Rotherham United: One in and Ward stays on a night of defeat ... Nottingham Forest 2 Millers 0

Paul Warne. Pictures by Dan Westwell
Paul Warne. Pictures by Dan Westwell
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They pressed hard, they never gave up, but in the end they hit the target only once.

Forget the football. We’ll come to the match against Nottingham Forest later.

Semi Ajayi makes his debut. Pic: Dan Westwell

Semi Ajayi makes his debut. Pic: Dan Westwell

Rotherham United’s business on deadline day mattered more than on-field events at the City Ground.

The Millers, who were beaten 2-0, had been looking to land three players in the final hours of the transfer window.

Staff were at their desks at New York Stadium as the game in Nottingham was played out, but the Championship’s bottom club had to settle for a single arrival, bringing their total of January signings to five.

They brought in Norwich City striker Carlton Morris on loan until the end of the season, and caretaker manager Paul Warne immediately likened him to former Millers player and Wembley League One Play-off Final hero Alex Revell.

Richie Smallwood upends Danny Fox

Richie Smallwood upends Danny Fox

“The best way to explain his game is he’s like a young Revs,” said Warne of the 21-year-old who hasn’t played a senior game for the Canaries but scored eight goals in 33 appearances in the Scottish Premier League for Hamilton last season.

“He’s really mobile and direct, and he wants to get a goal. He’s really hard-working and athletic, which is what I want.”

Warne talked to the press after the match before heading back to the dressing room to turn on his phone hoping to find confirmation of a deal for Coventry defender Jordan Willis, but it wasn’t to be.

Offers for Grimsby Town hot-shot Omar Bogle also came to nothing.

Rotherham, with Semi Ajayi starting at centre-half but fellow new boy Ben Purrington ineligible after signing too late on Monday, began well but fell away after the break and were beaten by two second-half goals as their winless run against Forest stretched into a 62nd year.

“It was the worst performance of my time in charge,” Warne said. “I was really pleased with Ajayi, though. I thought he was really good.”

In a scrappy first half, Jon Taylor had two shots saved in the opening 14 minutes for Rotherham while the home side didn’t threaten to score until Millers left-back Joe Mattock stooped to head the ball away for a corner just after the half-hour mark and wasn’t far away from directing it into his own net.

Ten minutes later, Forest had a proper attempt of their own and it took a terrific, flying save from Richard O’Donnell to keep out Jamie Ward’s piledriver.

The Millers fell behind to a penalty early in the second half when Will Vaulks waited far too long to take possession and Forest snaffled the ball. Richard Wood felled Britt Assombalonga who got up to despatch the 50th-minute spot-kick.

Forest now looked the better team, although Danny Ward, the subject of so much speculation about a move away from Rotherham, flashed a 57th-minute shot just wide for the visitors.

Eleven minutes later, Rotherham’s top scorer should have scored but his snap-shot was hit too close to Forest goalkeeper Stephen Henderson, and Assombalonga made the Millers pay on 71 minutes by sliding in at the back post to claim his second from Jamie Ward’s cross.

Game over.

On an evening for the Millers as miserable as the weather, the gap between them and safety stretched to 12 points.

At least there was one considerable crumb of comfort.

Wanted man Danny Ward didn’t leave.

Nottingham Forest (4-1-3-2): Henderson; Lichaj, Hobbs, Fox, Pinillos; Mancienne; Ward (Cash 81), Vaughan, Osborn; Brereton (Carayol 75), Assamobalonga (Vellios 88). Subs not used: Bendtner, Tshibola, Stojkovic, Worrall.

Rotherham United (4-1-4-1): O’Donnell; Kelly, Ajayi, Wood, Mattock; Smallwood (Newell 75); Forde (Blackstock 82), Vaulks, Adeyemi (Yates 58), Taylor; Ward. Subs not used: Bilboe, Allan, Bray, Warren.

Goals: Assombalonga (pen) 50, 71 (Forest).

Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 16,770 (393).

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