Report: Exeter 0 Rotherham 1Ian Sharps’ first-half header was enough to give Rotherham a win against Exeter at St James’ Park.
The defender met Ben Pringle’s corner at the end of the first half to score what proved the game’s only goal. Substitute Mitchell Rose was dismissed for the visitors shortly before full-time but it made little difference as the Millers held out to win.
The Grecians made a single enforced change to the starting line-up following their win on the road at Gillingham, as Craig Woodman was replaced by Jordan Moore-Taylor in the left-back position.
Meanwhile Daniel Nardiello made his return to St James’ Park in Rotherham colours, and an injury-hit Millers named debutant loanee Liam Ridehalgh in the squad, as well as Johnny Mullins who was recalled from loan at Oxford in the week.
Rotherham were first to muster a chance when Ben Pringle’s corner was punched clear by Artur Krysiak. Jason Taylor was alert on the edge of the back and drilled a half-volley, but it flashed marginally wide of the post.
The visitors were making the early running and keeping possession well, and carved another opening shortly after. Alex Revell was laid clean through on goal after playing a smart one-two with Pringle, but Krysiak covered his angles well to save.
Then a ball slipped between the centre-halves looked inviting for Revell to run onto, but Steve Tully was across to cover and out-muscle the striker to allow Krysiak to collect.
City eventually began to take a foothold in the game and Jamie Cureton had a great opportunity to open the scoring. After a ball was only semi-cleared, Tully picked up the ball on the right and found the striker with a low cross, but Andy Warrington reacted quickly to save down low.
Alan Gow was beginning to find space too and created an opportunity for himself by cutting inside after using runners as a diversion. A sweetly-struck with his right foot looked all the way to be finding the net but a slight touch by Warrington took it onto the bar. Matt Oakley wasn’t able to make a firm contact on the follow-up.
Paul Tisdale was forced into making an early substitution, as Tommy Doherty had to limp off on the half-hour mark to be replaced by Jimmy Keohane.
Krysiak had to be alert twice in quick succession to keep the game goalless – firstly to deny O’Connor with a drive from outside the box which Tully turned behind after it slipped from the ‘keeper’s palms, and then to turn Mullins’ header over from point blank from the resulting corner.
But from the next corner, the deadlock was finally broken. Rotherham captain Sharps attacked the ball at the near post from Pringle’s cross and headed decisively into the net.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Rotherham United 1
Exeter might have drawn level when a Moore-Taylor cross was dealt with poorly by Sharps, but Keohane’s shot on the follow-up had too much elevation and failed to test Warrington.
Keohane was subbed back off just before the hour to be replaced by John O’Flynn, as Tisdale looked to make a tactical switch by putting two strikers up front with Gow in behind.
Almost instantly Gow threatened the Millers goal with a swirling effort, but Warrington saved low. Sharps was alive to turn the ball behind under pressure and prevent a goal on the rebound.
With the clock running down, the Grecians were threatening for an equaliser and O’Flynn almost found his strike-partner Cureton with a slipped ball, but Mullins was able to intercept and clear the ball over the away fans and out of the stadium.
With the rain teeming down, both teams were fully committed in trying to earn the points and Scot Bennett hurt himself when challenging the goalkeeper from a deep cross by Tully.
The right-back had to be withdrawn in the closing stages after taking a heavy blow, with Aaron Dawson slotting in.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the final minute when substitute Mitchell Rose put in tough tackle which the referee decided merited a dismissal, just as the assistant was showing the board for four additional minutes.
But the Millers were able to run the clock down to see out the victory and take all three points back to South Yorkshire.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Rotherham United 1
Exeter City: Krysiak; Tully (Dawson 87), Coles, Baldwin, Moore-Taylor; Sercombe, Doherty (Keohane 30, (O’Flynn 59)), Bennett, Oakley; Gow; Cureton.
Subs (not used): Evans, Amankwaah, Chamberlain, Reid.
Rotherham United: Warrington; Bradley, Sharps, Mullins, Ridehalgh; Cameron (O’Connell 90), O’Connor, Taylor, Nardiello (Rose 85); Pringle; Revell.
Subs (not used): Thompson, Odejayi, Hunt, Rooney, Walker.
Goal: Sharps (41).
Sent off: Rose (90).
Referee: O. Langford
Attendance: 3954 (205 away).