COLCHESTER UNITED snatched a last-gasp equaliser to break Rotherham United hearts, as the Millers’ winless streak stretched to five games.
Marcus Bean came back to haunt his former club when he put the visitors ahead early on but Matt Tubbs netted his first goal for the Millers soon after before Kieran Agard notched his sixth goal of the season to put the home side in control at the break.
The home side were on the brink of the three points until Elliot Lee popped up in the dying seconds with a point-blank header which was adjudged to have crossed the line despite home appeals.
Following their solitary goal defeat at the hands of Leyton Orient last weekend, Steve Evans made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit of Colchester, who were making their first ever visit to the New York Stadium.
Evans was forced into an enforced change with skipper Craig Morgan unavailable after accumulating five cautions so Pablo Mills was recalled to the heart of the home rearguard.
Bournemouth loanee Tubbs was also given an opportunity to press his claim for a regular starting berth as Evans reverted to a more attacking line-up with Rob Milsom dropping to the bench.
The Millers were quick out of the blocks and after Michael O’Connor won possession deep inside his own half, Agard attacked the visitors’ defence with menace before unleashing a rasping drive from distance which whistled narrowly over the bar.
At the other end, Joe Skarz had to be alert at the far post to snuff out an awkward cross from Luke Garbutt before the Essex side stunned the home faithful by breaking the deadlock on seven minutes from the resultant corner.
Garbutt swung a delightful inswinger into the danger area which was met by the head of the unmarked Bean, who steered a header goalwards from six yards which struck the inside of the upright before dribbling over the line.
However, Colchester’s joy soon turned to despair as the Millers’ responded superbly to the setback by finding themselves on level terms two minutes later.
Skarz advanced down the left flank unchallenged before swinging a delightful centre which was misjudged by a retreating defender and the ball fell into the path of Tubbs, who controlled smartly before keeping his cool to calmly slot the ball past the outstretched hand of Sam Walker to find the bottom corner of the net.
The home side were lifted by the equaliser and Tubbs almost sneaked in unnoticed when he looked to latch onto a punt forward by Mills but he failed to control the ball before the home side took a stranglehold on the proceedings by taking the lead on 22 minutes.
Following a period of pressure, Kari Arnason hurled a long throw into the danger area and after Colchester failed to clear decisively, Lee Frecklington headed the ball back into the heart of the area and after looking to bulldoze his way towards goal, the ball fell into the path of Agard, who made no mistake to calmly slid the ball into the bottom corner of the goal.
The home side were sniffing blood and Frecklington had a shot blocked by a retreating defender on the edge of the box before Agard looked to drill the ball goalwards but Craig Eastmond bravely diverted his goalbound effort away to safety.
Minutes later, Alex Revell almost got his head to a tantalising inswinging centre from O’Connor but Cian Bolger was on-hand to prevent him heading goalwards before Jeffrey Monakana cut inside before firing an effort from the edge of the box which blazed over the bar at the other end.
The Millers came within a whisker of a third on the half hour when O’Connor swung a delightful free-kick which saw Mark Bradley get on the wrong side of Alex Gilbey before stooping to guide a header towards the bottom corner but Walker bundled the ball to safety.
From the resultant corner, Bradley was again in the thick of the action when he latched onto a knockdown from Agard but he blasted over from point blank range.
Minutes later, O’Connor fired over at the end of a fine-flowing move by the home side before Bradley harshly saw yellow for what looked a legitimate challenge on Gilbey moments later.
With half-time approaching, Brian Wilson caused home hearts’ to flutter with a rasping drive which flew narrowly wide before the home side almost extended their advantage when O’Connor’s floated ball was superbly flicked on by Revell into the path of Agard and Tubbs, and it was the latter who connected with an acrobatic overhead kick from six yards which narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Moments later, Adam Collin collected the ball on the edge of his box despite vociferous Colchester appeals he handled outside the box before Tubbs had a sniff of goal near the end of the half but despite Walker making a fine save, any goal would have been ruled out by the offside flag.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 2 Colchester United 1
Following the restart, Rotherham were immediately on the offensive and Tubbs’ neat flick from Agard’s centre was smartly gathered by Walker before Revell outjumped Bolger from Skarz’s floating cross but his header from distance lacked power.
At the other end, Wilson’s long throw caught the home side napping and Eastmond fired a bobbling effort which had Collin nervously scurrying across goal before Garbutt was cautioned for a scything challenge on Tubbs in the next phase of play.
The Millers had a lucky escape when Garbutt almost turned from villain to hero when sub Macauley Bonne launched a quick counter-attack and his slide-rule ball saw the Everton loanee burst through the home defence but with the goal at his mercy, he dragged his shot wide of the target.
Just shy of the hour mark, the lively Agard burst through the challenge of Garbutt before swinging a first-time cross which saw Revell nip infront of his marker to guide a header goalwards but Walker was well-stationed to collect smartly.
With the game in the balance, a superb eye-of the needle pass paved the way for Tubbs to fire instinctively towards goal but Walker fortunately diverted his drilled effort to safety before Colchester had faint appeals for a spot-kick when Bean tumbled under the challenge of Agard but the referee waved away visitors’ protests.
Moments later, O’Connor had to track back to block Clinton Morrison’s cross-cum-shot before the Northern Ireland international was involved at the other end when his dipping effort from distance stung the palms of Walker.
After Mills was harshly adjudged to have tripped Morrison, Garbutt failed to trouble the home goal when his resultant free-kick blazed over the bar.
The home side believed they had sealed the three points with quarter an hour to go when Ben Pringle’s inviting free-kick saw the unmarked Bradley ghost in unnoticed before steering a header which Walker got a hand to before it nestled in the net but the assistant referee curtailed home celebrations with an offside flag.
With ten minutes remaining, Tubbs was yellow-carded for kicking the ball away before Collin showed good reflexes to punch Gilbey’s effort to safety.
With the home side looking to see the game out, sub Andy Bond’s acrobatic effort flew harmlessly wide of the target before the Essex side snatched a share of the spoils in dramatic circumstances.
With Walker pushed forward in the dying seconds, Garbutt curled an inswinging corner which was not cleared decisively and a series of headers back into the danger area saw Elliot Lee power a header which struck the underside of the crossbar before hitting the ground but to the heartbreak of the home faithful, the assistant referee adjudged the ball had crossed the line before Collin collected as the Millers’ had to settle for a point.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Colchester United 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Bradley, Arnason, Skarz, Agard, O’Connor (Milsom 90), Frecklington, Pringle (Brindley 90), Revell, Tubbs (Eaves 86). Unused:- Shearer, Nardiello, Tidser, Rowe.
Colchester- Walker, Wilson, Bolger, Garbutt, Bean (Szmodics 82), Gilbey, Eastmond (Bond 59), Monakana (Bonne 51), Lee, Morrison, Okuonghae. Unused:- Cousins, Dickson, Eastman, Vose.
Referee:- S Stocksbridge
Attendance:- 7096 (217).