IT was honours even in the South Yorkshire derby as Rotherham United earned a hard-fought goalless draw at rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
In a lacklustre first-half, Paul Green wasted the chance of the first period as he planted a point-blank header wide of the target before both sides’ upped the tempo in the second half as Lee Frecklington had a goal chalked off for offside before the Millers withstood a late rally by the home side to earn their first point in three games.
Following their back-to-back defeats at the hands of Middlesbrough and Reading respectively, the Millers made two changes to their starting line-up for the short hop to Hillsborough.
Scottish international Kirk Broadfoot was recalled to the heart of the Millers’ rearguard as Kari Arnason was ruled out because of a toe injury he sustained against the Royals in midweek.
Ipswich loanee Paul Taylor was also given an opportunity to impress in the visitors’ engine room as Matt Derbyshire had to be content with a berth on the substitutes’ bench.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and they had the first sight of goal when a long diagonal pass saw one-time Millers target Stevie May cut inside before firing a tantalising centre which narrowly evaded the home runners.
Moments later, Wednesday attacked with menace and Gary Taylor-Fletcher got a yard on Broadfoot, who unceremoniously hacked down the Leicester loanee and with referee Nigel Miller playing advantage, Jacques Maghoma skipped the byline before firing a cross-cum-shot which stung the palms of ‘keeper Adam Collin.
The incident saw Broadfoot incur the wrath of the referee which showed him the yellow card once play had been curtailed.
The Millers gradually got a foothold in the clash and Joe Skarz floated a delicate cross which saw Alex Revell cleverly flick-on into the advancing run of Frecklington, who could only toe-poke the ball harmlessly over the bar from the edge of the box.
Just before the quarter hour, the home side looked to be heading into a cul-de-sac until Maghoma threaded a cross into the danger area and Taylor-Fletcher almost caught the Rotherham rearguard napping as he nipped infront of his marker to deftly flick the ball towards goal but to the visitors’ relief it whistled past the upright.
Moments later, May left Broadfoot in his wake before racing towards goal but he fluffed his lines when he dragged a tame effort across the face of goal before Rotherham missed a gilt-edged chance to break the deadlock when following a period of pressure from the visitors, Ben Pringle swung a tantalising inswinging corner which saw Green ghost in unnoticed but despite having the goal at his mercy, his point-blank header blazed wide of the target.
At the other end, Chris Maguire tried his luck from distance but his rising effort fizzed narrowly over the bar before Frecklington was bundled over by Jeremy Helan near the corner flag giving the Millers another inviting set-piece.
With Pringle again the architect, his pinpoint delivery saw Keiren Westwood flap at thin air and Frecklington almost took advantage but his header ballooned over the bar.
Minutes later, Taylor’s mazy run bisected the home rearguard as he ghosted past Jose Semedo with a clever faint and turn of pace but his cross-cum-shot failed to trouble the home goal before a superb pass into the channel released Revell down the right flank, who showed great awareness to pick out Pringle on the edge of the box but his drilled effort was straight down the throat of Westwood.
With half-time approaching, Wednesday arguably had their best chance of the half when Maghoma got the better of Frazer Richardson before fizzing a ball into the chest of Giles Coke, who gave sub Atdhe Nuhiu a sight of goal but he volleyed over when he should have done better.
Half-time:- Sheffield Wednesday 0 Rotherham United 0
Following the restart, the Millers had the first sight of goal when Pringle’s deep centre was met by the head of Green at the far post but Westwood was well-stationed to snuff out his powerful header.
The visitors had a lucky escape when a long ball forward saw Broadfoot under pressure from Nuhiu and the ex-Rangers defender fired a backpass back at Collin, who swiped at the ball but fortunately for the Millers, he made just enough contact as the ball sliced narrowly wide of his own goal.
Moments later, it was the Wednesday faithful who had their hearts in their mouths when Westwood’s attempted clearance was charged down by Revell but luckily for the home side, the ball flew wide of the sticks.
Moments later, Taylor ghosted past home skipper Glenn Loovens with a minimum of fuss before advancing to the edge of the box but his weak effort failed to trouble Westwood.
In a whirlwind sixty seconds, May jinked past Broadfoot with consummate ease before cutting inside to strike goalwards but Richie Smallwood’s superb block snuffed out the danger before the Millers turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye as Revell’s knockdown paved the way for Richardson, to fire a skimming effort which whistled narrowly over the bar.
Moments later, Taylor’s quick-thinking almost paid dividends as his quick corner gave Pringle, a glimpse of goal but he was crowded out as he looked to shoot before Pringle turned provider as his superb centre almost saw Revell sneak in at the far post but the ball skimmed off his head.
With the game in the balance, Helan’s marauding run had the Millers’ defence at sixes and sevens but his cross was overhit before Revell was inches away from connecting with Taylor’s superb run and cross at the other end.
With quarter an hour to go, the Owls came within a whisker of making the decisive breakthrough when Helan firstly fired a snap shot from an acute angle which was parried by Collin at his near post before Loovens found himself in acres of space from the resultant corner but his deft flick fizzed past the upright with the Rotherham ‘keeper a helpless bystander.
The Millers fans were almost in ecstasy when Frecklington was put in the clear before calmly stroking the ball past the advancing Westwood into the heart of the home goal but any joy turned to despair as the flag had long been raised.
Moments later, the visitors had a let-off when Kieran Lee jinked smartly in the box before appearing to be nudged over by Broadfoot but referee Miller waved away strong home protests before Taylor superbly worked a shooting position to fire a fearsome effort narrowly over the bar at the other end.
In the dying minutes, May’s clever turn and shot had Collin at full stretch before Frecklington was penalised for nudging over Semedo on the edge of the box paving the way for the ex-St Johnstone striker to strike a superb free-kick with his instep which flew in the air forcing Collin to punch clear as the game headed to a goalless draw as both sides had to settle for sharing local bragging rights.
Full-time:- Sheffield Wednesday 0 Rotherham United 0
Teams: Sheffield Wednesday- Westwood, Loovens, Semedo, May, Palmer, Maguire (Lee 65), Taylor-Fletcher (Nuhiu 38), Coke, Lees, Helan, Maghoma. Unused:- Kirkland, McCabe, Corry, Young, Dielna.
Rotherham- Collin, Skarz, Broadfoot, Frecklington, Revell, Green, Richardson, Pringle, Morgan, Taylor, Smallwood. Unused:- Loach, Wood, Bowery, Milsom, Derbyshire, Wordsworth, Clarke-Harris.