ROTHERHAM United’s promotion push was given a jolt as they slumped to an unexpected and deserved defeat at strugglers Rochdale.
Former Millers loanee Ian Henderson scored twice and Mattew Lund also netted before Jamie Lindsay bagged a late reply as Dale completed a 3-1 victory and an unlikely double over the second-placed Millers.
Although they hang on to second place in League One, Rotherham did not have the look of promotion chasers in what was only their second defeat in 16 matches.
Enforced changes across the back line didn’t help. Curtis Tilt was brought in for his full debut in place of the injured Michael Ihiekwe, who was seen watching the action wearing a knee brace. Adam Thompson and Billy Jones filled the full-back positions, the latter making his first appearance since November.
The heavily sanded pitch made constructive play difficult for both teams and it was the recalled Thompson who came to Rotherham’s rescue when blocking on the line from Aaron Wilbraham. Dan Iversen stuck out a leg to keep out Luke Matheson’s follow up.
There was to be no escape on 28 minutes. Aaron Morley’s diagonal picked out Henderson at the far post and he did well to hook the ball over Iversen and in.
The big Millers contingent thought their team were level moments later. Ben Wiles headed towards an open goal only for Michael Smith, in an offside position, to touch it on the way in.
Paul Warne opted not to make any changes at half time and was relieved to see his side avoid conceding a second goal soon after the restart. Morley swung in a teasing cross and Henderson’s glancing header was met with a terrific reflex save from Iversen, tipping the ball over the bar.
Rotherham upped the pressure, with 17-goal leading scorer Freddie Ladapo making way for Kyle Vassell and Tilt for Josh Koroma.
Thompson was off target with a header and Vassell’s shot on the turn was gloved by keeper Robert Sanchez but the visitors weren’t convincing and fell 2-0 down on 70 minutes.
Callum Camps played Henderson through with a slide rule pass and the veteran forward, now 35, steadied himself to slot past Iversen.
No sooner had Rotherham digested that blow than Rochdale added a third five minutes later.Camps clipped a pass to Matthew Lund and he lobbed the ball over the advancing Iversen.
The Millers huffed and puffed and Sanchez did well to tip Smith’s header over the bar before Jamie Lindsay steered home a stoppage time consolation goal, by which time some of the disappointed travelling fans had made an early exit.
Rochdale (4-1-2-1-2): Robert Sanchez; Luke Matheson, Eoghan O’Connell, Paul McShane, Jimmy Keohane; MJ Williams; Matthew Lund, Aaron Morley (Ollie Rathbone 83); Callum Camps; Ian Henderson, Aaron Wilbraham
Rotherham (4-4-2): Dan Iversen; Adam Thompson, Curtis Tilt (Josh Koroma 59), Richard Wood, Billy Jones (Matt Olosunde 78); Chiedozie Ogbene, Jamie Lindsay, Matt Crooks, Ben Wiles; Freddie Ladapo (Kyle Vassell 59), Michael Smith. Not used: Lewis Price, Shaun MacDonald, Hakeeb Adelakun, Trevor Clarke.
Goals: Henderson 28, 70, Lund 75 (Rochdale), Lindsay (90) Rotherham
Referee: Ross Joyce
Attendance: 4,142 (1,672)