JORDAN Bowery’s third goal of the season helped Rotherham United drag themselves out of the Championship relegation zone but it was not enough to earn victory as Blackpool equalised late in the game.
Despite a bright opening, the Millers were largely frustrated by the Seasiders until Bowery popped up from the bench to put the home side ahead.
However, the Millers’ joy proved short-lived as sub Steve Davies took advantage of ‘keeper Adam Collin’s miscued clearance to give the Lancastrians a share of the spoils.
Following their disappointing defeat at the hands of Birmingham City last weekend, the Millers reshuffled the pack by making seven changes to their starting line-up.
The home side had a new look defence with Scottish international Kirk Broadfoot recalled to face his former club at the heart of the Rotherham defence as Leeds loanee Scott Wootton and Manchester United’s Reece James were handed their Millers’ debuts in the full-back berths.
Midfielder Paul Green was also recalled as gaffer Steve Evans decided to freshen up the Millers’ attacking options with Argentinian winger Emmanuel Ledesma expected to provide the ammunition for an all-changed strikeforce of Leicester forward Tom Lawrence and Matt Derbyshire, who were entrusted to end the Millers’ goal drought which has lasted throughout November.
The Millers were quick of the blocks and following fine approach play involving Lawrence and James, Ben Pringle delivered a tantalising centre which had visiting skipper Peter Clarke at full stretch as he almost deflected the ball towards his own goal.
Moments later, Rotherham again attacked with menace and following hard work by Lawrence to win possession on the edge of the box, Ledesma dragged a shot across the face of goal which agonisingly missed the outstretched leg of Derbyshire, who flung himself goalwards in an attempt to notch his first league goal of the campaign.
Lawrence was proving a handful for the Seasiders in the early stages and he got on the wrong side of the Blackpool rearguard following a punt forward but his instinctive effort was blocked by a retreating defender before a sweeping ball forward saw James control superbly before paving the way for the Leicester loanee to cut inside before unleashing a rising effort which was superbly parried to safety by Joe Lewis.
Despite the Millers being in the ascendancy, Blackpool almost stunned the home faithful with their first foray of note when Tom Kennedy worked a crossing position to float a delicate centre which was met by the head of Nile Ranger, who steered a header towards the bottom corner but Adam Collin showed fleet of foot to shuffle across his goal to parry the ball to safety.
Normal service was resumed when Ledesma fired a speculative effort from distance which was deflected behind before Lawrence showed fantastic technique to fire the resultant corner with pace and whip which had Lewis backtracking nervously as the ball fizzed narrowly wide of the target.
Moments later, Ledesma and Lawrence almost combined to great effect but the visitors got back in numbers’ before Richie Smallwood’s eye-of-a-needle pass gave Lawrence a sight of goal but he fluffed his lines when he blazed over the bar.
The Millers were temporarily short-handed as Broadfoot had to leave the field with what appeared to be a shoulder injury and with Icelandic international Kari Arnason waiting to join the fray, Kennedy swung a delightful centre which saw Ranger tower above the makeshift defence to bundle a header which narrowly cleared the crossbar.
With half-time approaching, Green became the first to see yellow when he cynically hauled back Jacob Murphy as he raced towards the home goal.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Blackpool 0
Following the restart, Green almost turned from villain to hero when his delicate centre almost saw Derbyshire sneak behind the visitors’ defence but Clarke stuck out a leg to divert the ball away from the ex-Olympiakos striker.
Moments later, Lawrence dribbled a low effort from distance which was comfortably gathered by Lewis before Arnason’s error presented Chris Eagles with the chance to strike a bobbling effort which stung the palms of Collin, who spilled the ball initially before the danger was snuffed out.
Just before the hour mark, Jamie O’Hara struck a long range effort which had Collin scrambling across goal as it whistled narrowly wide of the upright before Pringle fired a dangerous centre which evaded all the home runners.
The Millers missed a gilt-edged chance to break the deadlock after Derbyshire was flattened by Clarke giving Ledesma the opportunity to curl the resultant free-kick into the path of Green, who was in acres of space but he was unable to steer the ball goalwards as the ball flashed wide of the target.
Moments later, Green had another half-chance after the Seasiders’ failed to clear decisively but his goalbound shot was bravely blocked by Clarke before Ledesma became the next to incur the wrath of the referee as he was carded for upending Murphy.
With the game in the balance, the Millers were indebted to Arnason for keeping the scores level as he prevented Eagles from sneaking behind the home defence following Kennedy’s delightful cross before Wootton showed bravery to throw himself infront of Davies’ shot from the edge of the box moments later.
With the game entering the final quarter hour, Rotherham made the breakthrough when they turned defence into attack with the blink of an eye.
There looked little danger until Ledesma’s flicked ball over the top caught the visitors’ rearguard at sixes and sevens and the ball was flicked on by Derbyshire into the path of Bowery, who showed composure to cut inside the retreating defence before drilling a low effort which beat the outstretched hand of Lewis to find the bottom corner of the net.
The Millers’ joy almost proved short-lived when sub Nathan Delfouneso made something out of nothing as he ghosted in from the left flank but his effort from the edge of the box sailed narrowly over the bar.
Moments later, Clarke headed over before the Seasiders silenced the home crowd as they dragged themselves back on level terms with five minutes remaining.
A long punt forward by the visitors looked innocuous enough but with the Rotherham defence turned and with Davies in hot pursuit, Collin wanted to take charge but he made a hash of his attempted clearance as he missed the ball completely and Davies pounced the slide the ball into the unguarded net despite the last-gasp efforts of Morgan and Arnason to keep the ball out.
The Millers responded bravely and Green’s floated ball saw sub Alex Revell tower above his marker to plant a header which had Lewis backtracking nervously as it narrowly cleared the crossbar before Pringle’s superb corner saw Wootton rise highest to power a downward header which was cleared off the line by a well-stationed defender.
In stoppage time, David Perkins fired a rasping effort over before Rotherham’s frustration boiled over when Pringle tripped Eagles in full flow in the dying seconds as both sides’ had to settle for a point each.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Blackpool 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Broadfoot (Arnason 42), Green, Pringle, Morgan, Derbyshire, Wootton, James, Ledesma (Revell 82), Smallwood, Lawrence (Bowery 69). Unused:- Thompson, Frecklington, Taylor, Clarke-Harris.
Blackpool- Lewis, Perkins, Clarke, Eagles, Ranger (Davies 46), Murphy (Miller 79), Foley, O’Hara, Kennedy, Nosworthy, O’Keefe (Delfouneso 58). Unused:- Parish, Orlandi, Dunn, Waddington
Referee:- Tony Harrington
Attendance:- 9381 (863).