ROTHERHAM UNITED produced one of the comebacks of the season to earn a precious point in their fight for Championship survival as they came from three goals down with seven minutes remaining to stun high-flying Derby County.
Following a fairly even first period, the Rams came out firing after the break as a Tom Ince double and Chris Martin’s close range strike saw them race into a three-goal lead.
However, Warnock’s men refused to be beaten and Danny Ward and Leon Best reduced the arrears to give the home side hope of snatching a point and Best popped up with his second of the afternoon in the first minute of injury time- to send the home fans wild.
Following their heart-stopping victory over Middlesbrough in midweek, the Millers made four changes to their starting line-up for the visit of the Rams.
Former Welsh international Danny Collins was recalled to the heart of the Rotherham rearguard as Richard Wood missed out because of a hamstring strain while Stephen Kelly was given a chance to impress in the right-back slot as Frazer Richardson was also absent due to a hamstring injury sustained against the ‘Boro.
In the Millers engine room, Paul Green was given an opportunity to face his former club as Greg Halford was unavailable due his late red card against the Teessiders while Danny Ward was the preferred partner for Matt Derbyshire upfront as Leon Best was named amongst the substitutes.
The Millers almost stunned the visiting faithful with their first foray of note when skipper Kirk Broadfoot calmly strode away from defence after winning possession to play a slide-rule pass which split open the Rams backline and Danny Ward got on the wrong side of Richard Keogh to race towards goal and the ex-Huddersfield striker drilled a low effort which brought the best out of England ‘keeper Scott Carson, who got a strong hand to it to palm the ball to safety.
Minutes later, Joe Mattock became the first to see yellow for illegally halting a Derby counter before the home fans had their hearts in their mouths when Tom Ince’s mazy run had the Millers’ defence at sixes and sevens as he ghosted into the box to scoop a shoot which Lee Camp managed to push away from goal and fortunately for the Millers, Bradley Johnson was unable to turn the ball goalwards initially, before the ex-Norwich midfielder cross was hacked clear by a retreating defender.
In an eventful opening, Green picked up possession on halfway to curl a throughball which bisected the Derby rearguard but Jason Shackell was fortunate as his attempted clearance ricocheted off Derbyshire, who at once stage, looked like he was through on goal.
Moments later, Rotherham failed to clear their lines decisively and Johnson drilled an exocet-shot from distance which fizzed narrowly wide of the target before Jeff Hendrick’s weaving run and shot had Camp nervously scurrying across goal as the ball shaved the home upright.
Minutes later, Rams skipper Keogh rose highest to meet Ince’s deep corner but his looping header cleared the home crossbar before Marcus Olsson was well-stationed to head clear sub Grant Ward’s centre following good work by Danny Ward and Derbyshire in the build-up.
With half-time approaching, Ince teased and tormented the Millers backline to waltz into the box before firing a cross-cum-shot which dangerously fizzed across the box before the Millers had Camp to thank for going into the break level-pegging as quick passing split open the home defence paving the way for Chris Martin to bare down on goal but his precise effort to the bottom corner was superbly tipped away to safety by the home stopper.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Derby County 0
The visitors were quick out of the blocks in the second half and Ince had a snap shot bravely blocked by Richie Smallwood before Johnson dragged an effort harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, Ince was again the architect for the Rams as his right-footed cross was not dealt with decisively by the home rearguard and ball sat up kindly for Johnson, who volleyed over the bar from just outside the six-yard box.
The visitors were finally rewarded for their efforts ten minutes into the half when Rotherham failed to relieve the pressure after Olsson had skipped to the byline to float a centre and a poor defensive header saw Ince pounce on the loose ball to drill a low effort which beat the outstretched hand of Camp to find the bottom corner of the net.
The visitors were visibly lifted by the strike and Collins’ superbly timed tackle prevented Hendrick from striking goalwards following a purposeful run before the Rams missed a gift-wrapped opportunity to double their advantage when Ince and Christie combined smartly as the latter dribbled a cross which looked inch-perfect for Martin, to tap home at the back post, but the Scottish international fluffed his lines to miss the target from just yards out.
The Millers almost punished the Rams to the full when following pinball in and around the visitors’ box, Frecklington unleashed a fantastic volley which struck Danny Ward en-route to goal as the Rotherham striker looked to cleverly head the ball goalwards, but the ball flashed narrowly wide of the target.
However, Martin atoned for his earlier gilt-edged miss when Christie got to the byline to pull back a cross which Hendrick mis-hit into the path of Martin, who this time couldn’t miss, as he tapped home from close range.
The visitors effectively sealed the deal minutes later when Collins’ under hit backpass saw Camp short-changed and Martin closed down the home ‘keeper, who was unable to clear the danger, and the ball rolled tantalisingly into the path of Ince, who had the simple task of tapping home into the unguarded net.
The ex-Blackpool and Hull winger was the Millers tormentor-in-chief and he almost claimed the matchball when he latched onto a through ball to curl an effort which was straight down the throat of Camp.
The Millers refused to throw in the towel and they gave themselves a glimmer of hope near the end when Keogh’s misplaced pass was pounced upon by Grant Ward, who played the ball into the path of his namesake, who had ghosted away from his marker, and the ex-Huddersfield striker kept his nerve to slide the ball into the bottom corner of the net giving Carson no chance.
Moments later, sub Joe Newell made something out of nothing to embark on a mazy run but despite cutting in from the byline, his attempted shot was blocked at the near post by the leg of Shackell.
However, the Millers sensed a fightback could be on the cards and they reduced the deficit further when Smallwood’s corner was headed down into the danger area into the path of sub Best, who bundled the ball into the net despite the attentions of Carson from close range.
The visitors were visibly rattled and Grant Ward stung the palms of Carson with a fizzed drive from distance and with Broadfoot thrown forward as an emergency centre-forward, the Millers snatched a dramatic point in stoppage time when the ball was played to Danny Ward, who hoicked the ball into the box and Best, managed to get the better of his marker to power a header from point-blank range and despite Carson getting a hand to it, the ball found the visitors goal to send the AESSEAL New York Stadium into delirium.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 3 Derby County 3
Rotherham United 3
Derby County 3
Teams:- Rotherham- Camp, Kelly, Broadfoot, Collins, Mattock, Green (Best 69), Smallwood, Derbyshire (Newell 69), Frecklington, Thomas (G Ward 31), D Ward. Unused:- Kenny, Doyley, Burke, Clarke-Harris.
Derby- Carson, Christie, Bryson, Keogh, Hendrick, Martin (Bent 75), Shackell, Johnson, Ince, Thorne (Blackman 75), Olsson. Unused:- Grant, Buxton, Butterfield, Weimann, Hanson.
Referee:- D Webb
Attendance:- 11,163 (2621)