Rotherham United tasted defeat in the league for the first time this season after a late Alex Nicholls goal won the game for Northampton Town. In a frantic end to the first period, Ben Pringle levelled for the Millers after Chris Hackett had put them in front.
Millers boss Steve Evans was forced into one change for the visit to Sixfields, with Johnny Mullins missing out, but last year’s player of the year was fit enough for the bench. Mark Bradley, a half-time substitute on Saturday was called upon following an impressive pre-season.
The home side settled well, but it wasn’t until the eighth minute that the first chance of the game was created and it came from a man in Millers amber. Laurence Wilson rolled the ball into Daniel Nardiello, and the striker rolled his man before bending his shot just outside the far post from 18 yards.
Opportunities were few and far between in the first-half but the deadlock was finally broken by the home team on 25 minutes with their first effort at goal. Hackett collected a throw-in after some quick thinking by Alex Nicholls, and after finding himself under no pressure, unleashed a thunderbolt into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
The goal did spark the visitors into life, and it was only a matter of minutes before they had their first shot on target. Jason Taylor managed to wriggle free in the area and fire goalwards from the angle, only to see Lee Nicholls parry the ball clear. However, the situation could have got worse for Evans’ men on the half-hour mark as Nicholls pounced on a mistake by Kari Arnason and laid off for Ben Harding who saw his effort bounce clear off the underside of the crossbar.
The chances did begin to mount for Rotherham though and after David Artell had narrowly diverted O’Connor’s ball over his own crossbar, Ian Sharps headed Pringle’s corner just wide. This was followed by a fine break from midfield by Kayode Odejayi who eventually laid off for O’Connor to suffer the same fate as his captain.
With half-time approaching, Nardiello almost levelled, when his deep cross was headed away from underneath his crossbar by captain Kelvin Langmead, and Pringle’s effort from distance was then held by Lee Nicholls. However, Nicholls didn’t get close to the midfielder’s next effort as he took Odejayi’s pass first-time and curled into the far post from 18 yards with the help of a deflection.
Before the goal, Sharps blocked Guttridge’s shot from Clive Platt’s knockdown, and O’Connor tested the ‘keeper from the edge of the area as both sides looked to go in at the break in front.
Northampton Town 1-1 Millers
Opportunities were limited in the second period, and the pace from the end of the first half didn’t continue after the break. Pringle met Bradley’s cross at the far post, and appealed for handball when his effort was blocked, and David Noble shot wide from edge of the box.
Manager Steve Evans introduced two men into the game to give his side a different option, with Gareth Evans and Kieran Agard replacing Nardiello and O’Connor who continues his comeback from injury. The home side did have the ball in the back of the net but the referee’s assistant had already flagged for a foul on Scott Shearer.
After a quick counter-attack on 70 minutes, the home side had a golden opportunity to go in front but from Nicholls’ cross, Platt opted to head back across goal to substitute Adebayo Akinfenwa when it looked easier to score. The Millers however did get straight back on the attack and Agard did well to beat John Johnson in the area only to somehow loft his effort over the top from six yards out.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes, the Millers were on the front foot with Nicholls scrambling Agard’s toe-poke clear and then tipping a long range effort by Pringle over the top. From the resulting corner, Agard headed just over from close range.
Substitute Alex Revell had to leave the field for treatment to a blood injury as the Millers had a corner, and after blocking Noble’s shot, the Cobblers broke down the other end with a diagonal ball picking out Nicholls who calmly rounded Shearer before slotting into an empty net to put the home side in front.
At the other end, Taylor’s cross across goal was tipped just wide by Lee Nicholls as the Millers searched for an equaliser, but to no avail.
Northampton Town 2-1 Millers
Northampton: L.Nicholls, Johnson, Widdowson, Guttridge (Akinfenwa 67), Langmead, Harding, Platt, Hackett, Tozer, A.Nicholls, Artell.
Unused: Charles, Demontagnac, Snedker, Mukendi, Wilson, Moult
Millers: Shearer, Bradley, Sharps, Arnason, Wilson, Noble, Taylor, O’Connor (Evans 63), Pringle, Odejayi (Revell 77), Nardiello (Agard 55).
Unused: Warrington, Rowe, Rose, Ainswort.
Att: 4,171 (624)