Landmark day for Michael Smith as Millers win ... on-the-whistle report: Rotherham United 1 Cheltenham Town 0

Landmark day for Michael Smith as Millers win ... on-the-whistle report: Rotherham United 1 Cheltenham Town 0

By Paul Davis | 22/01/2022

Landmark day for Michael Smith as Millers win ... on-the-whistle report: Rotherham United 1 Cheltenham Town 0
Michael Smith celebrates his first-half opener. Picture by Kerrie Beddows

MICHAEL Smith set a new career best as he scored the goal that secured three points for Rotherham United at home to Cheltenham Town this afternoon.

The hot-shot struck in the first half at AESSEAL New York Stadium to rack up his 19th goal of the season - one more than the 30-year-old has ever managed before in a single campaign.

It was meant to be Freddie Ladapo's day - the centre-forward being recalled to the side for the first time since going public with a transfer request earlier in January - but his Geordie teammate stole the headlines.

The Millers dominated most of the contest and were well worth their sixth successive league victory at New York where they remain unbeaten since September.

Victory was enough to lift Paul Warne's men one place up the League One table into third spot.

Before kick-off, there was a minute's applause in memory of former players Lol Morgan and Glyn Jones and club sponsor Eric Twigg.

Rotherham were soon into their stride and Ben Wiles went close to an opener after nine minutes, latching on to Michael Ihiekwe's long pass and shooting just over.

The young midfielder was showing up well in the early stages as the Millers attacked the away end and he glanced a header wide from Dan Barlaser's free-kick.

His third sight of goal was wasted as he shot too high before Ollie Rathbone tried his luck only to put his 20-yard effort too close to goalkeeper Owen Evans.

The breakthrough Rotherham merited came in the 24th minute as Smith added yet another strike to his tally.

After another Ihiekwe ball Cheltenham caused problems, the centre-forward did really well to muscle off the attentions of Will Boyle and fire home a pinpoint low shot with the help of the inside of a post.

The Millers were dominating proceedings on a mild winter afternoon and home keeper Josh Vickers didn't have a save to make up to the interval.

Centre-half Boyle was having a tough time and was very lucky not to see red for halting Rathbone's charge having already been booked for a poor challenge on Wiles.

Alfie May blazed over for the visitors as they finally mustered on effort on goal in the 40th minute but the half closed pretty much as nearly all of it had been played: with Rotherham in control.

Ladapo was one of three changes Rotherham made as they looked to hit back from last weekend's stoppage-time loss at Fleetwood.

Will Grigg made way for him while Rarmani Edmonds-Green and Shane Ferguson also dropped to the bench as Wes Harding and Mickel Miller were given starts.

Three minutes into the second period, Smith headed over Miller's cross but the game was interrupted by stoppages and neither side created a real opening for the next 20 minutes.

That changed in the 67th minute when the ball fell to Ladapo after a penalty-area scramble only to finish up in the North Stand as the attacker couldn't keep his shot down.

As the Millers began asserting their authority again, Smith thought he had his 20th of the season as he headed home only to be denied by a linesman's flag.

Callum Wright sent two shots at Vickers but nearly all the action was at the other end in the closing stages and Wiles headed off target as Rotherham remained on top.

Soon after, a deserved triumph was theirs.

Rotherham (3-5-2): Josh Vickers; Wes Harding, Richard Wood, Michael Ihiekwe; Chiedozie Ogbene, Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser, Ollie Rathbone (Jamie Lindsay 82), Mickel Miller (Shane Ferguson 75); Freddie Ladapo (Will Grigg 89), Michael Smith. Subs not used: Viktor Johansson, Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Hakeem Odoffin, Josh Kayode.

Cheltenham (3-5-2): Owen Evans; Sean Long (Charlie Raglan 4), Mattie Pollock, Will Boyle; Matty Blair, Callum Wright, Conor Thomas, Liam Sercombe, Lewis Freestone; Alfie May (Aaron Ramsey 63), Dan Nlundulu (Kion Etete 70). Subs not used: Scott Flinders, Charlie Brown, Elliot Bonds, Ben Williams.

Goals: Smith 24 (Rotherham).

Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands).

Attendance: 9,187 (273).



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