Burton ALBION scored a quickfire double to steal a vital 2-1 win at Rotherham, whose hopes of entering 2017 in touch with their relegation rivals suffered a damaging blow.
The Millers dominated 85 minutes of the Sky Bet Championship encounter at New York Stadium, but the five first-half minutes where Chris O’Grady and Jackson Irvine scored proved pivotal as Burton registered their first ever away win in the second tier.
It moved them 12 points clear of their bottom-placed hosts and they will be reasonably confident they will not be overhauled by the Millers in the second half of the season.
It was a night of frustration for Paul Warne’s men, who could not add to Tom Adeyemi’s goal in first-half stoppage time despite a host of fine chances and their good work against Wigan on Boxing Day was undone as they sit 10 points adrift of safety.
Just as was the case with their clash with Wigan, the size of this encounter was not lost on the Millers, who started with confidence and created some good chances in the opening 15 minutes.
Joe Newell had a deflected shot after a neat passing move, Danny Ward thundered in a swerving free-kick which Jon McLaughlin palmed away and Izzy Brown did not connect properly from a decent position just inside the area.
Still Rotherham pressed and Richard Wood put a pair of headers wide before Newell missed another fine chance when he could only poke an effort at McLaughlin after a superb jinking run.
But their failure to take the lead inevitably cost them dear and Burton hit them with a two-goal salvo in the space of five minutes before the break which effectively decided the contest.
The first came in the 36th minute and was the result of some slapdash goalkeeping from Lewis Price, who could only spill the tamest of shots from Lucas Akins and O’Grady tapped home to silence the boo boys, who remain unhappy that their former striker refused a pay deferral during their 2007 administration.
The crucial second came when John Brayford whipped in a delicious cross which Irvine converted with a flying header as it crashed in off the crossbar.
Rotherham gave themselves hope in first-half stoppage time, though, as Adeyemi poked home a rebound after Wood’s header had been saved from Newell’s free-kick.
That set up the second half for an attack versus defence exercise as Rotherham threw everything at Burton in hope of wiping out their deficit and chances were regular.
Anthony Forde shot weakly at McLaughlin, the Burton keeper made another save to deny Ward, Brown fizzed an effort wide before the best opportunity of the lot came when a loose ball fell to defender Darnell Fisher at the far post but he put his shot wide when the goal was gaping.
Still the efforts rained in on goal as Peter Odemwingie twice tested McLaughlin but it was just not Rotherham’s night.