SUPER-SUB Matt Derbyshire was the Rotherham United hero as his extra-time penalty saw his side advance to the League Cup second round at the expense of Fleetwood Town.
Following their narrow defeat at the hands of Derby County at the weekend, gaffer Steve Evans reshuffled his pack by making six changes to his starting line-up.
Ex-England U21 ‘keeper Scott Loach was handed his Millers’ competitive debut while Richard Wood was given an opportunity to impress at the heart of the home rearguard alongside skipper Craig Morgan.
Michael Tidser was handed a start in the Millers’ engine room with flying winger Ryan Hall expected to provide the ammunition for club record signing Jordan Bowery supported by Chelsea loanee John Swift, who was playing in the hole behind him.
The England youth international was in the thick of the action in the early stages when he ghosted past Conor McLaughlin and Josh Morris with a minimum of fuss before pulling the ball back into the path of Kieran Agard, who in turn gave Bowery a glimpse of goal but the ex-Villa striker failed to get his shot away before he was crowded out.
In the next phase of play, Hall delivered a tantalising inswinging corner which was spilled by Chris Maxwell under his own crossbar but no red shirt was in attendance to turn the ball goalwards.
Moments later, fine interplay between Tidser and Bowery paved the way for Swift to instinctively strike towards goal but visitors’ skipper Nathan Pond bravely blocked his effort.
The Millers were looking the most likely with Swift tormenting the visitors and after a drop of the shoulder by the midfield maestro left Matty Blair in his wake, he unleashed a fantastic skimming effort which had Maxwell nervously scurrying across goal as it whistled narrowly wide of the target.
Minutes later, Fleetwood had a let-off when Agard lost his footing under the challenge of McLaughlin seemingly in the box but the referee adjudged the infringement to be outside before Hall’s resulting free-kick fizzed over the advancing home runners.
In the visitors’ first foray of note, Gareth Evans almost came back to haunt his former club when he waltzed into the box before firing a rasping effort which cleared the home crossbar.
Just past the half-hour mark, Bowery’s mazy run and shot failed to trouble Maxwell before Hall stung the palms of the visiting ‘keeper with a snap shot from just outside the box.
Minutes later, Swift was again at the heart of the home side’s attacking momentum when he advanced menacingly towards the visiting box before giving Tidser, a sight of goal but his sliced effort failed to trouble the target.
With half-time approaching, the Millers were caught napping by a lightning counter-attack by the visitors which saw Evans’ clipped ball being caught on the volley by Jamie Proctor as the ball flew narrowly wide of the home goal.
At the other end, the lively Swift had a shot deflected wide before the Millers’ came within a whisker of the breakthrough when Hall’s resultant corner was not dealt with decisively by the visitors’ defence and the on-rushing Morgan struck a fantastic effort which the inside of his foot but Maxwell showed good reflexes to smother his goalbound effort.
Morgan soon turned from hero to villain when he became the first to see yellow for tugging back Proctor as he looked to break quickly and Evans’ almost made the home side pay from the resultant free-kick when his cross-cum-shot whistled past the home upright.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Fleetwood Town 0
Following the restart, the Millers were quick out of the blocks and following a period of pressure, Swift’s delicate pass put Joe Skarz in the clear and the ex-Bury full-back cut inside on his weaker right foot before angling a shot which had Maxwell at full stretch, who parried the ball to safety.
Minutes later, Swift continued to be tormentor in chief as he had the Fleetwood defence in a daze as he worked a shooting position but his effort was bravely blocked by a retreating defender before Agard fired a tame rebound effort into the grateful hands of Maxwell.
In the next phase of play, Tidser blazed over from distance before a fine flowing move by the home side saw Skarz give Hall, a shooting opportunity but his instinctive effort was deflected narrowly over.
Just past the hour mark, the home side nearly fell victim to the sucker punch from the visitors when former Millers loanee Morris curled a delightful ball over the home rearguard and Blair broke clear but Loach was quick off his line to narrow his shooting angle as he snuffed out the danger.
Moments later, Evans’ ghosted infront of his marker in the box but Loach was well-stationed to collect his deft flick before the Millers’ made a double substitution with Alex Revell and Derbyshire entering the fray.
The move failed to spark the home side into life as both sides squandered possession all too easy before Fleetwood came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock on two occasions in quick succession.
Firstly, an incisive ball forward caught the Millers’ defence square and Evans’ beat the offside trap to race towards goal before deciding to take his shot early but Loach stood up tall to block his drilled effort.
The ex-Miller then turned creator from the resultant corner when Rotherham failed to clear decisively and Nathan Pond pounced at the far post but he could not direct his effort goalwards under pressure from the home defence.
With normal time running out, Tidser curled an effort wide of the target before the home side almost made the decisive strike with five minutes to go when Paul Green’s slide-rule pass was perfect for the advancing run of Revell, who struck a low effort which beat the outstretched hand of Maxwell but whistled past the upright.
The Millers suffered more agony moments later when a quick counter attack had the visitors’ defence at sixes and sevens and after Derbyshire cleverly ran into the channel, his pinpoint centre looked inviting for the advancing Green, who stroked the ball goalwards but the ball agonisingly hammered against the post before squirming to safety.
With the game on a knife-edge, Skarz took one for the team as he earned a caution for hauling down Evans in full flight with the Millers’ short of defensive cover as the game went into extra time.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 0 Fleetwood Town 0
Following the resumption of affairs, Rotherham had the first sight of goal when Green’s curling cross found the head of Agard, whose glancing header fizzed narrowly wide.
At the other end, Stewart Murdoch’s carefully flighted delivery into the box was caught sweet on the volley by Antoni Sarcevic, who looked to guide the ball into the bottom corner but the ball flashed wide of the home goal.
With neither side on top, Proctor dragged an ambitious effort harmlessly wide before sub Adam Campbell fired a rising effort over the bar from an acute angle.
First period of extra-time:- Rotherham United 0 Fleetwood Town 0
However, the Millers were gifted an opportunity to score the decisive goal just minutes into the second period of extra time.
There looked little danger when a hopeful ball was planted forward by the Millers but Pond made a mess of an attempted backheader and Derbyshire pounced on the loose ball and although Maxwell was quick off his line, the ex-Forest tumbled under the challenge of the Fleetwood skipper, who looked to atone for his mistake and referee Nigel Miller had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Derbyshire extracted his own retribution from the resultant penalty when he calmly stroked the ball past the outstretched hand of Maxwell into the bottom corner of the goal.
The visitors had chances to take the game to spot-kicks but Sarcevic fired over from the edge of the box before McLaughlin tried his luck from distance with a bobbling effort which had Loach at full stretch as it shaved the far post.
Evans then had a snap shot blocked by a retreating defender in the final seconds as the Millers narrowly held on earn their place in the second round hat.
Second period of extra-time:- Rotherham United 1 Fleetwood Town 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Loach, Skarz, Broadfoot, Wood, Hall (Pringle 91), Bowery (Revell 66), Green, Morgan, Agard, Tidser, Swift (Derbyshire 66). Unused:- Collin, Brindley, Newton, Sadler.
Fleetwood- Maxwell, McLaughlin, Murdoch, Pond, Evans, Morris, Hogan (Ball 112), Blair (Campbell 65), Sarcevic, Proctor, Jordan. Unused:- Davies, Schumacher, Cresswell, Hughes, Crainey
Referee:- Nigel Miller
Attendance:- 4487 (143).