VETERAN striker Ryan Lowe broke Millers’ hearts with a late equaliser for Tranmere Rovers as the Millers prevented a third successive league defeat.
The home side dominated the first half and they were rewarded for their pressure when Kieran Agard broke the deadlock but Ronnie Moore’s men earned a share of the spoils through Lowe’s late penalty.
Following their last-gasp defeat at the hands of MK Dons at the weekend, Rotherham made five changes to their starting line-up with ex-Carlisle stopper Adam Collin handed his first league start between the sticks at the expense of Scott Shearer.
Pablo Mills was recalled at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard with Icelandic international Kari Arnason ruled out by illness while Mark Bradley was given an opportunity to shine in the Millers engine room as Lee Frecklington and Michael O’Connor, were absent because of suspension.
Top scorer Daniel Nardiello returned to the home strikeforce partnering Bolton loanee Tom Eaves, who was also given his first Millers start, as Alex Revell dropped to the bench.
The Millers were quick out of the blocks and they almost caught the visitors napping after just 13 seconds when Ben Pringle fired a rasping left footed effort from distance which was arrowing towards the top corner until Owain Fon Williams acrobatically parried the ball to safety.
Minutes later, Mills punted a long ball forward which was flicked on by Eaves into the advancing run of Nardiello, but Ash Taylor was on-hand to block his attempted chip from the edge of the box and the ball rolled harmlessly to Fon Williams.
The home side were looking the most likely and after Richard Brindley and Agard combined on the right flank, Pringle floated a tantalising cross which was met by the head of the unmarked Nardiello, but the ex-Barnsley striker fluffed his lines when he screwed his point-blank header wide of the target.
In the next phase of play, Eaves climbed highest to meet a Pringle delivery but Fon Williams was on-hand to punch clear from Bradley before Agard pounced on the loose ball after Rovers failed to clear to fire a dipping effort which stung the palms of Fon Williams.
The visiting ‘keeper was in the thick of the action as he firstly denied Rob Milsom, who fizzed a low drive towards goal before Craig Morgan tried his luck from distance moments later with a skimming effort but Fon Williams proved his equal with another fine save.
The visitors were struggling to clear their lines and Agard was the next to threaten the Rovers goal with a snap shot which had Fon Williams nervously scurrying across goal but the ball struck the side netting.
The Millers were dominating the proceedings and Pringle’s outswinging corner saw Eaves climb above his marker to plant a looping header which beat Fon Williams but Max Power was well-stationed to clear from his own line.
Just past the half-hour mark, Agard skipped past the wild challenge of Jim McNulty before presenting Pringle with a shooting opportunity just outside the box, but he dragged his effort harmlessly wide of the target.
In Rovers’ first attack of note, Danny Holmes picked the pocket of Pringle to release Power on the right, who danced around Milsom, before floating a cross which saw Lowe plant a header wide of the target.
With half-time approaching, Eaves showed fleet of foot to work a yard of space on Taylor before fizzing an effort which Fon Willams blocked bravely before Nardiello got the better of Chris Atkinson minutes later but after advancing menacingly to the edge of the box, his effort was deflected wide of the target by a retreating defender.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Tranmere Rovers 0
Following the restart, Rotherham continued where they left-off and Pringle pounced on the loose ball before firing a rasping effort which whistled narrowly over the bar.
At the other end, Power dragged a shot wide of the target as he was the quickest to react following a McNulty knockdown before Rotherham came within a whisker of the opener just shy of the hour mark.
Following a quick counter attack, Milsom led the home cavalry charge but after delaying his pass despite a two-on-one opportunity, Nardiello fired a snap shot which tested the reflexes of Fon Williams, who stood tall to block his goalbound effort.
Moments later, the home side were frustrated when Holmes appeared to handle just inside the box but their despair turned to joy moments later when they were rewarded for their pressure with the opening goal.
Following a period of probing by the home side, Pringle floated a delicate cross which beat the outstretched jump of a visiting defender and Agard controlled smartly in the six-yard box before keeping his composure to calmly slide the ball past the outstretched hand of Fon Williams to find the bottom corner of the goal.
The home side were buoyed by the strike and Bradley drove from the heart of midfield to scoop an effort narrowly over before sub Cole Stockton made the worst possible introduction by seeing yellow for a high challenge on Joe Skarz.
Stockton almost redeemed himself seconds later when he shrugged off the attentions of Morgan before firing into the side netting for the visitors before Milsom incurred the wrath of the referee by kicking the ball away to earn a yellow card.
Despite being second best for the majority of the evening, Rovers were given an opportunity to level matters when Stockton’s clever flick saw ex-Millers’ loanee Abdulai Bell-Baggie get on the wrong side of Skarz, who bundled him over in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and giving the ex-Bury defender a caution in the process.
Lowe kept his nerve from the resultant spot-kick to calmly wrongfoot Collin and stroke the ball into the far corner of the net.
The home side responded bravely to the setback and they came within inches of regaining the lead when Pringle’s slide-rule ball fell invitingly for sub Matt Tubbs, who drove a low effort which skimmed the upright.
Lowe then dragged an effort wide at the other end before the Millers had a stroke of luck with seconds remaining when Bell-Baggie broke clear following a ricochet to round Collin, before losing his footing but the referee waved away strong appeals for a second spot-kick.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Tranmere Rovers 1
Rotherham- Collin, Brindley, Morgan, Mills, Skarz, Milsom, Bradley, Agard, Pringle, Nardiello (Tubbs 77), Eaves (Revell 68). Unused:- Shearer, Tidser, D Rowe.
Tranmere:- Fon Williams, Holmes, Taylor, Hateley (Bell-Baggie 61), Lowe, Atkinson (J Rowe 90), Kirby, Power, Jennings (Stockton 68), McNulty, Ridehalgh. Unused:- Watkins, Horwood, Sodje, Koumas.
Referee:- T Harrington
Attendance:- 7511 (356)