Result: Rotherham 2, Norwich City 4
CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City are through to the third round of the Carling Cup for the third time in three years - but only after an almighty battle. Nigel Worthington's team were grateful to two goals within a minute early in the second half for turning a 2-1 deficit into a lead they managed to hold on to despite a late onslaught.
Norwich City are through to the third round of the Carling Cup for the third time in three years - but only after an almighty battle.
Nigel Worthington's team were grateful to two goals within a minute early in the second half for turning a 2-1 deficit into a lead they managed to hold on to despite a late onslaught.
It was a pulsating encounter in which the minnows were never really second best against a side who were trying desperately to consign a poor week to the history books, never to be resurrected.
To that end, Worthington, as expected, made changes, but more than expected, with only four of the players who started the weekend game at home to Crystal Palace.
Club skipper Craig Fleming - who wore the armband for this game - came in at centre half for Gary Doherty, with Rossi Jarvis at left back and in the same senior starting line-up as brother Ryan, scorer of two goals, for the first time - and the first siblings to run out together for City since 1928.
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There was also a rare start for striker Peter Thorne, alongside Ryan Jarvis up front in a changed 4-4-2 formation, with Robert Eagle making his first senior appearance, out left with Paul McVeigh on the bench. Dickson Etuhu was dropped to the bench, with Andy Hughes starting in midfield alongside Carl Robinson, with Ian Henderson in the wide right role in place of the injured Lee Croft.
Worthington clearly had one eye on Saturday's long trip to Plymouth, when City need to end a run of just one point from their last three Championship games.
If the Carling Cup takes a back seat to Championship ambitions there will be few complaints, although defeat at Rotherham was still not on Worthington's agenda.
That policy was almost exposed within just two minutes, Martin Woods testing Paul Gallacher with a fine long-range effort which the keeper palmed away but which the Millers kept in play, forcing Jason Shackell into a headed goal-line clearance.
Woods, the former Sunderland player, tried a free kick from distance and was clearly a man City had to keep an eye on as he looked to boss the midfield early on.
It was a bright start from Rotherham, but after just five minutes the early bubble burst when Thorne scored only his second goal for the Canaries.
Jurgen Colin will take credit for an excellent cross from the right, but Thorne was left virtually unmarked to head home in style into the top corner.
Ryan Jarvis could have made it two with a cracking 25-yard shot that keeper Neil Cutler tipped over, with Thorne heading the following corner straight into the keeper's arms.
Just as encouraging as the early lead was the way the 'new' faces had
settled: Eagle and Ryan Jarvis looked comfortable, while old hand Thorne was causing the Millers' defence problems.
Thorne and Eagle combined well to send the youngster down the left flank and his first time ball was on the button, but Ryan Jarvis' flicks went straight into the keeper's arms.
Rotherham attacks were rare, but on 25 minutes they were handed an equaliser out of the blue. Gallacher, having come a long way out to gather a free kick, fumbled the ball and was grateful for Colin's goal-line clearance from Ryan Taylor's follow-up shot - but then a minute later he came out again only to be lobbed by Michael Keane, who wiped out City's lead in style from 20 yards.
City then had to weather a south Yorkshire storm, Woods and Keane orchestrating the Rotherham fightback. City were grateful for Fleming's awareness at a quickly-taken free-kick, but the City stalwart found himself in the ref's notebook after one robust challenge too many.
Suddenly, it was Rotherham who were first to every ball, dictating play and forcing City into errors - when they were actually able to get the ball.
Williamson could have done better when he headed a low ball back across the area when he should have tried to get it on target as the Millers looked to take an advantage into the break.
That they didn't was City's good fortune but come the break there was only one team in it - and they weren't playing in yellow.
t Half-time: Rotherham United 1, Norwich City 1
Worthington made changes at the break, Etuhu replacing Robinson and Paul McVeigh on for Thorne as he sought to avoid extra-time - and worse.
But Rotherham were handed a golden opportunity to avoid that within four minutes of the restart when Shackell was adjudged to have fouled Will Hoskins as they both chased the keeper's long kick. City were furious, but when the dust finally settled, Williamson stepped up and made no mistake, to put the Millers 2-1 up.
It was a lead the hosts deserved, and had Ryan Jarvis been closer with a 25-yard free-kick that dipped just over the crossbar would have been rough justice.
But there's no such thing as fairness in football, and five minutes later City - clearly still upset at the penalty award - were back in front.
First McVeigh's long-range effort was only parried by the keeper and Ryan Jarvis was on hand to knock home the rebound.
Then it was Fleming's turn, as he got his head to Henderson's cross from the right to put the Canaries ahead in a suddenly pulsating clash.
Temperatures rose even more when Rotherham played on after an injury to Henderson following a poor tackle, Hughes getting involved in an argument which led to handbags - and a booking for Rotherham's Keane. It was a dispute which carried on for some time as Henderson received treatment before being stretchered off.
It took some of the shine off an entertaining game, but City had felt they were wronged with the penalty, and replied with two goals inside a minute.
Perhaps Henderson's injury would prove a similar inspiration.
The choice was to attack and hurt Rotherham more, or kill the game much as they should have done a week ago at Southend, when they surrendered a 3-1 lead.
City tried the latter and Rotherham were kept at arm's length for a while, but the expected late charge was always coming, and Keane forced Gallacher down to his right with 15 minutes left before Gallcher dived full length to get to Hoskins' header.
With five minutes left, the assault began, although Rotherham's anxiety to take the game into extra time was perhaps their undoing as their attacks broke down before they got into the danger areas.
Five minutes of time added on lifted home spirits, but not nearly enough - and when Etuhu weaved his way through the home defence, the ball fell kindly for Ryan Jarvis to knock home his second and seal victory.
t Result: Rotherham United 2, Norwich City 4
t Rotherham United: Cutler, Worrell (Wiseman, 81), Robertson, Sharps, Mills, Cochrane, Keane, Williamson, Woods, Taylor, Hoskins. Subs: Montgomery, Partridge, Bopp, Newsham.
t Norwich City: Gallacher 6, Colin 6, Fleming 7, Shackell 6, Rossi Jarvis 6, Henderson 6 (Spillane 65, 6), Hughes 6, Robinson 6 (Etuhu 45, 6), Eagle 7, Ryan Jarvis 6, Thorne 6 (McVeigh 45, 6). Subs: Arnold, Martin.
t City Man of the match: Fleming. Masterful display, and a goal to boot.
t Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire)