ROTHERHAM UNITED and Notts County will have to lock horns again at Meadow Lane to decide who will take their place in the FA Cup Third Round.
Both sides will still harbour hopes of facing the Premiership big boys after an enthralling encounter which saw Ben Pringle cancel out Yoann Arquin’s opener for County.
Following their back-to-back away victories over Exeter City and Accrington Stanley, Steve Evans kept faith with his starting line-up with his only change being an enforced one with Liam Ridehalgh denied permission to play by his parent club Huddersfield Town.
Villa loanee Courtney Cameron was drafted into the left-back slot with Lee Frecklington returning into the starting 11.
County were without the services of former Millers’ flyer Jamal Campbell-Ryce and prolific scorer Lee Hughes, who were unavailable because of suspension but came into the clash on the back of an impressive away record, remaining undefeated since February on the road.
The visitors were quick out of the blocks and it was almost an embarrassing start for the hosts when Johnny Mullins’ hasty backpass almost caught out Andy Warrington when he slipped as he attempted to punt clear before Neal Bishop headed over from Jeff Hughes’ corner from the resultant corner.
Julian Kelly curled an effort narrowly wide of the target as the Millers’ failed to clear decisively from an Alan Judge corner before County came within a whisker of making the breakthrough moments later.
Alan Sheehan’s inswinging corner saw Arquin climb highest to plant a header which looped over Warrington but struck the bar before being diverted to safety.
Moments later, County continued to press and Francois Zoko showed Mark Bradley a clean pair of heels before striking a low drive which forced Warrington into a smart save.
The visitors were dominating the proceedings and the home side breathed a huge sigh of relief when Hughes flashed a header narrowly wide of the target from point-blank range as he was the first to meet Sheehan’s tantalising centre.
In the Millers first attack of note, Frecklington exchanged passes with Alex Revell before teasing the Notts backline with a mazy run.
With the visitors’ defence at sixes and sevens, Michael O’Connor spotted an opening in the rearguard before fizzing a drive which stung the palms of Bartosz Bialkowski.
The home side were finding their feet and quick-thinking from a free-kick worked the opening for Pringle, who advanced menacingly before slashing an effort which curled narrowly away from the target.
Despite their best spell of the game, the home side were stunned when the visitors made the much needed breakthrough just past the half-hour mark thanks to a superb strike from Arquin.
There looked little danger when Sheehan advanced on the left byline but he swung a deep cross which beat the outstretched jump of Cameron and the tall striker struck a sweet volley from the edge of the box which skimmed across the surface before finding the far corner of the goal.
The home side were sprung into action and Daniel Nardiello was within inches of meeting an inviting cross from Bradley before Mullins had his head in his hands as he failed to connect with another tantalising centre moments later.
The Millers were back on level terms two minutes before the break when Gavin Mahon lost his footing on the right flank and Nardiello released O’Connor, who advanced with a minimum of fuss before squaring a perfectly-weighted cross into the path of Pringle, who calmly slotted a first-time effort which beat the outstretched hand of Bialkowski.
The home side almost turned the game on it’s head just seconds before the interval when O’Connor swung a delightful centre which evaded the home backline and seemed to strike Bradley, who diverted the ball goalwards but to his despair the ball agonisingly struck the outside of the post.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Notts County 1
Following the restart, Notts had the first sight of goal when Judge’s speculative effort from over 40 yards sailed gratefully into the arms of Warrington.
At the other end, Nardiello’s snap shot from O’Connor’s header into the box lacked punch before the ex-Exeter striker blazed over as he pounced on a Revell knockdown on the edge of the box moments later.
Minutes later, Nardiello saw yellow for a late tackle before Hamza Bencherif failed to trouble Warrington as his header from Sheehan’s corner flew wide of the target.
Just past the hour mark, Nardiello swung an inviting centre which saw Revell get the better of Bencherif but he couldn’t control his header as it ballooned over the bar.
O’Connor then latched onto a loose ball before firing an effort from distance which screwed wide of the target before Judge showed fleet of foot to evade the attentions of his markers before curling an effort into the breadbasket of Warrington.
With the game in the balance, incisive passing from Frecklington and Revell gave Nardiello, a sight of goal but his fierce drive was straight down the throat of Bialkowski, who parried the ball to safety.
Mullins was then shown the yellow card for a bodycheck on Zoko before Frecklington miscued his effort as he sized up a piledriver from the edge of the box.
The Millers’ hearts skipped a beat when Judge’s lay off paved the way for Hughes, to drill an effort which whistled narrowly past the upright.
With time running out, the home side missed a glorious opportunity to book a place in the third round when County failed to clear and Pringle’s mis-hit shot fell invitingly into the path of Nardiello, but with the goal at his mercy, he spooned his effort over.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Notts County 1
Rotherham- Warrington, Bradley, Sharps, Mullins, Cameron, O’Connor, Taylor, Frecklington, Nardiello, Pringle, Revell. Unused:- Thompson, Odejayi, Hunt, Agard, Rooney, Walker, O’Connell.
Notts County:- Bialkowski, Kelly, Sheehan, Bishop, Liddle, Judge, Hughes, Zoko, Mahon (Labadie 77), Arquin, Bencherif. Unused:- Showumni, Mitchell, Hollis, Regan, Lavelle-Moore, Dixon.
Attendance:- 7903 (1837)