ROTHERHAM UNITED earned their first point of their Championship campaign following a hard-fought draw with newly promoted Preston North End.
Following a drab first-half, the Roses clash livened up after the break as both teams searched for a winner but they had to settle for a share of the spoils as neither side were able to break the deadlock.
Following their narrow defeat at the hands of Nottingham Forest at the weekend, Millers chief Steve Evans kept faith with his starting line-up at the City Ground as left-back Joe Mattock passed a late fitness test to take his place.
Jonson Clarke-Harris was named amongst the substitutes for the first time this season as Danny Ward was unable to shrug off a knock sustained during his late cameo in Nottingham.
Following a slow opening by both sides, the home side had the first sight of goal when good work by Matt Derbyshire paved the way for Chris Maguire to try his luck from distance but his effort was blocked by a retreating John Welsh.
Moments later, Lewis Buxton had Paul Gallagher and Greg Cunningham in a daze as he showed fleet of foot near the touchline before fizzing a cross which Derbyshire looked to turn goalwards but his snap volley failed to trouble the target.
At the other end, Mattock’s superb tackle prevented Chris Humphrey breaking clear before Joe Newell looked to bulldoze his way into the visitors’ box but he lost his footing and the opportunity was lost.
Just before the half-hour, Preston were thankful to skipper Tom Clarke for a diving header to snuff out a tantalising centre from Greg Halford before Joe Garner had the Lilywhites’ first effort of note when he controlled Gallagher’s arrowed pass with effortless ease before firing a daisycutter from distance which was smothered by Kelle Roos in the home goal.
Minutes later, Halford became the first to see yellow for a cynical hack on Daniel Johnson to halt a lightning counter attack by the visitors before Garner soon joined him in the book as he was adjusted to have led with his arm during an aerial duel with the Millers’ skipper.
With half-time approaching, Mattock swung a delightful centre which looked inch-perfect for the run of Derbyshire but ‘keeper Jordan Pickford raced from his line to punch clear before Newell became the next to incur the wrath of referee David Coote when he was cautioned for a clumsy challenge on Clarke.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Preston North End 0
Following the interval, the home side had their hearts in their mouths when Clarke’s diagonal ball saw Garner get the better of the aerial challenge with Roos but fortunately for the Millers, Buxton was well-stationed to clear the danger from his own six-yard box.
Minutes later, the Millers’ failed to deal decisively with a long punt forward and Will Keane pounced on the loose ball to drive hard at Danny Collins as the last line of defence before blazing an effort over the bar.
At the other end, Newell drove hard from the middle of the park to drag a long-range effort harmlessly wide before Evans made a double substitution in a bid to spark the home side into life.
The move almost paid dividends when Newell skipped to the byline before delivering a centre which saw sub Jonson Clarke-Harris ghost away from his marker to plant a header which was deflected en-route to goal before the ex-Oldham frontman was inches away from connecting with Buxton’s drilled centre in the home side’s next attack.
Just before the hour mark, Mattock became the latest to see yellow as he tripped Keane in full flow before Clarke-Harris made something out of nothing to give Derbyshire a glimpse of goal but he was unable to threaten the goal as he was crowded out by a number of visiting defenders.
Minutes later, Richie Smallwood’s clipped ball was superbly flicked by Derbyshire into the path of Clarke-Harris, who fluffed his lines as he skied his effort into the home crowd.
Clarke-Harris was in the thick of the action as he was harshly yellow-carded for a late challenge on a visiting defender before sub Paul Green was on his toes to deny Johnson an opportunity to strike following a mazy run.
From the resultant corner, the visitors came within a whisker of the decisive breakthrough when Gallagher’s outswinging centre saw Bailey Wright rise highest to power a header which cannoned against the home bar before the ball rolled to safety.
With the game in the balance, sub Neil Kilkenny took advantage of a retreating home backline to fire a rasping effort which had Roos at full stretch before the Millers were again indebted to the Dutch stopper when he was well-stationed to gather Paul Huntington’s point-blank header.
In the dying minutes, Frecklington had a half chance on the edge of the box but he screwed his shot harmlessly wide of the target before sub Marnick Vermijl was cautioned for a crunching tackle on Aidy White in the last play of the game.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 0 Preston North End 0
Teams- Rotherham- Roos, Buxton, Mattock (Green 71), Collins, Maguire (White 56), Frecklington, Halford, Bowery (Clarke-Harris 56), Newell, Derbyshire, Smallwood. Unused- Collin, Ledesma, G Ward, Thorpe.
Preston- Pickford, Cunningham, Clarke, Wright, Humphrey (Vermijl 71), Keane (Kilkenny 71), Johnson, Gallagher, Garner, Welsh (Browne 90), Huntington. Unused- Kirkland, Woods, Reid, Brownhill.
Referee:- D. Coote
Attendance:- 9,078 (1,040).