Rotherham United crashed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy after a 2-1 defeat at Fleetwood Town.
Goals from Antoni Sarcevic and Conor McLaughlin ensured a narrow victory for the Cod Army after Nouha Dicko had equalised for the Millers, who missed several good opportunities throughout.
Boss Steve Evans welcomed back loan trio Nouha Dicko, James Tavernier and Haris Vuckic who were available after missing the weekend cup defeat against Rochdale. Matt Tubbs was fit enough for a place on the bench whilst Joe Skarz missed out completely, with Michael Tidser absent through suspension.
The Millers made the early running and were close to taking a third minute lead when Alex Revell’s daisy cutter from 20 yards took a wicked deflection, before flashing just wide of Scott Davies’ far post.
Vuckic, making his full Millers debut, was straight into the thick of the action by making a yard of space 25 yards out, but his shot flew high and wide of Davies’ goal.
The Millers continued to dictate the early pace with Revell heading just wide from 12 yards following a Ben Pringle free-kick.
Despite having the better chances the Millers fell behind after 18 minutes and it proved to be a horror moment from the usually dependable Adam Collin. Sarcevic picked the ball up on the corner of the area before hitting a low shot which trickled through the guard of the Millers ‘keeper and into the net.
It was starting to prove a frustrating half for the Millers who despite not being at their best, were creating the better opportunities. On 24 minutes Dicko drove in a low shot which was held by Davies the Mark Bradley’s goalbound strike was blocked by some brave defending by Mark Roberts.
Vuckic showed a flash of his obvious ability on 37 minutes when he carved his way towards goal with a silky run, but his weak shot didn’t live up to his impressive build up play.
With five minutes to go to the break the Millers missed their best opportunity of the game so far. A flighted Pringle corner to the back post found Craig Morgan who met the ball with meaty header, but planted the ball just over the bar from 12 yards.
Fleetwood Town 1 v 0 Rotherham United
Evans made changes at half-time with Richard Brindley coming on in his more familiar right-back role in place of Bradley.
The Cod Army had the first effort of the second half with Charlie Taylor’s harmless shot from 20 yards, which Collin watched behind for a goal kick.
Rotherham then took a firm initiative of proceedings coming agonisingly close to an equaliser on 51 minutes. Tavernier fed a pass into Revell just inside the area, the striker turned on a sixpence before flicking a shot towards goal but with Davies beaten it ricocheted off the post and bounced to safety.
The game was starting to become one way traffic as the Millers opened up the Fleetwood defence again when a Dicko flick found Agard, but his shot was drilled into the side netting.
Rotherham didn’t have to wait much longer before finally deservedly levelling proceedings. Revell again in the thick of the action and when his deflected shot was parried by Davies, Dicko was on hand for an easy tap-in in front of the travelling Millers supporters.
The home side responded with their best effort of the game. Following a late challenge by Pringle the Cod Army were awarded a free-kick on the left of the penalty area. Former Miller Gareth Evans stepped up hammering a ferocious free-kick which flew inches wide of the far post.
On 62 minutes they came close again. This time the dangerous Sarcevic darted into the area on the angle but his low shot was saved by the legs of Collin, making amends for his earlier error.
The Millers seemed to have weathered the mini-Fleetwood storm but on 70 minutes the home team took the lead in spectacular style. There seemed to be little danger when the ball broke to McLaughlin 25 yards out but on the angle he hit a thunderous shot which fizzed beyond the grasp of Collin and into the top corner.
A minute later Rotherham missed a golden opportunity to level instantly. The ball fell kindly to Agard in the area following a rebound but after a heavy first touch, the Millers top scorer pinged his shot wide.
Fleetwood went for some fresh legs with 15 minutes remaining in the shape Danny Carr and he showed his pace on 77 minutes with a mazy run, but his low shot was held at full stretch by Collin.
The Millers huffed and puffed in the last 10 minutes with Lee Frecklington and Tavernier both bringing spectacular saves from Davies, but the Fleetwood defence held firm sending them into the area final.
Fleetwood Town 1 v 0 Rotherham United
Fleetwood: Davies; McLaughlin, Pond, Roberts, Taylor, Blair (Brown 78), Schumacher, Hughes, Evans (Cresswell 89), Sarcevic, Tyson (Carr 76).
Subs not used: Murdoch, Lucas.
Rotherham: Collin; Bradley (Brindley ht), Morgan, Arnason, Tavernier, Agard, Frecklington, Vuckic (Davis 79), Pringle, Revell, Dicko.
Subs not used: Shearer, Tubbs, Rowe.