ROTHERHAM United earned a valuable point in their fight for Championship survival as they claimed a share of the spoils with Birmingham City despite finishing the game with nine men.
In a eventful opening to Neil Warnock’s reign at the Rotherham helm, the Millers showed great resolve to earn a goalless draw despite both Richard Wood and Joe Mattock being shown red for two bookable offences in the latter stages of the game
Warnock made two changes to the home starting line-up for the visit of Gary Rowett’s Blues.
Experienced midfielder Paul Green returned to the Millers engine room as Andrew Shinnie was ineligible to face his parent club while last season’s top scorer Matt Derbyshire partnered Danny Ward upfront as Tottenham loanee Grant Ward had to settle for a substitutes berth.
Warnock was given a rapturous welcome by the AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful as he took his place in the Rotherham dugout for the first time alongside his assistant Kevin Blackwell.
Following a slow opening by both teams, the visitors had the first sight of goal when Jacques Maghoma tried his luck from distance and his dragged effort almost fell kindly for the onrushing Clayton Donaldson, who was inches away from reaching his cross-cum-shot.
Maghoma was in the thick of the early action and his drilled cross was smothered by Lee Camp at the second attempt by his near post before Rotherham had their first foray of note when Camp punted a long ball forward which saw Danny Ward stick out a leg as he looked to make a timely contact towards goal but the ball evaded his attentions.
Moments later, Rotherham failed to deal with Ryan Shotton’s bullet throw and City had a two-on-one at the far post which saw Maghoma take Frazer Richardson out of the game to give Jonathan Grounds a sight of goal but the full-back fluffed his lines when his tame shot failed to trouble Camp.
The Millers came within a whisker of the opener when Chris Burke worked hard to win a corner paving the way for Joe Newell to swing a tantalising centre which was knocked down by an unmarked Kirk Broadfoot into the six-yard box whereby Paul Green was agonisingly inches away from turning the ball home.
Moments later, Derbyshire almost came back to haunt his former club when he left Paul Robinson in his wake to advance with menace into the Blues box to strike a rasping effort which Tomasz Kuszczak was forced to parry over.
The Polish ‘keeper was called into action again when Richardson’s hanging cross saw Richard Wood have an aerial duel with the Blues stopper and the ball rolled tantalisingly into the path of Danny Ward, who struck an effort which was blocked en-route to goal by Michael Morrison, with the home fans appealing the ball had struck his hand but the referee waved away home protests.
The Millers had stepped on the gas and Danny Ward fired a daisycutter which stung the palms of Kuszczak before the ex-Huddersfield striker blazed a volley over in Rotherham’s next attack.
Joe Mattock became the first to see yellow for a late lunge on Will Buckley before Richie Smallwood’s clipped ball saw Danny Ward volley into the danger area but Shotton was on-hand to prevent Derbyshire turning the ball goalwards.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Birmingham City 0
Following the interval, the visitors were inches away from making the breakthrough when Newell was penalised for bundling over Shotton and Maikel Kieftenbeld swung an inviting free-kick which was inch-perfect for the run of Paul Robinson, who headed narrowly wide of the target with Camp a helpless bystander.
Moments later, Jon Toral’s threaded ball saw Wood in a footrace with Donaldson which saw the Blues striker get there narrowly ahead of the home defender, who hauled him over, which earned Wood a caution before Kieftenbeld became the next to incur the wrath of the referee when he cynically brought Derbyshire down near the touchline to join him in the book.
Just before the hour mark, a clever ball between two defenders saw Burke sneak around the back of the Blues rearguard and the Forest loanee drilled a low cross to the near post which saw Shotton block Derbyshire’s attempt to turn the ball home from close range before the ball fell kindly for Danny Ward, whose snap shot was smartly smothered by the body of Kuszczak
At the other end, Wood’s misplaced pass saw Toral give Donaldson a glimpse of goal and the Blues striker fired a rasping effort which had Camp at full stretch as he palmed the ball to safety.
Moments later, Newell’s clever cross found Danny Ward in acres of space but his header flashed wide of the target when he maybe should have done better before Broadfoot headed wide from Smallwood’s deep corner in the Millers’ next attack.
With little between the sides, Newell’s eye-of-a-needle pass saw Danny Ward try an ambitious effort from distance which had Kuszczak nervously scurrying across goal as it whistled past the upright.
The Millers had Camp to thank for preserving parity when Toral’s perfectly weighted pass saw Maghoma race clear but the Rotherham ‘keeper kept his nerve as he stood up tall to smother his attempted dink.
Just seconds after Rotherham made a double substitution, the home side’s hopes of winning the game suffered a blow when Wood received a second yellow card after Donaldson tumbled over his challenge.
Warnock reshuffled his pack with newly introduced Greg Halford reverting to a central defensive position after being initially employed on the right hand side of midfield.
Halford proved his worth immediately when he was on-hand with a superb headed clearance which snuffed out Grounds’ dangerous centre before he proved a handful further forward with an acrobatic effort which narrowly cleared the visitors bar, but any goal would have been chalked off by the referee.
In the dying seconds, Mattock became the next to be sent for an early bath when he was shown a second yellow card, apparently for time wasting.
Despite the numerical deficit, the Millers held firm to open their points account under their new boss.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 0 Birmingham City 0
Rotherham United 0
Birmingham City 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Camp, Mattock, Broadfoot, Wood, D Ward, Green, Burke (G Ward 78), Richardson, Newell (Halford 78), Derbyshire (Clarke-Harris 64), Smallwood. Unused- Cairns, Buxton, Collins, Yates.
Birmingham- Kuszczak, Grounds, Robinson, Kieftenbeld, Gleeson, Donaldson, Maghoma (Solomon-Otabor 78), Toral (Fabbrini 82), Morrison, Buckley (Cotterill 85), Shotton. Unused- Legzdins, Spector, Davis, Caddis
Referee- R Clark
Attendance- 11,018 (2614)