ROTHERHAM UNITED had to settle for their second goalless draw in as many weeks despite arguably having the upper hand against Nottingham Forest.
Emmanuel Ledesma came closest to breaking the deadlock when he smashed an effort against the visitors’ crossbar while Dexter Blackstock had a goal ruled out at the other end as both sides shared the spoils.
Following their hard-fought draw at Cardiff last time out, the Millers kept faith with their starting-line up for the visit of Stuart Pearce’s Forest side with the only change being on the bench with Joe Skarz replacing Frazer Richardson.
In the early stages, the Millers were almost the lucky beneficiaries of a mix-up in the Forest rearguard when Tom Lawrence’s ball upfield saw Alex Revell in hot pursuit but under little pressure, Kelvin Wilson fizzed a backpass towards the visitors’ goal and ‘keeper Karl Darlow took a swipe at an attempted clearance but fortunately for the Newcastle-bound stopper, he made enough of a connection to prevent the ball finding the net and he managed to bundle the ball clear with Revell looking to force the ball home from point-blank range.
Moments later, Ledesma showed fleet of foot to leave Michail Antonio in his wake before firing a cross which beat the advancing home runners before Wilson had to be on-hand with a superb sliding challenge to halt Lawrence’s marauding run moments later.
Just before the quarter hour, fine interplay involving Ledesma and Paul Green paved the way for Lawrence to try his luck from distance but his ambitious effort failed to trouble Darlow before Green blazed a shot well over the bar after Scott Wootton’s lay-off following Reece James’ deep centre.
In a rare foray by Forest, Antonio showed Wootton a quick pair of heels before floating a delicate cross which had Adam Collin backtracking nervously but the advancing Blackstock could not divert the ball goalwards at the far post.
Minutes later, Antonio again got the better of Wootton to fizz a cross which narrowly evaded the attentions of Britt Assombalonga before Ben Pringle’s daisycutter from just outside the box stung the palms of Darlow at the other end.
With half-time approaching, the Millers twice came within a whisker of the breakthrough when firstly Forest appealed vainly for a free-kick and following clever one-touch passing, Ledesma weighed up his options before firing a dipping effort from distance which seemingly moved in the air and with Darlow a helpless bystander, the ball smashed against the crossbar.
Moments later, the Millers attacked with menace as incisive passing released James’ down the left flank and the Manchester United loanee showed great awareness to pull the ball back into the path of Lawrence, who calmly stroked the ball towards goal but the ball agonisingly whistled the wrong side of the upright.
Danny Fox became the first to incur the wrath of the referee after being cautioned following the conclusion of the home attack before skipper Craig Morgan led from the front as he bravely put his body on the line as he threw himself at Antonio’s goalbound shot in first-half stoppage time.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Nottingham Forest 0
Following the interval, Forest were the quickest of the blocks with Antonio skipping down the byline before firing a centre which was met perfectly by the head of Henri Lansbury, who could not keep his header down as it flew over the bar.
At the other end, James curled an instinctive cross which was flicked on by Morgan into the path of Revell, who cushioned a volley which Darlow diverted into the path of Green, who looked to have the simple task of tapping home into the unguarded net but the assistant referee had already flagged for offside.
Moments later, another James’ centre caused havoc in the Forest rearguard and Ledesma fired a fierce half-volley which was bravely blocked by Lansbury on the edge of the box before Pringle became the first home player to see yellow after he attempted to cynically halt a Forest counter-attack.
Just before the hour mark, the Millers had a let-off when Jamie Paterson fired a tantalising corner which saw Blackstock rise above his marker before planting a header which hit the underside of the bar before finding the net but to the home fans’ relief, the referee adjudged he had climbed illegally and the goal was chalked off.
With the game in the balance, Rotherham countered superbly and superb interplay involving Ledesma and Lawrence bisected the Forest defence and the Leicester loanee pulled an inviting centre into the path of Pringle, who had the goal at his mercy, but he fluffed his lines as he hoicked an effort over the bar.
Moments later, Lawrence was the beneficiary of some neat home passing to curl a delightful effort which had Darlow anxiously looking over his shoulder as it fizzed narrowly over the crossbar before Ledesma fired an exocet effort from the tightest of angles which almost got the home fans’ off their seats as it whizzed narrowly wide.
The Millers came within inches of the decisive breakthrough when Lawrence released Revell down the right flank and although his cross missed the advancing Richie Smallwood, James pounced on the loose ball to drill a fierce left-footed effort which initially looked to wrongfoot Darlow, who despite diving the wrong way stuck out a leg to clear the danger.
With time running out, Eric Lichaj tried his luck with a speculative half-volley which flew harmlessly over the bar before Paterson’s superb mazy run and cross almost saw Assombalonga poke the ball home but he bizarrely failed to make contact with the goal gaping.
Lawrence became the next to see yellow for tripping Robert Tesche in full flight before sub Jordan Bowery almost made an immediate impact when his drilled cross was almost met by the head of Revell at the far post but he narrowly failed to make contact.
In the dying seconds, Fox blazed a free-kick harmlessly over the bar before sub Paul Taylor squandered an opportunity to test Darlow late on with a tame effort which dribbled to the visitors’ keeper.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 0 Nottingham Forest 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Arnason, Revell, Green, Pringle (Taylor 82), Morgan, Wootton, James, Ledesma (Bowery 86), Smallwood, Lawrence. Unused:- Thompson, Skarz, Newton, Brandy, Clarke-Harris.
Nottingham Forest- Darlow, Lichaj, Mancienne, Wilson, Assombalonga, Lansbury, Fox, Antonio, Paterson, Blackstock (Ince 76), Tesche. Unused:- De Vries, Fryatt, Lascelles, Hunt, Burke, Osborn.
Referee:- Richard Clark (Northumberland)
Attendance:- 11228 (2608).