City History | Earnshaw secures Bluebirds comeback against Millers
With City's first fixture of 2021 fast approaching, we take a look at another New Year meeting against the Millers...
Promotion to the First Division at the end of the 2002/03 season had been followed by an early season surge by the Bluebirds, with notable victories over Nottingham Forest and Derby County during the opening weeks of the 2003/04 campaign.
Heading into the New Year, however, City had not found a win in five consecutive league matches, and were eager to make amends with their first match of 2004.
Meanwhile, the Millers had brought their year to a close in fine form, having won five of their seven most recent matches prior to their visit to South Wales.
Amongst the starting lineup for the hosts was new signing Paul Parry. Having moved to South Wales less than a week prior, the Chepstow-born winger had been playing for Conference side Hereford, and had scored the winner for his former club against Stevenage only 6 days before his first appearance as a Bluebird.
The visitors' form from previous weeks seemed to impact the match from the off, as they found themselves 2-0 up within the opening 10 minutes of play.
Stewart Talbot struck home from a corner-kick with only three minutes played, while John Mullin doubled the lead a few minutes later, netting from a well-placed through ball into City's area.
Leading the charge as the hosts attempted to mount a comeback was Peter Thorne. The striker, famous for his strike partnership with teammate Robert Earnshaw, halved the deficit for City in the 24th minute of play, curling home following a fine pass from Tony Vidmar.
Peter Thorne's responding goal against the visitors was his 13th of the campaign, and his ninth from as many matches. Having struck a rich vein of form in the closing months of 2003, only injury prevented Umrston-born Thorne from scoring more for the Bluebirds, and his goal against the Millers would prove to be his last of the season.
Skipper Graham Kavanagh found the equaliser City had been chasing, when in the 38th minute the midfielder drove his shot from close range past 'keeper Mike Pollitt.
Netting his fifth goal of the 2003/04 campaign, Kavanagh had equalled his goalscoring tally from the previous season despite the step up to a higher division. Having moved to South Wales in 2001 before earning promotion with the Bluebirds as captain in only his second season with the Club, the Irish international's return to the second tier after a five-year absence was a welcome one for both himself and City supporters. In total, Kavanagh led the Bluebirds in 30 league appearances that season, with seven goals scored along the way as City fought to successfully secure their place in the division.
With the score now level, it was now the hosts who had momentum going in their way, looking for a lead whilst the Millers were surely looking forward to reassessing at the interval.
The half-time whistle didn't blow quickly enough for the visitors, however, as City turned the tables fully by taking the lead in injury time.
Robert Earnshaw, who had been waiting for his chance to get his name on the scoresheet, netted in dramatic fashion to put the hosts ahead. The striker took the ball in his stride, and free of his marker was able to dribble past Pollitt, shooting into an empty net.
Despite this being his 17th league goal of the season, Earnshaw had not added to his tally in six previous appearances for the Bluebirds. The return to his old ways would only have added to the excitement of the 13,000 City supporters at Ninian Park, who had now seen their side come back from being two goals down before the first half had even ended.
Back up and firing, Earnshaw would go on to score a further four goals for City by the end of the campaign, and despite missing strike partner Thorne, would take his tally up to 21 league goals scored by the end of the season.
With the lead secured before the end of a thrilling first half at Ninian Park, the City faithful around the stands would have been pleased, if not a little surprised, to see that the score remained the same throughout the second half.
Holding onto their one-goal lead, the Bluebirds returned to form with their first points of the year. Using the victory as a springboard, City would go unbeaten for a further three consecutive league matches, eventually finishing their first campaign back in the second tier in 13th on the league table.