More late anguish, more injuries, more rain and more survival jitters ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Cardiff City 2

Georgie Kelly shoots in vain in the second half. Pictures by Kerrie BeddowsGeorgie Kelly shoots in vain in the second half. Pictures by Kerrie Beddows
Georgie Kelly shoots in vain in the second half. Pictures by Kerrie Beddows
THE clouds pumping yet more rain on to a Rotherham United v Cardiff City game were greyer than the shirts being worn by the opposition.

The mood at the final whistle of a crucial Championship clash at AESSEAL New York Stadium was even darker.

Cardiff had struck in the dying minutes; they were safe from relegation. The Millers had suffered a late setback in yet another game; their safety would have to wait.

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The initial match between the two clubs, on March 18, had been abandoned when a freak downpour had left the pitch unplayable and it was another wet encounter as the teams did battle again.

The surface was quick, slippy and difficult, and so were Cardiff's front-two pairing of Kion Etete and Sory Kaba. They turned the game in City's favour and set the stage for Cedric Kipre's to heap misery on the Millers in the 87th minute.

Matt Taylor had matched up the Bluebirds' 3-5-2 formation - one that can quickly switch to 5-3-2 when defending - because he remembered how they had dominated the first game before the weather came to his team's rescue. There was a secondary reason too.

"We also wanted an extra body to take care of their two centre-forwards," the Rotherham manager said. "It didn't quite materialise because we still couldn't handle them.

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"Whether we went man for man or had an extra body in our backline, we couldn't quite cope with that frontline."

It was level at the break, mainly because Cardiff had missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time. It was still level as the clock ticked down but the home side were creaking.

They have been patched up all season, on or over their limit too many times, and now injuries were biting even more.


Jordan Hugill's match was run, Ollie Rathbone couldn't continue, Lee Peltier had to go off, Conor Coventry walked gingerly out of proceedings.

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It forced the Millers into changes they would have preferred to have avoided. "We had to make those subs, I didn't really have any other options," Taylor said.

"You're looking at your bench and we were a little bit sparse in terms of size - and size was something Cardiff had. We just couldn't quite hold on to the physicality of the game."

Rotherham were within sight of a point that would have seen them take a significant step towards securing their second-tier status when Viktor Johansson made a big, big stop.

He denied Etete but his teammates failed to clear their lines and disaster was about to strike.

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"We thought we'd seen out the real danger with Viktor's save," Taylor said. "But then we just couldn't quite get to that secondary moment on the edge of the box and the ball has kind of bounced through bodies to their centre-half."

That centre-half was Kipre who, in front of a delirious 800-strong Cardiff following, produced a clinical finish into the roof of the net that either Etete or Kaba would have been proud of.

Fans hadn't forgotten events of the previous month and some had turned up light-heartedly equipped. The rubber rings in the home seats lost their air as the snorkels in the away stand breathed in survival.

"A really gutting moment," said Taylor, contemplating having to lift his battle-scarred men for a two-game final push.

Rubber rings at New York Stadium

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The Millers started well and almost led inside two minutes as Hugill's header from Wes Harding's cross was pushed on to the bar goalkeeper Jak Alnwick.

Then the striker was sent racing clear by Coventry's searching pass only to lose his legs and his focus as he bore down on goal.

Johansson dived low to beat away Mahlon Romeo's shot and was equal to Kaba's fierce drive. Between those saves, however, Perry Ng had crossed from the right in the 11th minute and Harding had been found wanting as Etete brushed him away to head in on the first bounce.

The Millers rallied and got the reward they deserved with an equaliser in the 37th minute. Anything Etete could do, Chiedozie Ogbene could emulate and he pounced, also first bounce, when Harding delivered to the back post

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The forward could hardly miss, unlike the referee who failed to see Richard Wood's push on Kipre as the ball came in, then unlike Kaba who stepped up to take a spot-kick in added time at the end of the first half.

His effort, after Coventry had slid into Jaden Philogene inside the box, cannoned off the bar. It was a rare poor moment from the Guinea-born player who has done more than anyone to turn around Cardiff's season since his January loan arrival from Danish team Midtjylland.

Taylor kept returning to the danger of City's attacking duo. "It was obvious, their threat," he said. "The front two ... Kaba is one of the best I've seen at this level.

"We got away with it a little bit going into half-time with the penalty miss. We improved our defensive aspect in the second half but didn't have enough quality to sustain any pressure as the match went on.

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He thought about the game as a whole: "Out-powered," was the verdict.


"It's just these late cruel blows ..."

The boss was reflecting on the number of times Rotherham have conceded at the death and cost themselves points: Coventry City away, Burnley away, Luton Town away, Reading away, Bristol City away, now Cardiff at home.

Reading is the one that still jars. Had the Millers held on for a draw in Berkshire in February they would already be assured of survival and the Royals would be preparing for League One next year.

As things stood at the close of play on Thursday, the Millers still needed three points to be certain of staying up and the tension was gripping ever tighter.

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I walked to my car around 11.20pm and the heavens opened over New York again.

The Bristol City defeat had come only the previous weekend. Two last-gasp losses in five days. And more injury troubles.

When it rains, it pours.



Survival tension:

"I don't think that affected us too much tonight. I thought the opposition moved us and pushed us back and forced us into some scary defensive moments, in that first half especially. Then, as the game went on - like it's been throughout the season - the physicality told. You give the opposition credit.”

Defensive frailty:

"The penalty was our first half in a nutshell: the goalkeeper's kick getting us on the back foot, an aerial battle going in their direction and runners off it that we couldn't quite handle. We looked a bit nervy every time the ball went in and around our backline in the first half."


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Rotherham (3-5-2): Viktor Johansson; Lee Peltier (Domingos Quina 85), Richard Wood, Cameron Humphreys; Wes Harding, Jamie Lindsay, Conor Coventry (Ben Wiles 85), Ollie Rathbone (Tariqe Fosu 70), Cohen Bramall; Chiedozie Ogbene, Jordan Hugill (Georgie Kelly 67). Subs not used: Robbie Hemfrey, Leo Hjelde, Shane Ferguson.

Cardiff (3-5-2): Jak Alnwick; Perry Ng, Cedric Kipre, Mark McGuinness; Mahlon Romeo, Ryan Wintle, Joe Ralls, Jaden Philogene (Romaine Sawyers 90), Callum O'Dowda (Jack Simpson H-T); Sory Kaba (Connor Wickham 71), Kion Etete. Subs not used; Rohan Luthra, Sheyi Ojo, Mark Harris, Andy Rinomhota.

Goals: Etete 11, Kipre 87 (Cardiff); Ogbene 37 (Rotherham).

Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands).

Attendance: 10,219 (864).