ROTHERHAM UNITED and Preston North End had to settle for a share of the spoils in their Roses encounter following an enthralling goalless draw at the New York Stadium.
The Millers made it two draws out of two following their return to League One with a resolute performance against the Lancastrians, who are highly fancied to be amongst the divisional heavyweights.
Following their fantastic League Cup victory over local rivals Sheffield Wednesday in midweek, Steve Evans kept faith with his starting line-up as Lee Freckington and Alex Revell were passed fit after shrugging off knocks.
Preston, who also tasted League Cup success over arch-rivals Blackpool last Monday, named marquee signing Kevin Davies in their starting line-up for their first visit to the New York Stadium.
The one-time England international had the first sight of goal when Will Hayhurst swung an inswinging cross which saw the ex-Bolton Wanderers striker dart to the front post but he failed to connect as he attempted to strike goalwards before Lee Holmes stung the palms of Scott Shearer with a skimming drive from distance minutes later.
The visitors made a lively start but the Millers grabbed a foothold in the encounter when Paul Huntington saw yellow for hauling down Revell off the ball as the home side looked to counter quickly in their first foray upfield.
From the resultant free-kick, Michael O’Connor swung a tantalising centre which was met by the head of Kari Arnason but his downward header struck the side netting before the tricky Holmes tested Shearer again with an angled drive which bounced awkwardly infront of the Rotherham stopper.
At the other end, skipper Craig Morgan almost made his mark against his former club but he came within inches of meeting O’Connor’s whipped free-kick before Icelandic international Arnason was yellow-carded for halting Holmes illegally as he advanced menacingly towards the home goal.
Just shy of the half-hour mark, the home side came within a whisker of the opener when O’Connor toe-poked the ball forward and with a visiting defender losing his footing, Matt Tubbs was given a glimpse of goal but his angled drive from just inside the box whistled past the upright.
Moments later, Kieran Agard was inches away from connecting with a fantastic first-time cross from Ben Pringle before the ex-Derby midfielder almost turned from provider to finisher moments later when he delicious free-kick from distance had Declan Rudd nervously scurrying across goal as it fizzed narrowly over.
Minutes later, Keith Keane’s instinctive effort saw Shearer smartly parry the ball to safety before O’Connor had a skimming drive blocked by a retreating visiting defender in the last act of the first stanza.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Preston North End 0
Following the interval, the Millers had a lucky escape when Holmes curled an inswinging corner which saw Bailey Wright get infront of Revell at the near post before crashing a point-blank header which cannoned against the upright before being diverted to safety.
Just short of the hour mark, O’Connor was the next to have his name taken as he brought Holmes down with a tackle from behind before Rotherham turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye led by substitute David Worrall which paved the way for Pringle to float a cross which was met by the advancing run of Revell, whose header looped narrowly wide of the target.
With the game in the balance, Arnason tried his luck with a speculative volley from distance which failed to trouble Rudd before Revell was hacked down by Bailey in an inviting position just outside the box minutes later.
From the resultant free-kick, Pringle floated a delightful centre which saw Morgan challenge with Rudd but the Preston ‘keeper did enough to prevent the home skipper making contact before the Welsh international saw yellow for cynically hauling down Chris Humphrey as the visitors’ looked to counter quickly moments later.
With ten minutes remaining, Joe Skarz’s hanging cross was shielded well by Agard which allowed Worrall to work a shooting position as he drilled a low effort which had Rudd scurrying nervously across goal.
With time running out, O’Connor almost won it for the Millers when the Lilywhites failed to deal with an Arnason throw and the ball sat up nicely for the ex-Crewe midfielder on the edge of the box but his dipping effort narrowly cleared the crossbar.
In stoppage time, the inform Frecklington nearly made the headlines once again as he latched onto a Revell knockdown but as he looked to strike, the referee had already blew for a handling offence.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 0 Preston North End 0
Teams- Rotherham United:- Shearer, Bradley, Morgan, Arnason, Skarz, Agard, O’Connor, Frecklington, Pringle, Revell, Tubbs (Worrall 57). Unused:- Collin, Brindley, Davis, Milsom, Noble, Tidser.
Preston North End: Rudd, Clarke, Huntington, Wright, Keane, Buchanan, Holmes (Monakana 87), Welsh, Hayhurst (Laird 74) Davies, Humphrey (Garner 80). Unused:- Stuckmann, Cummins, Mousinho, Wroe.
Referee:- Trevor Kettle
Attendance:- 8454 (1236)
Man of the Match:- Craig Morgan