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Rotherham United 0 Bristol City 0: Assertive Millers keep Johnson’s Robins quiet

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IT was all about ‘Life Lessons’ if you cared to listen to Lee Johnson in his pre-match press conference.

Electing to have a little bit of fun at the media’s expense, the Bristol City manager referenced that term on several occasions to promote the title of a single recently released by singer-songwriter and former Robins defender Liam Fontaine.

Rotherham United's Joe Mattock and Jon Taylor attempt to shoot together. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Rotherham United's Joe Mattock and Jon Taylor attempt to shoot together. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

On the night, Johnson’s City side proved not so in tune after the Millers provided them with a bit of a schooling – with the only thing missing being a winning goal for the assertive hosts.

Johnson’s night was summed up in stoppage time when he was booked following some late protestations – on an evening which delivered another home display of substance from United.

For the second time in five days the Millers made light of some major disruption to hold court in commendable fashion and almost laugh in the face of adversity.

Captain Richard Wood, a big doubt before the game with a groin problem, broke down in the warm-up, with Will Vaulks moving into the back four, with the measure of the hosts’ disruption being that they fielded just five substitutes.

The hosts’ insatiable hunger ensured that the bulk of the second balls were won by those in red, while City’s midfield – and particularly their anonymous wingers – struggling to make any impression.

Leon Wobschall

Any fears that United, also without Richie Towell, would be significantly affected – against a side who were afforded an extra day’s rest – were thankfully soon allayed.

Once again, the hosts emphatically showcased that their own back garden is a hazardous venue to visit for Championship sides – just as it was for League One rivals last term.

After taking to Twitter and posting an effusive message in his praise of his beloved Millers after the weekend draw with Stoke, former manager Ronnie Moore cannot have failed to be impressed by this encore too.

This current Millers crop bear striking similarities to his own class of the early noughties who regularly used to impose their will on visiting sides across the dual carriageway at Millmoor.

Rotherham United's Joe Newell shoots under pressure from Bristol City's Adam Webster. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Rotherham United's Joe Newell shoots under pressure from Bristol City's Adam Webster. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

The only debit side for the hosts was a lack of quality in front of goal on one or two occasions, but it would have been harsh to overly criticise their efforts.

The hosts may have been without Wood, but Vaulks – complete with captain’s armband and a headband – gave a very passable impersonation of the Millers’ lion-hearted on-pitch leader, who has sported a head dressing or two in his time.

In his duties in the back four, Vaulks also produced the sort of last-ditch challenge that Wood would have been proud of, saving the day to prevent Famara Diedhiou from having a clear run of goal.

It was emblematic of the Millers’ resolve and positive aggression, with their workaholic tendencies ensuring that the Robins were not afforded the luxury of settling in a first period in which Paul Warne’s side comprehensively enjoyed the hegemony.

The hosts’ insatiable hunger ensured that the bulk of the second balls were won by those in red, while City’s midfield – and particularly their anonymous wingers – struggling to make any impression.

The Millers’ in-built competitiveness was lapped up by the home crowd, with passages of pressure putting the ruffled Robins in retreat, particularly in the lead-up to the break.

It saw Ryan Williams – operating as a No 10 – agonisingly just fail to get a clean connection in front of goal following Taylor’s piercing low centre.

Vaulks then saw his back-post header blocked following a corner from Joe Newell, who had earlier gone close after some clever close control, with elements of poise complimenting the Millers’ trademark industry.

It was the Millers’ half by some way with the visitors being cowed for the most part and ripe for some strong words from Johnson.

The trick for the hosts was sustaining their admirable efforts and marrying it with a goal.

That should have transpired when the unmarked Michael Smith – picked out by an inch-perfect left-wing cross from Newell – headed over.

Millers’ custodian Marek Rodak was eventually forced into some serious work when he parried a low drive from substitute Marley Watkins.

The Robins’ best spell subsequently arrived, with the Millers afforded a major let-off after Watkins broke the offside trap, with Rodak blocking his initial weak effort before the follow-up hit the post.

Williams, Smith and Taylor had chances to win it and Ryan Manning flashed a late free-kick wide, before Jamie Paterson struck the bar for City. An away win would have been an injustice.

Rotherham United: Rodak; Jones, Ajayi, Vaulks, Mattock; Manning, Palmer (Wiles 75); J Taylor, Williams, Newell (Forde 69); Smith. Unused substitutes: Price, Onariase, Lewthwaite.

Bristol City: Maenpaa; Hunt, Webster, Baker, Kelly; O’Dowda (M Taylor 61), Pack, Brownhill, Eliasson (Watkins 61); Weimann (Paterson 80), Diedhiou. Unused substitutes: O’Leary, Da Silva, Walsh, Hegeler.

Referee: G Ward (Surrey).