Millers slip to last-gasp defeat.....
ROTHERHAM United made the long trek from Devon empty-handed after Graham Carey’s last-gasp spot-kick boosted Plymouth Argyle’s hopes of joining the Millers in the League One play-offs.
Richie Towell’s composed finish put the Millers ahead at the break but Joel Grant levelled matters for the Pilgrims.
In an entertaining clash at Home Park, sub Jon Taylor squandered a one-on-one opportunity before sub Caolan Lavery had a goal ruled out for offside.
The Millers were left to rue their missed chances when Carey stroked home a late penalty after he was felled by Will Vaulks in the box.
After ensuring their participation in the League One play-offs during last weekend’s hard-fought victory over Bristol Rovers, Millers chief Paul Warne made three changes to his starting line-up.
Returning pair Anthony Forde and Ryan Williams were asked to provide the ammunition from the flanks to David Ball, who was also handed a recall, and in-form striker Michael Smith.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Williams and Ball smartly exchanged passes to enable the former to dart into the Argyle box but the Australian’s pull-back was cleared by a retreating home defender.
However, the Millers were indebted to Marek Rodak for maintaining parity when Ruben Lameiras played a clever one-two with Carey to bare down on goal but the Slovakian stood up tall to block his goalbound effort.
From the resultant corner, Carey floated a tantalising centre into the path of David Fox, who unleashed a fantastic volley from 25 yards which Rodak was forced to punch to safety.
Moments later, Lameiras injected pace into a home move before almost putting Antoni Sarcevic, in the clear but Ben Purrington, who was facing his former club, was around on the cover to hack the ball clear.
At the other end, Williams got the better of Oscar Threlkeld to float a cross which had Matthews backtracking nervously, as it narrowly cleared the home crossbar.
The Millers came within a whisker of the opener on 20 minutes when Williams latched onto a loose ball to clip a delicate centre which was inch-perfect for Ball, who had ghosted in between two home defenders, to volley home from close range, but his joy soon turned to despair – with the assistant referee flagging for offside.
Minutes later, Grant fired goalwards but the ball was deflected narrowly wide before Towell volleyed into the home faithful behind the goal, at the other end.
On the half-hour mark, Jamie Ness made something out of nothing to work a shooting position but his low drive from distance failed to trouble Rodak in the visitors’ goal.
Minutes later, Rotherham grabbed the lead when Zak Vyner’s mistake was latched upon by Smith, who played the ball forward into the path of Ball and the ex-Fleetwood striker executed a slide-rule pass which evaded Smith, but fell kindly for the on-rushing Towell, who kept his nerve to roll the ball into the corner of the net giving Matthews no chance.
The Millers were visibly lifted by the strike and Towell’s eye-of-a-needle pass paved the way for Ball to clip an effort, from the edge of the box, which was plucked out of the sky by Matthews, who was well-stationed on his own line before the home ‘keeper was called into action again to deny Williams, who rose highest from Josh Emmanuel’s centre, in the next Millers’ attack.
Minutes later, Grant stung the palms of Rodak with a long-range header before good work from Carey saw Lameiras drop the shoulder before firing goalwards but Emmanuel was on-hand to divert the ball to safety.
In the last action of the half, Ness’ pass to the flank presented home skipper Gary Sawyer with the opportunity to strike but his left-footed effort whistled harmlessly wide of the target.
Half-time:- Plymouth Argyle 0 Rotherham United 1
Following the interval, Carey fluffed his lines by blazing an effort over from an inviting position before Lameiras had the home fans’ ducking for cover – with a carbon-copy effort, moments later.
In a moment of controversy, Williams raced into the box before losing his footing under the challenge of Threlkeld, but the referee waved away visiting appeals before booking the Australian for simulation.
Minutes later, Michael Ihiewke had to be on his toes to deny Carey with a timely tackle before Smith was almost the grateful recipient of a through ball, at the other end, but Matthews was quick off his line to snuff out the danger.
Williams cut inside with menace to strike an effort which was smartly gathered by Matthews before Anthony Forde fired a dangerous centre across the Plymouth goalmouth.
However, Plymouth got themselves back on level terms, just before the hour mark, when Grant found himself on the wrong side of the Rotherham rearguard and after exposing Richard Wood, in a one-on-one situation, he worked a yard of space on the visiting skipper before calmly curling the ball past the outstretched hand of Rodak to find the heart of the Rotherham goal.
The Millers soon regained their composure and Forde jinked inside before striking an effort which took a wicked deflection off Ness to force Matthews into parrying the ball over his own crossbar before Will Vaulks failed to make the best of a quick Rotherham counter, involving Emmanuel, Smith and Ball by clipping an innocuous cross into the grateful hands of Matthews.
Moments later, Ball and Smith combined again to great effect to pave the way for Towell to fire a low effort which brought the best out of Matthews, who dived smartly to his left, to keep the ball out
The Millers were looking the most likely and the home side were thankful to Sawyer for denying Smith the opportunity to strike from just yards out following a clever cross from Ball before the Millers missed a gilt-edged chance to regain the lead when Towell’s slide-rule pass was superbly controlled by Ball, who spotted sub Jon Taylor in acres of space to his left, but the Millers winger lost the battle of wills with Matthews, in the one-on-one scenario, as the Argyle ‘keeper smothered his shot.
With time running out for both sides, Argyle failed to clear the danger and Wood hooked the ball into the danger area and Newell and Taylor headed on giving Ball, a sniff of an opportunity, but although the diminutive striker got infront of Matthews, to lift the ball on to the top of the home net – any goal would have been chalked off for offside.
Moments later, Ball, who had just re-entered the fray following treatment, presented sub Caolan Lavery with the chance to turn and shoot, but his effort smashed into the side netting.
In the dying minutes, Rotherham came within a whisker of the three points when Ball and Newell combined smartly to enable the latter to fire a low cross which was turned home at the far post by Lavery, but his celebration was cut short by the offside flag.
The moment proved crucial when Argyle grabbed the decisive winner when Carey ghosted into the box before being upended by the sliding challenge of Vaulks and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Carey dusted himself down to take the resultant penalty and the home playmaker kept his nerve to fire high into the Rotherham net, giving Rodak, who dived the right way, no chance.
Full-time- Plymouth Argyle 2 Rotherham United 1
Plymouth Argyle 2
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Plymouth- Matthews, Sawyer, Ness (Songo’o 90) Sarcevic (Ainsworth 66), Carey, Lameiras (Taylor-Sinclair 86), Bradley, Grant, Threlkeld, Vyner, Fox. Unused- Miller, Letheren, Fletcher, Rooney.
Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel, Vaulks, Wood, Forde (Taylor 67), Ball, Towell, Purrington, Ihiekwe, Williams (Newell 77), Smith (Lavery 71). Unused- Ajayi, Palmer, Price, Cummings.
Referee- D Handley
Attendance- 13407 (577)