Rotherham United 3 Brentford 0: Two-goal Agard fires up Millers’ promotion hopes

Keiron Agard fires a shot on targetKeiron Agard fires a shot on target
Keiron Agard fires a shot on target
IT might not quite have been April 28, 2001, all over again for Rotherham United last night – but it was still pretty damn good nevertheless.

Against the side who the Millers dramatically beat to clinch promotion to the second tier at their old Millmoor home at the end of 2000-01 – thanks to a never-to-be-forgotten late winner from Alan Lee – the hosts conjured up another chapter for the scrapbook.

It’s a bit early for the present-day United to enter folklore like Ronnie Moore’s class of 13 seasons ago, but opportunity knocks.

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Something had to give with the Millers – unbeaten in 13 matches since New Year’s Day ahead of the game – taking on visitors with a formidable record of one loss in 25 league outings and without a reverse on their travels since mid-autumn. And it was the Bees, labelled the best team in the division since the turn of the year by Steve Evans, who blinked.

Ahead of the game, Evans –whose side were already virtually assured of a play-off spot – said it would be ‘game on’ if they could beat the Londoners and seal a noteworthy double.

The Millers didn’t just see off their opponents, they gave them a bit of a lesson for considerable spells, with the upshot being that they are now within seven points of second-placed Bees, who have a game in hand.

Millers supporters are certainly daring to dream, if a stirring chorus of The Reds Are Going Up from the ecstatic NYS crowd following a wonderful second goal from Kieran Agard just before the break was anything to go by.

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Being greedy, the only thing missing on a fabulous night for the hosts, was Agard – afforded a standing ovation when he left the fray after taking his seasonal tally to 20 – recording a hat-trick.

But in the round, home fans will have been suitably sated by a home performance that will rank among the best in the Millers’ splendid stadium’s short history.

The Bees were shaken out of their comfort zone in a high-octane opening half from the hosts.

That discipline, conviction, energy and quality was sustained on the restart, with the gloss arriving in stoppage time when Haris Vuckic netted the hosts’ third after being set up by fellow substitute Rob Milsom.

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A 2-0 interval lead in no way did the Millers a disservice and while it was Agard who took the bouquets, not for the first time this season with two goals, most of his team-mates were also deserving of a few backslaps.

That was encapsulated in a marvellous second goal from Agard just before the break, when he benefitted from top-notch approach play from the likes of Ben Pringle and Nicky Adams to fire home.

It was actually the Bees who fired the first salvo when Bradford-born Clayton Donaldson saw his angled strike turned away in the nick of time by Adam Collin, but it proved a moment in isolation.

The Millers, with dangermen Agard and Pringle posing all sorts of trouble, soon seized the initiative and didn’t let go for the rest of the half.

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They got their first reward on 14 minutes when the marauding James Tavernier, who linked up impressively down the right with Adams, was brought down just inside the box by an ill-timed challenge from Alan Judge.

Agard, just as he showed at Peterborough, proved cool as a cucumber to send David Button the wrong way. It was his sixth successful spot-kick in the league this term, more than any other player in League One.

A deflected shot from Pringle was then grasped by Button with the Millers within inches of a second shortly before the half-hour mark when Alex Revell headed just over following an exquisite cross from Adams.

The home pressure continued with a terrific free-kick from Tavernier hitting the outside of the post with Button beaten.

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He was similarly helpless on 44 minutes when Agard’s cracker flew past him following a sumptuous move.

Clearly scenting a hat-trick, Agard just failed to convert two half-chances early on the restart before spurning a presentable one following more superb work from Adams, heading his cross over.

The Bees finally recomposed themselves and a decent spell was crowned by a good chance for former Leeds United midfielder Jonathan Douglas, with his header blocked by Collin.

But the Millers – well marshalled at the back by captain Craig Morgan – refused to yield and the game ended fittingly with the hosts on top, with Freckington and the tireless Adams just off target with it left to Vuckic to provide the icing.

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Rotherham United: Collin; Tavernier, Morgan, Arnason, Skarz; Pringle (Milsom 88), Smallwood, Frecklington, N Adams; Agard (Vuckic 90), Revell. Unused substitutes: Shearer, Davis, M O’Connor, Addison, Hitchcock.

Brentford: Button; McCormack, Dean, Craig, Bidwell; Forshaw (Yennaris 66), Douglas, Reeves, Judge (C Adams 87); Donaldson, Trotta (Grigg 75). Unused substitutes: Lee, K O’Connor, Dallas, Tarkowski.

Referee: G Eltringham (Tyne and Wear).