REPORT | Rotherham 1 v 1 Birmingham City
DANNY Ward’s 12th goal of the season gave Rotherham United, their first point under the permanent stewardship of Paul Warne, as they pegged back Birmingham City to halt a run of ten successive league defeats.
Following a first half to forget, the Millers upped the tempo in the second half but they were punished after conceding a number of free-kicks on the edge of their own box when sub Kerim Frei finally breached their defences to give Gianfranco Zola’s side the lead.
However, Rotherham refused to throw in the towel and they were duly rewarded for their efforts when Ward pounced on a loose ball to fire home smartly from just outside the box.
Following their last-gasp defeat at the hands of Wigan Athletic last time out, the Millers made two changes to their starting line-up for the visit of the Blues.
Richard O’Donnell returned between the sticks for the Millers as Lewis Price was unavailable because of illness while Jon Taylor was asked to provide the ammunition to the front pairing of top-scorer Ward and Carlton Morris as last week’s goalscorer Anthony Forde was missing because of an injury sustained at the DW Stadium.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when good build-up play by Morris and Joe Newell worked an opportunity for the latter to float a centre which saw Ward lose the aerial duel before the ball fell for Will Vaulks on the edge of the box, but the home midfielder was unable to get his shot away and the chance was lost.
Vaulks was in the thick of the action and after Birmingham failed to clear decisively, the ex-Falkirk player fired a low effort which was bravely blocked by Ryan Shotton en-route to goal before Lukas Jutkiewicz had the visitors’ first effort of note with a wayward header as he rose highest to meet Craig Gardner’s floated corner.
Moments later, Robert Tesche tried his luck from distance but Joe Mattock bravely put his body on the line to snuff out the danger before Richie Smallwood was fortunate to escape sanction for hauling over Gardner, who burst clear from the midfield engine room.
However, the ex-Villa man almost exacted his own form of retribution from the resultant free-kick when he dusted himself down to fire a right footed effort which skimmed off the AESSEAL New York Stadium surface but O’Donnell was quick on his toes to turn the ball around the post with an excellent save.
Just before the half hour mark, Morris shrugged off the attentions of Krystian Bielik to carve out the opening but his rasping effort from distance flew harmlessly over the Blues bar before Morris and Smallwood combined smartly to pave the way for the latter to clip a ball over the top which saw Taylor nip infront of Bielik to race clear but the ball ran away from his path.
At the other end, the home fans had their hearts in their mouths as Vaulks’ high boot appeared to catch Tesche in the box, but the referee took no further action before Morris was the quickest to react with a snap header after Vaulks planted the ball into the box but Tomasz Kuszczak was well positioned on his own line to gather with a minimum of fuss.
With half-time approaching, Jutkiewicz became the first to see yellow for simulation as he tumbled under the challenge of Ward in the penalty area after exchanging passes with Gardner before Gardner, himself, clipped an effort into the grateful arms of O’Donnell, in the late noteworthy action of the half.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Birmingham City 0
In the second half, Mattock had his heels clipped by Davis but Taylor failed to make it count from the resultant free-kick when his curled centre was straight down the throat of Kuszczak.
Moments later, Bielik became the latest player to incur the wrath of the referee as he hauled over Ward as the Rotherham hitman looked to burst into the box but Tesche was well-positioned to head Taylor’s free-kick to safety.
In the next phase of play, Smallwood’s safety-first pass saw Vaulks drill a cross-cum-shot which had Kuszczak at full stretch to keep the ball out before Ward had a shot blocked in the aftermath of the move.
Minutes later, Mattock was booked for a scything tackle on sub Kerim Frei near the touchline before Morris was an early cog in a Rotherham move which saw the ball relayed to Taylor, who curled a tantalising centre which looked inch-perfect for the Norwich loanee, who would have had a tap-in, but Ryan Shotton stuck out a timely leg to prevent him diverting the ball goalwards.
In the next Millers attack, sub Jerry Yates’s slide-rule pass presented Taylor with the chance to skip to the by-line to pull the ball back into the path of Ward, who agonisingly failed to make a connection with his head despite having the goal at his mercy, before the ball was ushered to safety by the visitors.
At the other end, Mattock’s misplaced pass saw Birmingham counter with purpose as ex-Blades striker Che Adams cut inside to fire a low effort from distance which forced O’Donnell to tip the ball around the post before Jutkiewicz headed over from the resultant corner.
Minutes later, Vaulks was cautioned for tripping Gardner just outside the ‘D’ following good work by Frei initially before Smallwood drew applause from the home faithful as he bravely charged down Jutkiewicz’s powerfully struck free-kick.
Smallwood went from hero to villain, in the matter of seconds, by needlessly bundling over Frei on the edge of the box but Gardner’s free-kick was blocked before Richard Wood became the next to give away a free-kick on the edge of his own box by hacking down Adams.
However, at the third time of asking, Birmingham punished the Millers to the full when Frei strode to the ball before striking a precise effort with his instep which whistled over the Rotherham wall before dipping under the bar, whistling past the attentions of O’Donnell in the process.
However, the Millers responded positively to the setback and after Taylor’s free-kick narrowly evaded the attentions of home runners, Wood rose highest from Vaulks’ corner but his glancing header fizzed wide.
However, Rotherham continued to press and they were rewarded for their pressure with five minutes remaining when Ward latched onto a loose ball before cutting inside Frei to fire a fierce right-footed effort which flew past the outstretched hand of Kuszczak to nettle in the bottom corner of the net.
The home side were buoyed by the equaliser and Mattock stung the palms of Kuszczak before Rotherham missed a gilt-edged chance to claim the three points in the dying seconds when Vaulks led a lightning counter attack and following sub Jonson Clarke-Harris’ deft flick, Smallwood delivered a superb centre which found Yates in acres of space at the back post, but the Rotherham youngster fluffed his lines when he blazed his effort into the home faithful behind the goal.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Birmingham City 1
Rotherham United 1
Birmingham City 1
Teams:- Rotherham- O’Donnell, Mattock, Vaulks, Wood, Ward, Morris (Clarke-Harris 77), Taylor, Ajayi, Fisher (Yates 61), Newell (Adeyemi 46), Smallwood. Unused- Bilboe, Belaid, Bray, Purrington.
Birmingham- Kuszczak, Nsue, Grounds, Robinson (Frei 55), Shotton, Tesche (Maghoma 90), Gardner (Kieftenbeld 79), Adams, Jutkiewicz, Davis, Bielik. Unused- Legzdins, Gleeson, Keita, Sinclair.
Referee- J Linington
Attendance- 10160 (2576).