DANIEL NARDIELLO’s fifth goal in four games maintained Rotherham United’s unbeaten league record as they earned a creditable draw at Walsall.
Following a dull opening, Nardiello’s first half header put the Millers infront but Sam Mantom’s strike pegged the visitors back at the Bescot Stadium with the equaliser just past the half hour.
Following their fine run of form of late, Steve Evans made just one change to his starting line-up with skipper Craig Morgan returning at the heart of the Millers’ defence at the expense of the injured Claude Davis.
Former Saddler Mark Bradley was named among the substitutes alongside new signing Tom Eaves, who put pen-to-paper on a loan deal from Bolton Wanderers in the build up to the clash.
In a quiet opening, Romaine Sawyers saw yellow for leading with the arm in his aerial duel with Richard Brindley before the Millers had the first sight of the home goal when Ben Pringle pounced on the loose ball before striking a cross-cum-shot which struck the retreating Paul Downing.
From the resultant corner, Pringle floated an outswinger which was met by the head of Kari Arnason but the Icelandic international could not control his header.
Moments later, Lee Frecklington blazed over from distance before the Millers opened the scoring on 21 minutes.
Following hard work from Kieran Agard on the right, Frecklington floated a cross which saw Alex Revell tower above his marker to plant a header into the path of Nardiello, who carefully guided a header past the outstretched hand of Richard O’Donnell into the corner of the goal.
The home side came within a whisker of levelling matters minutes later when Andy Taylor’s corner was knocked down by Andy Butler into the path of James Baxendale, who spooned the ball over the bar despite the goal being at his mercy.
Minutes later, Arnason found himself in the referee’s book for an illegal charge on Mantom before the home side equalised just past the half hour.
After Mantom had a snap shot deflected behind for a corner from the resultant set-piece, Baxendale floated a cross which was only half-cleared by the visitors rearguard and Mantom struck a volley from the edge of the box through a ruck of bodies which squirmed under the body of Scott Shearer before dribbling over the line.
With half-time approaching, Downing saw yellow for hauling down Nardiello off the ball before Agard was booked for tripping Nicky Featherstone in full flight.
In injury-time, Pringle struck an effort from distance which stung the palms of O’Donnell before Rob Milsom wasted an opportunity with an overhit cross despite visitors numbers at the back post.
Half-time:- Walsall 1 Rotherham United 1
Following the restart, Revell was the next to see yellow for an illegal jump on Butler before Rotherham were frustrated with referee Stuart Attwell when Shearer’s lung punt upfield was flicked on by Revell into the path of Nardiello, who got on the wrong side of Taylor before being appeared to be nudged over as he looked to strike but the referee waved away visiting appeals for a spot-kick.
Moments later, Pringle pounced on a loose ball before firing a skimming drive which forced O’Donnell into a smart save to his right before Baxendale curled an effort harmlessly wide of the target at the other end.
Minutes later, Joe Skarz failed to clear decisively and Mantom hit an effort with his instep which whistled narrowly wide before Frecklington fired a half-volley which had O’Donnell nervously scurrying across goal.
With time running out, the Millers came within a whisker of the winner when Arnason’s long-throw was flicked on by Eaves into the path of Nardiello, who headed goalwards but O’Donnell saved at full stretch with the ball arrowing towards the top corner to keep the scores level.
At the other end, a long punt forward saw sub Craig Westcarr get a yard on his marker but his low drive from the edge of the box was superbly blocked by Morgan.
With the game in the balance, Milsom dragged an effort narrowly wide from distance before the home side missed a guilt edged chance in stoppage time when good work from Milan Lalkovic saw Westcarr strike against a retreating defender before firing over with the goal at his mercy seconds later.
Full-time:- Walsall 1 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Walsall- O’Donnell, Taylor, Butler, Featherstone, A Chambers, Mantom, Downing, J Chambers, Baxendale (Lalkovic 64), Hewitt (Westcarr 64), Sawyers (Hemmings 85). Unused:- Purkiss, Roberts, McQuilkin, Benning
Rotherham- Shearer, Brindley (Bradley 24), Skarz, Arnason, Frecklington, Revell (Tubbs 82), Milsom, Nardiello, Pringle, Morgan, Agard (Eaves 72). Unused:- Mills, Collin, Tidser, Rowe
Referee:- Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)
Attendance:- 5002 (828)