Rotherham United match verdict: Birmingham City 2 Millers 1

Matt Derbyshire goes close with a header. Picture: Paul Wickson
Matt Derbyshire goes close with a header. Picture: Paul Wickson

Steve Evans and penalties, eh?

Before you say anything, the Millers manager looked to have every justification to go apoplectic with rage in the 62nd minute when striker Matt Derbyshire appeared to be felled by Rob Kiernan in the Birmingham box.

Evans has plenty of previous with spot-kicks and officials, but few would argue with his assertion that this was a clear foul.

Referee Dean Whitestone’s decision not to give it was the defining moment in the game.

A spot-kick would have given the Millers a golden chance to level at 2-2 as they produced a second half as rousing as their first had been insipid in their bid for Championship survival. Instead, they suffered defeat No 4 on the trot at a time when they need points the most.

“Atrocious,” said the Rotherham boss, describing it as the worst decison he’d ever seen. “You can put that in capitals.”

Wigan’s defeat at Middlesbrough kept them five points adrift of Rotherham, but Millwall, now climbing above the Latics to occupy the third and final relegation spot with six games to go, cut the gap to four by beating Charlton late on.

Deservedly trailing 2-0 at the break, Rotherham were back in this match three minutes after the break as Conor Sammon’s pass and Lee Frecklinton’s run into the penalty area produced enough confusion in the home defence to allow Derbyshire to score from close range.

Ever the gambler, Evans threw on centre-forward Jordan Bowery to join Sammon and Derbyshire up front just four minutes later and his men gave it a real go, wobbling City for much of the second period.

Another striker, young Jerry Yates, even appeared for his first Championship action with five minutes of regular time to go.

On their second-half show, the Millers have enough to stay up. We don’t want any more first-half performances like the one here.

The home side went ahead on 27 minutes as midfield man Robert Tesche, on loan from Nottingham Forest, moved on to the ball just inside the area to side-foot past Emi Martinez’s left hand into the corner.

Although they had created nothing of note themselves, the Millers had been competitive until the first goal went in. But Birmingham bossed proceedings after then until the interval and could have been more than two goals to the good by half-time.

Clayton Donaldson added the second on 43 minutes, when the Millers really needed to get in for the break only a goal down, heading home from close range after Martinez’s uninspired parry from David Cotterill’s 20-yard free-kick.

Rotherham, when they had the ball, misplaced too many passes, looked ill at ease on a slippy pitch in driving rain and were worryingly second best.

That changed after the interval. Birmingham threatened a third from time to time, with Martinez pulling off two superb saves at the death, but the visitors had the better of the second period.

Jack Hunt danced into the penalty area only for his effort to go inches over, Derbyshire’s header rolled agonisingly across goal five minutes later, and before both of those chances Sammon’s touch had let him down at a crucial moment.

But nothing like as much as the referee let Rotherham down at a crucial moment.

Birmingham City (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Caddis, Morrison, Kiernan, Grounds; Gleeson, Tesche; Cotterill, Shinnie (Davis 81), Gray (Dyer 66); Donaldson. Subs not used: Doyle, Robinson, Thomas, Novak, Fabbrini.

Rotherham United (4-1-4-1): Martinez; Hunt, Morgan, Broadfoot, Lafferty; Smallwood (Yates 86); Sammon (Newton 63), Wilson (Bowery 52), Frecklington, Pringle; Derbyshire. Subs not used: Collin, Rowe, Green, Milsom.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).

Attendance: 16,569 (1,112).