ROTHERHAM UNITED earned a valuable point in their fight for Championship survival following a hard-fought draw with Cardiff City.
It could have been even better for the Millers as Joe Newell’s first-half equaliser and an Anthony Pilkington own goal cancelled out Pilkington’s opener to put the Millers ahead but any visitors joy was short-lived as Pilkington went from villain to hero with his second of the afternoon.
Despite Lee Peltier seeing red near the end for the hosts, the Millers had to settle for a share of the spoils.
New signing Chris Burke was thrown immediately into the fray to face his former club just 24 hours after putting pen to paper on a loan deal until the end of the season.
Striker Matt Derbyshire was the player to make way for the Scottish international as gaffer Neil Redfearn strengthened his midfield options for the visit to South Wales with Danny Ward plying a lone furrow upfront.
Argentine striker Luciano Becchio was named amongst the Millers substitutes as he makes a second return to the club following his productive loan spell last season while former Millers hero Alex Revell was not part of the Bluebirds squad.
Following a slow start by both sides, Burke showed fleet of foot to evade the challenge of Peter Whittingham, who was forced to haul him down, but the Millers failed to make the resultant free-kick count when Newell’s centre was headed clear by the home defence.
Minutes later, Scott Malone skipped to the byline before firing a dangerous cross which was smothered by Lee Camp at his near post before the hosts had Peltier to thank for a timely header to prevent Newell meeting Burke’s dangerous centre at the other end.
Just past the twenty minute mark, the Millers failed to deal with a long punt forward and Pilkington’s flick-on was inviting for the run of Joe Mason, who toe-poked the ball past the advancing Camp but visiting skipper Kirk Broadfoot carefully watched the ball roll past the upright.
Moments later, Peltier’s pass split open the Rotherham rearguard and Pilkington got on the wrong side of his defender before bearing down on goal to drill an effort which was saved by the legs of Camp.
However, the ex-Huddersfield winger did not have to wait long to make his mark for the home opener as he ghosted in between two visiting defenders to take a throughball in his stride and he kept his nerve to steer the ball towards the bottom corner of the net giving Camp no chance as the ball found the net via the inside of the post.
The Millers responded bravely to the setback and Paul Green’s cross found Danny Ward at the far post, whose first-time shot was blocked en-route to goal by Peltier before Tunisian international Aimen Belaid showed his defensive instincts to block Pilkington’s arrowed shot at the other end.
Burke was proving a handful for his former employers and following an incisive run from the ex-Rangers winger, Malone managed to block his goalbound effort from the edge of the box before Danny Ward’s daisycutter from distance stung the palms of David Marshall in Rotherham’s next attack.
With half time approaching, the Millers levelled matters when Danny Ward’s ball forward saw Newell in a footrace with Marshall and the ex-Peterborough midfielder got their first before showing great composure to round the Scottish ‘keeper to smartly find the net from a tight angle.
Half-time:- Cardiff City 1 Rotherham United 1
The Millers were lifted by the equaliser on the stroke of half time and after Grant Ward and Matthew Connolly collided near the touchline, whereby both received treatment, the visitors took the lead in the next phase of play from the resultant corner.
Newell swung a delightful centre to the front post and with no Bluebird taking charge, the ball ricocheted off a retreating Pilkington and the ball squirmed into the corner of the net giving Marshall no chance.
The Millers were a transformed outfit and Newell’s clipped ball over the top saw Danny Ward break the offside trap to roll the ball back into the path of Burke, who fired a left-footed effort, which brought the best of Marshall, who parried the ball to safety.
Russell Slade’s men were looking for a foothold back in the clash and Pilkington was doing his utmost to atone for his error, when he firstly fired a snap shot which whistled narrowly over the away bar before he equalised just before the hour mark.
There looked little danger for the Millers until a ball over the top of the rearguard caught the Millers defence flat-footed and Pilkington showed his class when he skilfully dinked the ball over the advancing Camp as it found the heart of the visitors goal.
Minutes later, Cardiff almost turned the game on its head when firstly Pilkington went from finisher to provider to put sub Lex Immers in the clear but Belaid showed a good turn of pace to get back in position to block his snap shot before Peltier looked a certain scorer after meeting Whittingham’s tantalising free-kick on the run but he bizarrely flashed his header wide of the target despite having the goal at his mercy.
Peltier became the first to see yellow for a mistimed lunge on Danny Ward before there was a moment of controversy when Pilkington tumbled over a challenge in the box and while the Millers’ travelling contingent had their hearts in their mouths, referee Jeremy Simpson booked the winger-cum-striker was simulation rather than point to the spot.
Moments later, Immers flashed an effort narrowly wide of the target following Malone’s inviting cross before Bruno Ecuele Manga fluffed his lines when he blasted over the bar despite having jump Camp to beat with the Rotherham defence vainly appealing for an offside flag.
The home cause was not helped when Peltier was sent for an early bath following a clumsy tackle on sub Jonson Clarke-Harris but the home defence held firm near the end, as both teams had to settle for a point.
Full-time:- Cardiff City 2 Rotherham United 2
Cardiff City 2
Rotherham United 2
Cardiff- Marshall, Peltier, Manga, Whittingham (Ameobi 76), Ralls, Mason (Immers 59), Noone (Da Silva 85), Pilkington, Connolly, O’Keefe, Malone. Unused- Moore, Macheda, Dikgacoi, Gunnarsson.
Rotherham- Camp, Facey, Broadfoot, Belaid (Collins 86), Mattock; Green, Smallwood; Burke, G Ward, Newell (Becchio 67), D Ward (Clarke-Harris 79). Unused- Cairns, Richardson, Rawson, Derbyshire.
Referee:- J Simpson