Back into top spot ... on-the-whistle report: Rotherham United 2 Bolton Wanderers 1

Michael Smith heads Rotherham in front. Picture by Dave PoucherMichael Smith heads Rotherham in front. Picture by Dave Poucher
Michael Smith heads Rotherham in front. Picture by Dave Poucher
MICHAEL Smith returned to the goal trail to fire Rotherham United back to the top of League One as the Millers kicked off 2022 with a home victory.

The hot-shot hadn't scored in his last seven league outings but was on target twice against Covid club Bolton Wanderers to lift his total to 17.

A header in each half was enough to see off visitors who hadn't played since December 11 because of a raft of coronavirus cases in their camp.

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In truth, Rotherham were far from their flowing best but deserved their victory at AESSEAL New York Stadium for the amount of pressure they exerted in the Bolton half.

The triumph lifted them above Sunderland and back to the summit of the third tier where they had spent nearly all last month.

The visitors had the first attempt on goal, after two minutes, Eoin Doyle failing to make the most of Elias Kachunga's twisting run down the right and miscuing his effort well wide.

Twelve minutes later, the ball fell to Michael Ihiekwe at the back post and the Millers centre-half must have thought his shot was about to put the home side into the lead only for Adam Senior to pull off a superb block.

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Doyle hit the target from Oladapo Afolayan's cross but Viktor Johansson had little trouble making the save.

Rotherham were pressing but couldn't find a breakthrough as too often their final delivery lacked quality or, as in the case of Smith and Ben Wiles, a player coudn't control the ball when he was in the clear.

Wanderers boss Ian Evatt talked himself into a booking and plenty of abuse from the New York crowd and was lucky not to see red when his persistent offending saw referee Geoff Eltringham issue a final warning.

On 35 minutes, Rotherham almost fell behind to an own goal, Richard Wood inadvertently shaving a post as Declan John's shot deflected off him at full speed.

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Soon after, Wood's slip allowed Doyle to run in on goal and the skipper's blushes were saved by Rarmani Edmonds-Green's vital intervention.

Bolton, showing no signs of their Covid problems, were a threat on the break but it was the Millers looking most likely to make a breakthrough.

It duly came on 40 minutes when Smith headed home Shane Ferguson's cross.

The New York fans were still celebrating when Bolton went straight down to the other end and equalised through Doyle's low shot.

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George Thomason ended the first-half proceedings by forcing a save from Johansson.

Cross after cross from Rotherham had hit the first man, depriving them of the interval lead their terroritorial superiority merited.

The Millers had made only one change to the side that had relinquished their 21-match unbeaten run at Accrington Stanley on Boxing Day, preferring Rarmani Edmonds-Green to Wes Harding at centre-half.

Wing-back Mickel Miller was missing from the squad having picked up a minor injury.

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The home team needed to sharpen up after the break but didn't and Kachunga fired wastefully wide for Wanderers on the hour mark and John brought a stop from Johansson as Rotherham passes continued to go astray.

Finally, the Millers sprang to life, with Smith's downward header being saved before a remarkable Bolton let-off.

In a crazy few seconds in the 69th minute, Smith, Freddie Ladapo and Edmonds-Green were all denied by good goalkeeping or crucial blocks as the North Stand roared on their side.

It took only another five minutes for Rotherham to strike again, Smith heading home his second goal of the contest as Ogbene found his crossing boots.

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They continued to attack until the final whistle but almost came undone in the dying seconds.

A shot from Afolayan was saved before the same player blazed over with the last kick of the game when the net was at his mercy.

So, amid much relief, the Millers climbed back to the position they hope to occupy in May.

Rotherham (3-5-2): Viktor Johansson; Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Richard Wood, Michael Ihiekwe; Chiedozie Ogbene, Ben Wiles (Kieran Sadlier 62), Dan Barlaser, Ollie Rathbone, Shane Ferguson; Freddie Ladapo (Josh Kayode 73), Michael Smith. Subs not used: Josh Vickers, Wes Harding, Tolaji Bola, Will Grigg.

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Bolton (4-2-3-1): Joel Dixon; Adam Senior (Harry Brockbank 76), Ricardo Almeida Santos, Will Aimson, Declan John (Liam Gordon 86); George Johnston, George Thomason; Elias Kachunga, Nathan Delfounso, Oladapo Afolayan; Eoin Doyle (Amadou Bakayoko 71). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Alex Baptiste, Matt Tweedley, Arran Pettifer.

Goals: Smith 40, 74 (Rotherham); Doyle 42 (Bolton).

Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham).

Attendance: 9,736 (991).