Rotherham United had to settle for a share of the Sky Bet Championship spoils after Bristol City came from behind to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Goals from Izzy Brown and Greg Halford either side of the half had the Millers ahead but a valiant showing from Lee Johnson’s Robins saw them restore parity courtesy of strikes from Tammy Abraham and Bobby Reid.
Alan Stubbs freshened his side up with three changes following the international break with the clash against Bristol City allowing him to hand a Millers debut to deadline day acquisition Dael Fry.
Greg Halford returned to the fold with Dominic Ball partnering him in a deep midfield pairing while there was a welcome return from long-term absentee Joe Newell who took to the starting 11 for the first time since last season.
The first goalmouth action came in Lee Camp’s area from a Bristol City set piece moments before the two-minute mark when Robins’ defender Aden Flint rose highest in the area to direct a Lee Tomlin corner at goal, only to be thwarted by a sea of retreating red shirts.
However, the hosts had a golden opportunity to take the lead from the most unlikely of sources when the ball dropped for the masked figure of Ball in the area following a Danny Ward knockdown, only to be denied on the volley by a brave O’Donnell save.
That missed chance would not play on the minds of the Millers for long and they found themselves ahead moments after five minutes had elapsed as Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown pounced in the area.
A breakdown in communication between defender and goalkeeper on the edge of the 18 yard box was seized upon by the England Under 20 international who raced between the two to prod the ball beyond O’Donnell before gleefully tapping the ball into the empty net.
Despite being without his usual deputy, Lee Camp appeared unaffected in the early stages and had to be on his game when in-form Bristol City frontman Tammy Abraham improvised in the area with a backheel which required a stooping save from the Millers number one to preserve his side’s advantage.
An end-to-end encounter between two teams keen to play their way into the area yielded a number of half chances for both sides. The Robins almost replied after a flowing move down the left flank saw Luke Freeman deliver a dangerous cross into the box which Bobby Reid headed at goal, where Camp carefully backtracked to his line to ensure it sailed onto the roof of his goal.
Flint’s aerial prowess would prove menacing for the Millers at set pieces and a succession of Robins’ corner on the half-hour mark saw him rise highest on two occasions to head at Camp’s goal, with his first the more notable and needing a hasty clearance from Kelvin Wilson to avert the danger.
The return of Newell brought a new dimension to Stubbs’ side in the attack and his inclusion almost played a part in a second for the Millers. After Brown had been felled 20 yards from goal it was the former Peterborough United midfielder who delivered a wicked cross into the box, where Greg Halford rose above the Bristol City rearguard to power a header over the crossbar.
Lee Johnson’s side continued their hunt for a leveller and should have had an equaliser 10 minutes before the break. After a return ball into the box the ball fell kindly to Reid at the back post who lashed a low effort at goal which had Camp beaten but not the post. The ball cannoned back out off the woodwork and into the path of Flint who once again stabbed it goalwards but Darnell Fisher was on hand to make a crucial block and keep the Millers 1-0 up.
The visitors’ best chance of the half came in added time and fell to Reid again in the box. This time the Robins’ midfielder peeled free in the box before lashing an effort at goal unmarked which was superbly turned away by Camp at full stretch.
Half-time | Rotherham 1 v 0 Bristol City
The Millers made a change in attack at the break with Anthony Forde replacing Jon Taylor and fashioned their first chance of the half just 60 seconds after the restart.
Ball’s brave header allowed Ward to hold it up and set Newell on his way in behind the defence before he returned it to the Millers’ frontman who lashed a powerful effort at goal which O’Donnell parried to safety.
Reid had enjoyed room in the Millers’ area in the opening phase and set out in a similar vein after half time. It once again dropped kindly for him 10 yards from goal but a heroic block from Halford as he threw himself at the danger was enough to prevent an equaliser.
The Millers and Brown should have doubled their tallies for the afternoon on 53 minutes when the on loan Chelsea forward found himself free in the box allowing him to take the ball onto his left foot and fire a low effort at goal which whizzed narrowly wide of the near post.
The Millers were reminded of how much they had missed Newell when he forged his side’s second of the afternoon on 58 minutes.
The midfielder won the ball back high up the pitch and subsequently made a dash for the area which saw the ball eventually fall to Halford at the back post.
Halford’s shot was a tame one and he may have thought that he had spurned the chance until seeing it take a deflection which wrong-footed O’Donnell and snuck in at the back post in front of the home support to send them into raptures and double the hosts’ advantage.
Danny Ward had led the line superbly and should have added a goal to his name to wrap up the points for the Millers when he shrugged off the challenge of Reid to race through on goal, only to see his strike one-on-one with O’Donnell fly over the crossbar.
The Millers continued to refuse to defend resolutely but required Camp to be at his best once more to deny the dangerous Tomlin, this time from distance.
The former Peterborough United midfielder didn’t need a second invitation to unleash a shot on target when he manoeuvred some room on the edge of the box and his effort was goalbound until being batted clear by the flying figure of the Millers’ keeper.
However, there was nothing Camp could do to prevent a Bristol City reply 15 minutes from time. A free kick on the right saw a ball delivered into the box before a goalmouth scramble ensued before being ended by Abraham who showed predatory instinct to seize on the ball and stab home from close range to make it 2-1.
The Bristol City attacks continued to come and they found an equaliser in the 84th minute when Reid finally made his presence in the box count. A series of headers from the Millers defence was only enough to half clear the danger and after the ball was farmed out to the wing it was Reid who stormed in at the back post to apply the easiest of finishes to level the scores.
The visitors must have thought they’d won it when Abraham and O’Dowda combined at the back post in blasting the ball at goal from two yards out, but some body-on-the-line defending from skipper Stephen Kelly and Camp saw them somehow repel the Robins’ desperate efforts to turn the ball over the line.
Substitute Jamie Paterson gave the Millers one final scare right at the death when he stepped inside and rocketed an effort at goal from 20 yards which looked destined to break the back of the net until crashing into the post and rebounding away from goal.
The Millers weren’t finished though and with one of the final actions of the game came close to snatching maximum points when debutant Fry leapt above the crowd to head at goal, seeing his effort go inches wide of the post.
Full-time | Rotherham 2 v 2 Bristol City
Millers: Camp; Fisher, Fry, Wilson, Kelly ©; Halford, Ball; Taylor (Forde HT), Brown (Allan 81), Newell (Vaulks 69); Ward.
Unused: Bilboe, Mattock, Forster-Caskey, Yates.
Bristol City: O’Donnell, Little (Paterson 62), Flint, Magnusson, Golbourne (Ekstrand 62); O’Neil ©, Reid; Freeman (O’Dowda 62), Tomlin, Bryan, Abraham.
Unused: Fielding, Moore, Wilbraham, Pack.
Attendance: 8,559 (708 away).