Rotherham United full-time report: Fulham 2 Millers 1
It's Christmas, and I guess we were wishing for a miracle.
Rotherham led 1-0 at Fulham and the Championship’s bottom club were creating better chances than their free-scoring hosts at Craven Cottage.
Maybe, just maybe, a first win on the road of the season could be on the cards to add to the lift in fortunes the caretaker management team of Paul Warne, John Breckin and Matt Hamshaw have given the club in their three games in charge.
After all, this is a time of year when dreams come true.
But reality bit with even more force than Joe Newell’s cracking 22-yard opener in the 18th minute as Fulham equalised within 14 minutes, extended their lead soon after the break and could afford to miss a penalty as they bossed the second half.
There was no lack of effort from a gutsy Rotherham side, but the difference in quality told and the gap between them and safety grew from 10 to 12 points.
And an injury to main attacking threat Izzy Brown did nothing to lift festive spirits
The Millers wasted a glorious chance to open the scoring with only three minutes on the clock when Brown raced clean through but opted to pass to Danny Ward instead of shooting and Ward could muster only a weak shot on the turn.
Fulham were enjoying plenty of possession and forcing corners, yet it was Rotherham who threatened again when Tom Adeyemi’s first-time shot from a low Anthony Forde flag-kick brought a flying 15th-minute save from David Button.
Three minutes later, Rotherham took the lead when Brown fed Newell after Adeyemi’s break and the midfielder fired in a cracking 22-yarder past Button’s left hand into the bottom corner.
Warne duly obliged with a wave when called up on by around 200 ecstatic travelling fans.
The away side were working tirelessly and defending resolutely, but Fulham were back on level terms in the 32nd minute when Stefan Johansen calmly steered the ball past Lewis Camp from around 16 yards out.
The Millers suffered a big blow not long after when dangerman Brown, who had troubled the Cottagers from the off, limped out of the action to be replaced by Jon Taylor.
They needed to get to half-time without conceding again and Price helped them out immensely with a fine tip-over from a Tom Cairney header two minutes before the break.
Warne’s men, particularly when Brown was on the field, had regularly stretched the home defence, but nimble, pacy Fulham, who had scored nine times in their previous two matches, looked like they had more goals in them.
Rotherham lacked nothing in effort after the interval, but Fulham were in front within nine minutes of the restart as Floyd Ayite latched on to a low cross from the right to sweep the ball past Price.
Craven Cottage is the quaintest, most old-fashioned stadium in the division, huddled among West London side streets of million-pound houses, a lighted Christmas tree inside its gates last night picking at the winter blackness.
It’s a proper football home and, unfortunately for the Millers, Fulham played proper football in the second period and Warne’s side were under the cosh.
The Millers should have fallen further behind in the 67th minute after a push in the box by Aimen Belaid on Michael Madl, but Price was equal to Chris Martin’s spot-kick, diving low to his right to push it away.
Substitute Lee Frecklington had a chance to equalise late on but his volley was saved. It was one shot against many second-half efforts from the Cottagers.
If Brown is ruled out, his absence could have a bearing on the small matter of a South Yorkshire derby at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
There will be a plan put in place by Warne, Breckin and Hamshaw. Hopefully, they turn out to be the Millers’ three wise men.
Rotherham United (4-2-3-1): Price; Fisher, Wood, Belaid, Mattock; Adeyemi (Frecklington 60), Vaulks; Forde, Brown (Taylor 36), Newell; Ward (Blackstock 60). Subs not used: Bilboe, Kelly, Forster-Caskey, Ball.
Fulham (4-1-4-1): Button; Fredericks, Kalas, Madl, Sessegnon; McDonald (Piazon H-T); Aluko (Parker 82), Johansen, Cairney, Ayite; Martin. Subs not used: Bettinelli, Odoi, Sigurdsson, Malone, Smith.
Goals: Johansen 32, Ayite 54 (Fulham); Brown 18 (Rotherham).
Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).