THE black eye was a lingering souvenir from Oxford and will not enhance tomorrow’s team photo shoot.

But Nathaniel Knight-Percival could forget any thoughts of an easy weekend to allow his shiner to die down.

“It’s quite nice when you’re not getting loads of balls pumped on to your head,” he smiled, tongue firmly in cheek.

His will not be the only battered bonce presented to the camera lens after Saturday’s trial by air.

Rotherham’s first visit since 2014 may have lacked the touchline histrionics of pantomime baddy Steve Evans.

His regular spats with Phil Parkinson were never going to be reproduced by Stuart McCall and the mild-mannered Millers boss Paul Warne.

But it was the expected feisty fare on the pitch as Rotherham rained balls in the direction of giant striker Kieffer Moore.

Knight-Percival had to pause and think when asked if he had encountered such a physical opponent before in his career.

“Not many too close to that,” he added. “But it’s just trying to stay on top of your man – that’s part of the job.

“It keeps you busy and it’s nice to be in a battle – that’s what you thrive on as a defender.”

City have shown in recent games that they can score freely. The issue, if you can call it that considering the solid run of early results, has been keeping it shut at the other end.

Romain Vincelot, the captain currently walking on water, assured fans that was nothing to worry about in the build-up to the Yorkshire derby.

His words were inevitably backed up with a first home clean sheet of the season against opponents who had also been banging in goals for fun.

Here was the proof that City could dog it out in games when they were up against it. It’s 1-0s like Saturdays that show the true mettle of a side.

Managers relish a win like that. All right, maybe not so much McCall with his love of free-spirited play but you could see his pride at how well City had stood firm against the barrage.

It would have suited Parkinson down to the ground in his Bantam days. Not that he ever managed a win against Rotherham in that time – or even a goal in the last six clashes with them.

There was only one cross not properly defended – and that proved the ultimate difference between the sides as Rotherham’s momentary lapse allowed Vincelot into a pocket of space to punish them with his third headed goal in a week.

Conceding goals like that has been Rotherham’s Achilles heel since dropping down from the Championship. But they should have known better than to leave the City skipper with such a rich opportunity.

Inevitably it came from a Tony McMahon cross – that’s five assists in four games for the right back whose first-class delivery is putting the best postman to shame.

The header matched the pass, down and up and beyond keeper Marek Rodak before he had chance to react.

McCall chided Vincelot afterwards by reminding the midfielder how he had predicted ten goals last season and managed only two. His third in as many games backed up his manager’s philosophy at encouraging all of his midfielders to pop up in the box.

“Romain is there to screen the back four sometimes,” he said. “But we don’t want him to just play as a ‘six’.

“We want him to get in the box. You’re not pigeon-holed in having to sit deep.”

It also ended a nine-hour wait for a City goal against Rotherham since a Michael Flynn penalty nearly six years ago.

Vincelot was swamped by team-mates in the celebration that followed and that tight-knit feeling within the group was evidenced by the staunch collective effort to preserve that slender advantage.

Rotherham, having ended a 512-day wait for an away win on their last trip with three points at Portsmouth, launched an aerial onslaught.

Moore had pulled out of training the day before complaining of soreness in his groin. Dosed up with pain-killers, he soldiered on – you imagine their game-plan would have gone to pot otherwise.

Pretty much everything was aimed towards him from a great height. But Knight-Percival and the equally immovable Matt Kilgallon refused to be bullied.

Kilgallon also pulled off possibly the most breath-taking clearance off the line you will see.

Stephen Darby may have been the line leader at Valley Parade when it came to goal-defying blocks. But he never produced anything quite as outrageously unlikely as the central defender who continues to enjoy a rich vein of form.

Jon Taylor cut inside looking to emulate his Fratton Park winner from a fortnight ago but Colin Doyle produced a very good save at his feet – one of several the City keeper pulled off to calm the clamour among some fans about his position.

But the ball still sprang loose and Taylor looped it goalwards for Moore to knock in from a yard out.

Kilgallon somehow got there first – and despite running in towards his own goal, managed to flick it left footed up and away from barely a yard out.

That was the pinnacle of City’s defensive derring-do although there were plenty of other examples; Knight-Percival putting that black eye on the line again to block a Lee Frecklington blast being another.

Adam Thompson did get a late debut as McCall added the security of a third centre back. But with the way the current two are playing in the middle, they will take some shifting for the on-loan Bury man to get his proper chance.

“The goalkeeper and two centre halves were immense and they had to be,” admitted McCall.

“It wasn’t a case of the full backs getting skinned and balls coming in from there. They were coming from all over – the goalie, wide free-kicks, long throws.

“We had to compete for the first ball and then the second one and get blocks on the third.”

City did have the opportunities to make their afternoon a bit more comfortable with a second goal.

Rodak thwarted Dominic Poleon in the first half and Nicky Law carved Rotherham open with the sweetest of exchanges with Charlie Wyke only to stumble on the ball when through in the second.

But one was enough and the effort it took will have made the long-overdue win over their Yorkshire neighbours all the sweeter for City and the boisterous home crowd.