ROTHERHAM UNITED were left scratching their heads as they had to be content with a share of the spoils despite dominating their clash with Blackpool after being pegged back by a late equaliser.
Home ‘keeper Joe Lewis single-handedly kept the Millers’ at bay in the first half with a string of fine saves including Tom Lawrence’s spot-kick
Emmanuel Ledesma finally gave the visitors’ a deserved lead just before the hour mark but sub Dom Telford had a Tangerine debut to remember when he struck late on following defensive hesitation from the Millers’.
Following their last-gasp draw with Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day, the Millers’ made three changes to their starting line-up for their second game in 48 hours.
Millers’ chief Steve Evans rewarded Jonson Clarke-Harris and Lee Frecklington for their substitute cameos against the Terriers as they were recalled to the first eleven at the expense of Alex Revell and Paul Green.
Jordan Bowery was also given an opportunity to impress in the Millers’ strikeforce as Ben Pringle had to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.
The visitors’ were quick out of the blocks and they had the first sight of goal when Clarke-Harris was wrestled to the floor by Peter Clarke on the edge of the box and from the resultant free-kick, Ledesma curled an effort around the home wall but Lewis dived smartly to his right to parry the ball to safety.
Moments later, Lawrence jinked past his marker to fire a tantalising cross into the danger area but Clarke-Harris despite looking a certain scorer could not make clean contact as he could only bundle the ball towards goal but a home defender and Lewis were able to keep the ball out.
The visitors’ were looking threatening in the early stages and following a clever flick-on by Clarke-Harris, Bowery fluffed his lines when he miscued with the goal gaping before Lawrence took advantage of another Rotherham raid when he cut in from the right flank before firing a bobbling effort which had Lewis at full stretch before David Perkins cleared the danger.
Moments later, Kari Arnason’s bullet throw was flicked on by skipper Craig Morgan and despite the efforts of Clarke-Harris and Bowery to force the ball goalwards, Blackpool belatedly hacked the ball clear but the relief was only temporary as Lawrence showed fleet of foot to pave the way for Frecklington to curl a delightful effort goalwards which brought the best out of Lewis, who produced a superb acrobatic save to keep the scores level.
The Millers’ were then handed a golden opportunity to open the scoring when Ledesma’s sweeping ball found Lawrence, who controlled expertly before Tony McMahon upended the Leicester loanee in the box and referee David Webb had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Lawrence dusted himself down to take the resultant penalty but to the agony of the Millers’ travelling support, Lewis dived correctly to his left to keep out his well-struck spot-kick.
The home side were buoyed by the save and Jacob Murphy had their first effort of note when he stung the palms of Adam Collin with an effort from distance before Nathan Delfouneso got the better of Richie Smallwood to drive for the visitors’ goal but he was snuffed out by Arnason as he looked to strike.
Just before the half-hour, Murphy blazed an effort over before Ledesma tried his luck with a curling effort from the edge of the box which flashed past the home upright.
Skipper Morgan then led from the front as he threw his body in the way of Murphy’s goalbound effort before Ledesma’s mazy run and shot was blocked by a retreating home defender.
Moments later, Frecklington’s clipped centre was inches away from Clarke-Harris before Murphy fired over a free-kick over after Smallwood was penalised for bundling over Chris Eagles on the edge of the box.
The Millers’ then came within a whisker of making the much-deserved breakthrough when Bowery took advantage of a clipped ball forward to cut inside to drill an effort through the legs of his marker but despite beating the outstretched hand of Lewis, the ball struck the woodwork before rolling to safety.
In the next phase of play, Smallwood tried his luck from distance but Lewis produced another smart save to keep the Millers’ at bay before a fine flowing move involving James and Lawrence paved the way for Ledesma to strike goalwards but his shot was blocked by the ruck of bodies in the box.
Half-time:- Blackpool 0 Rotherham United 0
Following the restart, the Millers’ had Arnason and Morgan to thank for preventing Delfouneso from turning the ball goalwards following good work by Charles Dunne near the byline.
The home side looked a rejuvenated outfit following the interval and following interplay between Eagles and O’Hara, the ex-Tottenham midfielder struck a low effort which was saved by Collin but the ball rolled invitingly into the path of Delfouneso, who calmly stroked the ball home, but his joy was tempered by the raising of the offside flag.
Moments later, there looked little danger when sub Andrea Orlandi picked up possession but he waltzed his way past a number of half-hearted visitors’ challengers to advance menacingly into the box and after clipping the ball past the attentions of Collin, it struck the upright before being cleared to safety.
The moment proved critical minutes later when Rotherham opened the scoring with their first real attack of the half.
The home defence found themselves backtracking following a long-ball forward and following Lawrence’s touch, the ball found Ledesma, who seemed to running down a cul-de-sac but the Middlesbrough loanee showed great awareness to jink the other way and after getting a yard on Dunne, he threaded a bobbling effort which beat the outstretched hand of Lewis to find the bottom corner of the goal.
The visitors’ were visibly lifted by the breakthrough and moments later, Lawrence’s deft flick found Clarke-Harris, who executed a delicate chip which sailed narrowly over the bar.
With 15 minutes to go, the duo combined again when Lawrence cut inside smartly from the left flank to float a centre with narrowly evaded the attentions of Clarke-Harris with the goal at his mercy, but any strike would have been chalked off for offside.
With time running out for the hosts, the Millers’ had their hearts in their mouths when Orlandi fizzed a rasping effort from distance which had Collin nervously diving across goal but it sailed narrowly over the bar.
However, the Millers’ did not heed the warning as Blackpool equalised with six minutes remaining.
After Revell was adjudged offside, the hosts punted the resultant free-kick forward and with no-one in the visitors’ rearguard taking charge, the ball bounced ominously towards goal and sub Telford pounced on the indecision to poke the ball past Collin to find the heart of the goal.
The visitors had the final say when sub Conor Newton struck a long-range effort narrowly wide of the target before Millers’ frustration was summed up when Frecklington saw yellow for cynically halting Murphy in full flight late on.
Full-time:- Blackpool 1 Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Blackpool- Lewis, Perkins (Orlandi 22), Clarke, Mellis (Waddington 69), Eagles (Telford 67), Delfouneso, Dunne, Murphy, McMahon, O’Hara, O’Dea. Unused:- Parish, Lundstram, Foley, O’Keefe
Rotherham- Collin, Arnason, Frecklington, Bowery, Morgan, Clarke-Harris (Newton 78), Wootton, James, Ledesma (Revell 71), Smallwood, Lawrence. Unused:- Thompson, Skarz, Green, Pringle, Yates.
Referee:- David Webb.