ROTHERHAM United were left scratching their heads as they had to settle for a share of the spoils against Fulham despite dominating the proceedings at Craven Cottage.
Matt Derbyshire’s early strike put the Millers in charge before Kirk Broadfoot struck the woodwork with half-time approaching.
Ross McCormack levelled matters against the run of play before the home side weathered a late visitors’ storm as both sides had to settle for a point as they fight for Championship survival.
Following their weekend defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough, the Millers made four changes to their starting line-up for the visit to the capital.
Club skipper Craig Morgan returned at the heart of the Millers rearguard at the expense of Richard Wood, who had to settle for a substitutes berth while Lee Frecklington returned to the visitors engine room as Paul Green missed out.
Millers chief Steve Evans also reshuffled his attacking options as Ben Pringle and Danny Ward returned to the starting line-up as Huddersfield loanee Adam Hammill and Jordan Bowery were named amongst the substitutes.
The Millers were quick out of the blocks and they almost stunned the home faithful within thirty seconds when Pringle’s threaded pass released Ward on the left flank, who fizzed a tantalising cross which saw Matt Derbyshire nip infront of his marker to deftly flick the ball towards goal but agonisingly for the Millers, the ball whizzed the wrong side of the upright.
Minutes later, the Cottagers had Dan Burn to thank for keeping Derbyshire at bay after Frecklington and Daniel Lafferty combined to great effect to see the latter swing another inviting cross which saw Derbyshire look to poke the ball home before the intervention of the home defender.
However, it was third time lucky for the ex-Olympiakos striker from the resultant corner as the Millers took the lead after four minutes.
Pringle swung a tantalising centre which was aimed towards the head of Kirk Broadfoot but as the home side failed in vain to clear their lines, Derbyshire showed his predatory instincts to poke the ball into the corner of the home net.
The home side almost levelled matters in their first foray of note when Danny Guthrie’s corner saw Matt Smith rise highest to plant a goalbound header which Jack Hunt cleared from underneath his own crossbar before Burn slashed the rebound well wide of the target.
Just past the quarter hour, the Millers came within a whisker of doubling their advantage when another Pringle corner caused mayhem with Burn heading skywards and Morgan won the aerial dual to present Broadfoot with a chance to head goalwards but his point-blank header was straight down the throat of Marcus Bettinelli.
Moments later, Bettinelli took a chance when he dwelt in possession and Derbyshire almost charged down his clearance but the home side were indebted to their ‘keeper for keeping them in the game minutes later.
Kari Arnason’s floated ball over the top was misjudged by Burn, which saw Derbyshire get on the wrong side of him to close in on goal before striking a fierce goalbound effort but the Cottagers stopper showed fantastic reflexes to keep the ball out.
Minutes later, Hunt’s clipped ball saw Derbyshire cleverly flick the ball into the path of Ward, who struck an instinctive effort which narrowly cleared the home crossbar before Morgan’s crossfield pass was controlled superbly by Pringle, who shrugged off the attentions of Jazz Richards before pulling the ball back into the path of the ex-Huddersfield striker, who looked to stroke the ball into the far corner of the net but the ball fizzed the wrongside of the post.
With half-time approaching, Fulham missed a gilt-edged chance to level matters against the run of play when the Rotherham defence was caught square and Costa Rican international Bryan Ruiz got on the wrong side of Hunt to advance menacingly towards goal but Emi Martinez stood up tall to firstly narrow his angle and bravely block his goalbound effort at his near post.
In first half stoppage time, Pringle was again the architect with a deep cross which saw Morgan rise highest to plant the ball back into the danger area and Broadfoot showed fleet of foot to work a shooting position to smash a fierce effort whereby a combination of Bettinelli and the woodwork kept the ball out.
Half-time:- Fulham 0 Rotherham United 1
Following the restart, Fulham had the first sight of goal but Ross McCormack fluffed his lines as he blazed a long-range free-kick into the home faithful before Bettinelli had a stroke of luck when he was adjudged to have handled outside the box as Derbyshire looked to get on the end of Hunt’s long punt but referee Andy Davies bizarrely decided to take no action.
From the resultant free-kick, Pringle overcooked his free-kick as it sailed harmlessly wide of the target before Guthrie became the first to see yellow for a late tackle on Richie Smallwood.
Just before the hour mark, Pringle embarked on a mazy run which had Fulham heads in a spin before he struck a dipping effort from the edge of the box which stung the palms of Bettinelli before McCormack was inches away from turning home sub Tim Hoogland’s mishit cross-cum-shot at the other end.
Moments later, Smith’s downward header from James Husband’s centre had Martinez nervously scurrying across goal before Fulham levelled matters when Scott Parker’s arrowed pass saw Smith neatly flick the ball into the path of McCormack, who controlled smartly before scuffing an effort which hit the inside of the post before finding the visitors net.
The Millers responded superbly and Pringle’s inswinging corner saw Ward throw his body towards the ball but his glancing header fizzed through a ruck of bodies but failed to trouble the home goal.
With the game in the balance, Broadfoot was fortunate to escape with a yellow card after illegally halting McCormack’s progress on the edge of the box before the ex-Leeds striker dusted himself down to take the resultant free-kick, but he blazed his shot over the bar.
Minutes later, McCormack did superbly to retrieve a lost cause to fire a wicked cross which was inch-perfect for Hoogland, but he blazed his point-blank header over with the goal gaping before Burn was the next to see yellow for tripping Derbyshire on the edge of the box.
Centre-half partner Michael Turner soon joined him in the book for hauling down Derbyshire in full flight before Derbyshire came within inches of giving Rotherham the victory they richly deserved when he looked to latch onto Hunt’s inviting cross but a retreating defender snuffed out the danger with a last-ditch header.
Full-time:- Fulham 1 Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Fulham- Bettinelli, Parker, Smith, Ruiz, Guthrie, Turner, Tunnicliffe (Hoogland 54), Husband, Richards, Burn, McCormack. Unused:- Kiraly, Stafylidis, Hutchinson, Woodrow, Rodallega, Kavanagh.
Rotherham- Martinez, Lafferty, Arnason, Broadfoot, Frecklington, Pringle, Morgan, Ward, Derbyshire, Hunt, Smallwood. Unused:- Collin, Wood, Bowery, Green, Milsom, Hammill, Wilson.
Referee:- A. Davies.