Match analysis: Fulham 4 Rotherham United 1

The year began with Rotherham United above the Championship drop zone harbouring real hopes of survival and duly ended with the Millers out of the bottom three with reason to believe they can stay up again.

Tuesday, 29th December 2015, 8:54 pm
The Millers defence show their disappointment as Fulham add their third goal of the night. Picture: Richard Parkes

Much has happened in the intervening 12 months, not least that memorable night in April when the club secured their second-tier status by beating Reading and the arrival of Neil Redfearn in October to replace Steve Evans as manager.

At Craven Cottage, they were well beaten by a slick, fast Fulham side who were simply too good for them in attack.

Neil Redfearn

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But four wins in their last eight matches under their new boss have seen Rotherham exit the relegation places for the first time since he took charge and proceedings in London didn’t change that.

A heavy loss in the capital wasn’t how they were looking to finish 2015. However, the hard work done in games beforehand meant the 21st-placed side could afford to lose and still occupy a place of safety heading into the New Year.

Job done so far for Redfearn whose first mission was to reach the transfer window with his squad in close contention with the clubs above them. He has wanted to bring in players of his own choosing and the Millers’ season will stand or fall by his recruitment in January.

The Millers fell in the capital to Ross McCormack, the impish attacker who had too many tricks for a side who had kept clean sheets in their previous two matches.

The Millers take part in a minute's applause for Fulham legend Jimmy Hill

There was no lack of application from Rotherham, but Fulham were just as eager, wanting to impress new manager Slavisa Jokanovic who had arrived in London earlier in the day and was watching the Cottagers for the first time.

From the off, the home side showed why they are such prolific scorers, needing only six minutes to take the lead as Cauley Woodrow latched on to a Scott Parker pass cleverly left by Ross McCormack to round goalkeeper Lee Camp and score.

But they also provided ample evidence of why they concede so many, and Tony Andreu, Lee Frecklington and Danny Ward were all denied before Farrend Rawson drew the Millers level after 20 minutes. The teenage centre-half smashed the ball into the Cottagers’ goal via the underside of the crossbar.

Joe Newell was close to his fifth goal in eight matches only a minute later as he hit the side-netting from a tight angle and then Andreu couldn’t quite latch on to a Kirk Broadfoot header spreading more panic in the home defence.

Ryan Fredericks heads off the line from the Millers' Tony Andreu

But Fulham were raiding down both flanks, with their quick passing and searching crosses causing Redfearn’s men continual problems, and the Millers had several close escapes before they succumbed a minute before the break.

Woodrow was on hand again as McCormack supplied the ball from the right, sweeping it beyond Camp. It was a cruel blow for a side who have conceded more than their share of goals close to the break this season.

Rotherham came close to an equaliser soon after the break when Grant Ward was played clean through by a wonderful Tony Andreu ball only to see his shot saved and then substitute Jonson Clarke-Harris stung the palms of Andrew Lonergan with a 20-yard effort.

But Fulham applied the killer blow in the 58th minute when McCormack rode two weak challenges and yet another telling low cross into the box, this time from Woodrow, saw Kirk Broadfoot put through his own net.

Ferrend Rawson is congratulated after equalising for Rotherham

McCormack himself applied the coup de grace 11 minutes later, volleying home from inside the box.

Unsurprisingly, Redfearn had kept faith with the side that had beaten Bolton so handsomely last weekend yet they could do little to stop a side at the top of their offensive game.

Joe Mattock saw a header parried on to the bar by Lonergan late on.

It remains to be seen who comes and goes over the next month, but the Millers have shown enough to suggest a second survival campaign isn’t beyond them.

Redfearn wants to add to their quality as he looks to consolidate their position above the relegation places and build a side capable of offering teams like Fulham more of a challenge. The spirit, with players like Frecklington, Richie Smallwood and Broadfoot in situ, he believes is already there.

Despite last night’s disappointing setback in their final match of 2015, Rotherham enter the New Year with plenty of resolution.

Fulham (4-4-2): Lonergan, Fredericks, Stearman, Burn, Ream; Cairney (O’Hara 87), Parker (Smith 80), Hyndman, Kacaniklic (Pringle 72); McCormack, Woodrow. Subs not used: Lewis, Garbutt, Hutchinson, Mattila.

Rotherham United (4-2-3-1): Camp; Richardson (Green 62), Rawson, Broadfoot, Mattock; Smallwood, Frecklington; G Ward, Andreu (Clarke-Harris, 55), Newell; D Ward (Derbyshire 84). Subs not used: Collin, Collins, Ledesma, Thorpe.

Goals: Woodrow 6, 44, Broadfoot og 62, McCormack 69 (Fulham); Rawson 20 (Rotherham).

Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).