REPORT: Rotherham United 1 Blues 3

A tactical change by Garry Monk and two goals in eight second-half minutes turned a frenetic game on its head - and in Blues favour.


Blues secured their Championship status, doing it the hard way in dramatic fashion.

A tactical change by Garry Monk and two goals in eight second-half minutes turned a frenetic game on its head - and in Blues favour.

Jacques Maghoma fired the equaliser in the 56th minute and then Jota applied the finish to put Blues in command.

They had trailed to a Matt Crooks goal in the opening period and it did look bleak.

But Monk shook matters up at the break and Blues came out and stormed the second period.

In the third minute of added-time Kerim Mrabti set the seal on victory by sliding in a low shot from the left of the area after the superb

Maghoma drove forward and set him up for his first Blues goal.

The result put Blues well clear of Rotherham in the table and means, at last, that all can relax and enjoy the final two matches.

However, it was in the balance as Rotherham looked a good bet at the interval and had they not come up against a brilliant Blues after the break they would have cut the gap to four points, with Blues having tricky fixtures against Wigan Athletic and Reading to come.

It was a frenzied start with either team forcing corners inside the opening couple of minutes.

And Blues got the first good strike at goal, via Che Adams, who earned a free-kick just outside the right of Rotherham’s area, after he was checked back by Semi Ajayi.

It was cleverly reversed by Jota and Adams, coming round about 15 yards away, hit it hard and low but Marek Rodak was right behind it.

Then Maghoma got a clear run at goal from a left-wing throw routine, receiving a lay-off from Lukas Jutkiewicz into a central gap, but he was off balance as he tried his luck from 22 yards and ended up scuffing it well wide.

Rotherham were certainly up for it, despite Blues getting early sighters, with Lee Camp coming on three occasions to take command and claim long throws or corners amid a smattering of bodies.

Blues then had to hang on as Rotherham pinned them in; the away side couldn’t get out or relieve the anxiety.

And in the 22nd minute it told when Crooks put the home team into the lead.

A ball was played behind Kristian Pedersen where Ryan Williams scooted in and punted a low, flat cross towards the middle of the box.

The ball rolled up off Michael Morrison’s attempted clearance and came at Crooks, chin height; as it was it was fortuitous for him as he allowed it to drop down his body and then steer it inside the far post, from 12 yards.

Blues decent start had been blown out of the water after a period of Rotherham power-play and pressure.

Blues began to struggle as Rotherham dictated the pattern of the game and continued to infuse great energy into proceedings.

In the 36th minute, from a corner, Ajayi got a good connection on his header, it hit a Blues defender but rebounded invitingly for Crooks - who stuck the chance over the crossbar from close range.

Three minutes later Jota shifted the ball forward down the right for Jutkiewicz, he made ground into the area, but planted a low attempt into the hoardings near the front post.

It had not gone according to plan for Blues in the first period as after a promising opening Rotherham imposed their will on Monk’s men and made it very difficult for them.

Half-time: Rotherham 1 Blues 0

Blues came out of the dressing rooms a good few minutes earlier than Rotherham.

And they had instruction to change their shape, with Jota going in behind the front two in a diamond formation.

Blues had been unable to wrestle the initiative in midfield in the first-half, hence the alteration.

Blues started the half showing great purpose and trying to force their way on Rotherham as they had done on them earlier.

With David Davis sitting as the screen in front of the back four, it was a calculated risk as Blues played higher up and got Jota and Maghoma into more threatening areas.

And, in the 56th minute, it reaped dividends as Maghoma bashed an unstoppable equaliser.

Blues retrieved the ball after putting Rotherham under pressure and Jota played a simple forward pass into Maghoma’s feet, from a central area.

Maghoma manoeuvred himself into the D, escaped the attentions of three defenders and  then let rip, whipping a right-footer past Rodak and inside the left-hand post.

Maghoma then had a direct free-kick that struck the top of the wall and went behind for a corner.

The tables had been turned and now the 2,573 travelling fans were in voice as Blues were in the ascendancy.

In the 63rd minute Jutkiewicz went barrelling after a channel ball, spun round Richard Wood on the angle of the area and forced Rodak into a decent save from a powerful low shot.

Then Blues added another goal, from Jota, fashioned by Adams – safety on the horizon.

Davis helped on the ball from deep towards the right touchline and Wood, mindful of Adams on his back, miscued his attempt to clear;

Adams took a touch and accelerated round the centre-half and went haring after the ball, towards the corner flag.

Adams keep his composure and thumped a sidefooted pass into the heart of the box where Jota had made ground, by the penalty spot.

Jota took a touch to steady himself before despatching a left-footer across the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner.

Rotherham did not know what had hit them. Blues came surging forward again and again seeking to extend the advantage.

Their manager Paul Warned took off Wood and promptly changed to back three – using 3-4-1-2 - going all out to try and rescue the match with a quarter of the contest remaining.

Jutkiewicz got a back post header on target from a deep cross from the left as Rotherham lived on their nerves and Blues maintained their command of proceedings.

Rotherham responded when Richie Towell fired at goal from just outside the box only for Harlee Dean to chase out and produce a great block.

Then the determination to see it out was clear when Dean headed off the line and from under his own crossbar as Rotherham hung up a dangerous ball into a crowded box. It was getting desperate – for both teams.

With four minutes to go, Blues almost sealed it when Gary Gardner curled a delicious free-kick over the wall, beyond Rodak, but the ball clipped the outside of the post.

Marc Roberts entered the fray to help shore things up and deal with Rotherham's direct play and long throws. Roberts became a spare man at the back as Blues gave themselves extra insurance.

But, in truth, they could have added to their tally in the second-half as they were a completely different proposition - and Rotherham had no answer.

Indeed, in the third minute of five added, Mrabti put the lid on it. Maghoma was at the heart of it - as he was so often after the break - inviting the Swede to sidefoot past Rodak from the left of the box.

It sparked joyous celebrations as that was that and even Camp sprinted the length of the pitch to join the celebratory hugs in front of the ecstatic Blues support. Job done, deserdly so.

Rotherham (4-1-4-1): Rodak, Jones, Mattock, Ajayi, Wood (Forde 68), Vaulks, Towell, Crooks, Newell (Taylor 61), Williams (Vassell 77),

Smith. Subs not used: Price, Robertson, Vassell, Ihiekwe, Wiles.

Goal: Crooks (22)

Booked: Ajayi (5), Wood (50), Vaulks (73)

Blues (4-4-2): Camp, Colin, Pedersen, Dean, Morrison, Jota (Mrabti 77), Davis, Gary Gardner, Maghoma, Adams (Roberts 87), Jutkiewicz

(Vassell 81). Subs not used: Trueman, Craig Gardner, Harding, Lakin.

Goals: Maghoma (56), Jota (64), Mrabti (90+3)

Booked: Gary Gardner (76)

Referee:  A Davies

Attendance: 10,703 (away 2,573)