Cardiff City 1 Rotherham United 1: Cruel late blow breaks Millers hearts

ROTHERHAM UNITED have had everything thrown at them from countless directions this season.

Action from Rotherham United's game at Cardiff. Picture: Getty Images.

Covid-19 outbreaks, a brutal late-season schedule, lamentable refereeing decisions and there was one final shattering twist in the Principality.

With the Millers on the cusp of a glorious safety and leading, it was snatched away from them in desperate fashion after Marlon Pack’s sickening late leveller from their perspective.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It ensured that they are relegated for the third time in five seasons and this was comfortably the most cruel.

It was a day of twists and turns at Cardiff and Derby. But the Millers were not the last one’s standing.

Once again, this was a game in which they created enough chances to win with comfort, but did not take them.

It was looking good at the break, with the Millers implementing a game plan to the letter, with the only downside being that the game’s outcome should have been sealed.

The visitors goal was an outstanding one - with the sublime technique that Wing displayed seven days earlier being showcased in even more stunning fashion.

Latching onto Perry Ng’s header clear, the Middlesbrough loanee unleashed a beautiful low volley which positively flew past Dillon Phillips to crown a textbook start from United.

A bold pre-match call saw Warne hand Derby loanee Florian Jozefzoon his first start since the dramatic win at Hillsborough on March 3 and the decision bore fruit on the first half evidence, with the Dutchman finding plenty of space and causing problems on the right and inside.

Elsewhere, Rotherham’s big players turned up, with Matt Crooks leading the fight and covering every inch of the pitch and taking the lead, with others not far behind him.

Crooks missed a couple of golden chances to add to the Millers’ lead and they were not in isolation. At the other end, Cardiff created next to nothing.

There was still time for controversy with Michael Ihiekwe lucky to receive just a yellow card after a high and mistimed challenge on Ng. Given the calls which have gone against the Millers this season, Warne would not have been overly concerned.

Warne did not celebrate Wing’s beauty - mindful of events elsewhere. If the Millers had converted some of the plethora of chances in the first half, he might just have been less reserved.

A goalbound shot from Crooks after Millers pressure was blocked by Phillips and soon after, Richard Wood, from his sort of range, headed over at the far post following an excellent inswinging corner from Ryan Giles, another who impressed in the first period.

Crooks’s expression was then there for all to see after he steered a huge opportunity wide of the gaping goal following a fine cutback from Michael Smith before Angus MacDonald was the next to go close when his close-range effort was kept out by Phillips.

And so it continued, with Smith getting away down the right and firing a daisy-cutter wide, with the Millers’ producing a power play against Cardiff and winning the overwhelming majority of battles and being first to most things.

Warne would have been mindful of Cardiff upping it on the restart, cajoled by a rollicking from McCarthy and he was not wrong.

The Bluebirds upped the urgency and ex-Millers loanee Kieffer Moore soon fired over on the run before the Millers were caught on a break, only for Richard Wood to produce a captain’s challenge to deny Moore.

Phillips, a busy figure, was then called into action again as he kept out Smith’s cross-shot at his near post before play switched to the other end in an increasingly open spectacle with Ng firing just off target from distance.

It was approaching a big period in the game and Crooks - without a goal since the home game with Cardiff in February, seeing his effort fly over when he stuck out out a leg to divert an initial effort from Jamie Lindsay over the bar.

Rotherham’s heart, spirit and application was admirable, but sadly events in Derby were starting to conspire against them.

Far more game in the second half, Cardiff asked more questions and made sure the Millers did more defending, with substitute Josh Murphy seeing his effort held by Jamal Blackman.

As the twists continued in the Midlands, the Millers went agonisingly close to sealing it when Wing fired wide after great work by Crooks with the goal looking inviting and then curled an effort inches wide and you just wondered what more was in store at Cardiff and Derby - and there was plenty and unfortunately it was not good from a Rotherham perspective.

It was Pack who broke their hearts. 2020-21 has not been kind.

Cardiff City: Phillips; Pack, Flint, Nelson, Ng, Pack, Ralls, Bacuna (Williams 58), Colwill (Harris 45); Wilson (Ojo 77), Moore (Murphy 58 (Bamba 90)). Substitutes unused: Smithies, Bowen, Evans, Tomlin.

Rotherham United: Blackman; Ihiekwe (Ladapo 90), Wood, A MacDonald, Harding; Jozefzoon (Lindsay 61), Wiles (Mattock 87), Wing (Ogbene 90), Giles; Crooks, Smith. Substitutes unused: Johansson, Olosunde, S.MacDonald, Barlaser, Sadlier.

Referee: G Scott (Oxon)