September 2017: CITY 1 (Vincelot 21) ROTHERHAM 0

ROMAIN Vincelot will be returning to Valley Parade a week on Saturday in Stevenage colours.

The Frenchman, a popular figure in his time with the Bantams, has made a remarkable recovery from an injury at previous club Shrewsbury that threatened to end his career.

Vincelot was out for over a year and underwent a hip resurfacing operation to come back – reckoning he is the first professional footballer to do so from that particular surgery.

He was a mainstay in Stuart McCall’s last spell at the City helm, slotting in as effectively at centre half as his preferred central midfield role.

Vincelot also had the knack of popping up with goals from set-pieces – thanks to his prodigious leap for headers.

Wind the clock back three years and he was enjoying a prolific run in the opposing penalty box.

Vincelot had nodded the second goal in City’s 3-1 win at Peterborough then followed up with a dramatic equaliser deep into stoppage time to rescue another point on the road against Oxford.

The visit of a Rotherham side, fresh from dropping out of the Championship and tipped to go straight back, would offer him the chance of making it a hat-trick of headers in a week.

Blackburn had inflicted City’s first home league loss in over a year but McCall’s side went into the game riding high in fourth spot in League One. But Rotherham would offer a real test in a feisty Yorkshire derby.

The absence of Steve Evans on the Valley Parade touchline may have defused the off-the-pitch edge but on it, the Millers put their hosts through an extensive physical examination.

With the towering Kieffer Moore up front, Rotherham bombarded the City backline with long balls and crosses. It was not an afternoon for faint-hearted defending.

Rotherham had been banging in goals for fun leading up to the game. City, on the other hand, had struggled to keep the backdoor shut despite their promising early results.

But centre halves Nathaniel Knight-Percival, keeping out recent arrival Adam Thompson and Matt Kilgallon never put a foot – or head – wrong.

That laid the platform for City to end their Rotherham hoodoo having failed to score in any of the previous six meetings between the sides.

McCall managed to succeed where Phil Parkinson had failed thanks to the game’s one momentary lapse of concentration at the back.

That came from Paul Warne’s men after they failed to pick up Vincelot from Tony McMahon’s cross.

The right back made it five assists in four matches as Vincelot punished the lax opposition to maintain his rich scoring vein, nodding the ball down and beyond Marek Rodak before Rotherham’s Slovakian keeper had time to react.

City’s last goal against Rotherham had come nearly six years ago with a Michael Flynn penalty.

But the visitors, fresh from ending a 512-day wait for an away win when they beat Portsmouth, launched an aerial assault in response.

Their game-plan relied solely on peppering Moore with balls from a great height. Knight-Percival and Kilgallon had to work overtime in response to protect their clean-sheet bonus.

The pick of that resistance came with an astonishing goalline clearance from Kilgallon.

Winger Jon Taylor, Rotherham’s match-winner at Fratton Park on their previous trip, sensed more joy as he cut inside menacingly.

Colin Doyle made a fine block at his feet but the ball still sprang loose and Taylor looped it goalwards for Moore to knock in from a yard out.

Or so it seemed. But 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.

It was an astonishing bit of defending, then matched by the bravery of Knight-Percival who put his black eye on the line from the Oxford game by throwing himself in the way of Lee Frecklington’s goal-bound blast.

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 Vincelot’s header proved enough to clinch a gutsy win that seemed to establish City’s promotion credentials. Unfortunately, the season – and those that would follow – did not pan out anything like that.

CITY: Doyle, McMahon, Kilgallon, Knight-Percival, Chicksen, Gilliead, Vincelot, Reeves, Law (Thompson 82), Poleon (Patrick 62), Wyke.

ROTHERHAM: Rodak, Mattock, Wood, Ihiekwe, Vaulks, Frecklington, Taylor (Forde 72), Potter, Towell (Clarke-Harris 80), Williams (Newell 62), Moore.