’ backyard. But there was a considerable sting in proceedings right at the end of the half, with two goals in the space of 113 bewildering seconds flattening the visitors.

The first strike arrived when Antonio – possessing the second highest goal assists in the division behind Matt Ritchie – supplied Blackstock, who outstripped the Millers’ cover before coolly lobbing over the stranded Adam Collin.

The Millers’ keeper got a faint touch to the forward’s effort, but could not prevent it going in off the underside of the bar.

With Rotherham no doubt looking forward to half-time to regroup, their task then became positively herculean against a side unbeaten in their previous 10 home matches.

After being the provider for the opener, Antonio spectacularly flew solo, weaving past a couple of challenges before unleashing a sweetly-struck low 20-yard strike which flew past Collin for his 13th goal of the campaign.

It was a tough lesson in the school of Championship hard knocks for the Millers, who were organised and comfortable prior to the double whammy.

Going forward, the visitors couldn’t carve out tangible opportunities, with the final ball letting them down as it did largely for the hosts.

An increasingly bad night for the Millers, fielding a 4-2-3-1 system, got worse when Jack Hunt – an attacking outlet in the first period – was forced off with injury early in the second half.

The Millers had to wait until the 57th minute for their side’s first chance, but it almost yielded a lifeline with Lee Frecklington’s volley hitting the post.

Soon after, the midfielder saw a goalbound shot blocked with the travelling contingent starting to sense an inkling of hope.

Jamaal Lascelles and Antonio had chances to end all that, but spurned opportunities before Karl Darlow produced a fine instinctive save to save Connor Sammon’s deflected shot.

Gary Gardner saw a curler fly inches wide in the final 10 minutes, with Forest seeing the game out in relative comfort.

Nottingham Forest: Darlow; Mancienne, Lascelles, Wilson, Lichaj; Burke (Walker 90), Lansbury, Osborn, Gardner, Antonio; Blackstock (Barrow 79). Unused substitutes: Collins, Fox, Vaughan, Paterson, Evtimov.

Rotherham United: Collin; Hunt (Richardson 48), Broadfoot, Rawson, Lafferty; Arnason, Smallwood (Milsom 57); Sammon, Frecklington, Pringle; Derbyshire (Bowery 75). Unused substitutes: Thompson, Morgan, Green, Hammill.

Referee: M Bull (Essex).