Blues returned to winning ways as the new TTA regime at St. Andrew's got off to a victorious start.
But the hosts were made to work hard for the points against a battling Rotherham side.
Captain Michael Morrison led the way by heading his side in front, and Lukas Jutkiewicz and Jacques Maghoma added further first-half goals, cancelling out Danny Ward’s leveller for the visitors. Home nerves became somewhat frayed when Jon Taylor got one back for Alan Stubbs’ strugglers after the break, but a late David Cotterill penalty sealed the victory.
Jonathan Spector was fit to return at right-back as one of three changes from the side that lost at Nottingham Forest, with Ryan Shotton reverting to his preferred central defensive role. Maikel Kieftenbeld replaced the suspended David Davis and Clayton Donaldson, making his 100th Blues appearance, partnered Jutkiewicz in attack, with Che Adams relegated to the bench.
With two big men as an attacking battering ram and the in-form Cotterill delivering some great balls from the right flank, Blues looked a threat from the outset. Jutkiewicz flashed a header wide from a dangerous Cotterill cross and the roles were reversed moments later when the Welshman was inches away from connecting to the on-loan striker’s nod down.
Jutkiewicz will have felt he should have done better with a free header from a Cotterill corner but Blues’ pressure finally told on 15 minutes. Good work down the right ended with a terrific in-swinging cross from Jonathan Grounds, met by his defensive colleague Morrison, up from the back, and the skipper’s header floated over Lee Camp and into the net.
Grounds looked to add a goal to his assist with a snap shot inside the area that was blocked by a Rotherham defender, the referee waving away hopeful penalty appeals.
Whilst Blues were creating numerous chances, Rowett’s side still looked susceptible to the visitors’ breakaways. From one such attack instigated by Izzy Brown, Ward should have done better as he waved his foot at a cross.
But the Millers’ top scorer made amends just after the half-hour to fire his side level. A cross from former Blues loanee Greg Halford, who had been introduced off the bench early in proceedings due to an injury to Kelvin Wilson, was coolly dispatched by Ward with a curling shot past Adam Legzdins into the bottom corner – his sixth goal of the season.
Within four minutes Blues had regained the lead. Cotterill was again the provider as an inviting cross into the box found the head of Jutkiewicz. Although it wasn’t the cleanest of contacts, the ball bounced beyond Camp and the hosts were back in front.
And two minutes before half-time, 2-1 became 3-1 courtesy of Maghoma – a goal all of his own making. The winger dispossessed Halford, advanced forward and unleashed a clinical finish past Camp from just outside the area.
This topsy-turvy game took another turn on 56 minutes when Rotherham reduced the deficit to one. Ward this time set up the chance as he laid the ball into the path of Taylor, who sent his shot beyond the outstretched arms of Legzdins into the bottom left corner.
The game was now back in the balance and Rowett decided it was time for a change. Jutkiewicz departed to be replaced by Reece Brown as Blues reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
As the minutes ticked by, it became a very scrappy affair. The hosts made a second change with Donaldson, who had started his first match for a month and was running out of steam, making way for Adams.
The second Blues sub made a vital contribution six minutes from time as Adams got to the ball ahead of Camp and was brought down by the Millers keeper. With regular penalty taker Donaldson off the pitch, Cotterill assumed spot-kick responsibilities and converted with aplomb, crashing the ball clinically into the bottom right corner.
Camp was in the right place to claim Brown’s injury-time header as Blues looked to make it a nap hand, but four goals were enough to see off the valiant visitors.
The result cemented Blues’ play-off berth, Rowett’s men moving up one place to fifth ahead of Bristol City, who lost at QPR.