NEW Millers chief Alan Stubbs had an entertaining start to his Rotherham reign as his side shared four goals with Wolverhampton Wanderers on the opening day of their Championship campaign.
At a sun-drenched AESSEAL New York Stadium, the Millers got off to the perfect start when Danny Ward opened the scoring with a fine header before Will Vaulks’ crowned his debut with a fantastic long-range effort to double their advantage.
Before the interval, George Saville gave Walter Zenga’s men a foothold in the clash and despite Dominic Iorfa seeing red early in the second half, Icelandic international Jon Dadi Bodvarsson earned the visitors a share of the spoils with a smart finish.
Stubbs granted competitive debuts to four of his close season signings for the visit of the West Midlanders.
Playmakers Vaulks and Jake Forster-Caskey formed a new midfield axis alongside Lee Frecklington while Anthony Forde and Jon Taylor, signed from Peterborough for a club-record fee this week, were asked to provide the ammunition to Millers frontman Ward.
Recent signings Kelvin Wilson and Scott Allan were named amongst the home substitutes alongside former Owls stopper Lewis Price.
The visitors had the first sight of goal when James Henry’s corner was only half-cleared into the path of Dave Edwards, but the Welsh international could not control his shot as it ballooned over the bar.
At the other end, the Millers countered with purpose with Ward’s flick-on releasing Taylor, who cut inside Iorfa but the explosive winger passed on the opportunity to shoot before the home side were crowded out by retreating Wolves defenders.
Moments later, Forde won a tussle with Matt Doherty to win a corner before the Millers stunned the visitors faithful by breaking the deadlock in the next phase of play.
The ex-Walsall winger swung a tantalising centre into the danger area and Ward ghosted away from his marker, in the six-yard box, before skilfully guiding a header past the outstretched hand of Carl Ikeme as the ball nestled in the bottom corner of the visitors net.
The Millers were visibly buoyed by the opening strike and they doubled their advantage in spectacular fashion as Vaulks made himself an instant hero with the home faithful.
The visitors needlessly gave the ball away in their own half and some fine one-touch passing by the touchline presented the ex-Falkirk midfielder with the chance to control the ball before firing a fantastic dipping effort from distance which seemed to deceive Ikeme in the air as it flew into the Wolves goal.
Just before the half hour mark, Bodvarsson’s deft flick paved the way for Jed Wallace to cut inside before firing a low effort from the edge of the box which stung the palms of Lee Camp, who parried the ball to safety.
The Millers were rarely threatened but against the run of play, Wolves got themselves back into the game when an innocuous ball forward from Doherty caught the home defence napping and Saville timed his forward run to perfection and the visiting midfielder kept his nerve to round Camp, before sliding the ball into the heart of the Millers goal from an acute angle.
Half-time: Rotherham United 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
The Millers were almost caught sleeping at the start of the second half when a long ball forward saw Henry get the better of Richard Wood near the touchline but his slide rule pass across the face of goal was cleared by a retreating home defender.
However, the Millers hopes of victory were given a timely boost, just eight minutes into the half, when the visitors were reduced to ten men.
Camp plucked Henry’s corner out of the air before drilling a long kick forward where Taylor was left one-on-one with Iorfa and the speedy winger got the first touch before appearing to be pulled back and referee Scott Duncan had no hesitation in brandishing the red card to the Wolves defender.
Taylor almost exacted his own form of retribution from the resultant free-kick but his skimming effort curled harmlessly wide of the target before Vaulks tried his luck, with another free-kick just minutes later, but his long range effort blazed over the bar.
Minutes later, Ward came within inches of connecting to Stephen Kelly’s dangerous centre with the goal at his mercy before Saville became the first to see yellow for a late tackle on Kirk Broadfoot.
Just past the hour mark, Doherty cut inside menacingly from the right flank before fizzing an effort which was straight down the throat of Camp before the visitors levelled matters, in their next foray of note.
There looked little danger for the home side when sub Joao Teixeira picked up possession but he ran hard at the Millers defence before sliding the ball into the path of Bodvarsson, who got a yard on Broadfoot, before striking a rasping effort, from a tight angle, which flew into the top corner of the Millers goal.
The home side’s frustration boiled over when firstly Kelly was shown a yellow card for hauling over Bodvarsson before Vaulks soon joined him in the book for a late tackle on Teixeira.
In the dying minutes, Wolves almost stole the points when Bodvarsson clever turn and pass gave sub Joe Mason, a glimpse of goal, but his tame effort failed to trouble Camp before Ward had Rotherham’s final effort of note with a rasping drive which was smartly gathered by Ikeme on his own line.
Full-time: Rotherham United 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2
Rotherham United 2
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Camp, Kelly, Mattock (Thorpe 71), Vaulks, Broadfoot, Wood, Forde, Frecklington (Smallwood 68), Ward, Forster-Caskey (Allan 76), Taylor. Unused- Price, Halford, Wilson, Yates.
Wolves- Ikeme, Doherty, Edwards, Batth, Henry (Teixeira 63), Saville, Wallace, (Mason 46) Evans, Iorfa, Bodvarsson (Costa 88), Hause. Unused- Lonergan, Coady, Price, Deslandes.
Referee- S Duncan
Attendance- 11291 (2567)