Millers rescue point against Plymouth...
SEMI Ajayi’s dramatic late equaliser earned Rotherham United a deserved share of the spoils against Plymouth Argyle after former Miller Ryan Taylor looked set to came back to haunt his former club.
Paul Warne’s men shrugged off the disappointment of the second-half dismissal of skipper Richard Wood to earn a valuable point, against all the odds, when Ajayi’s first league goal of the campaign cancelled out Taylor’s opener.
Following their stirring comeback against Blackpool in their last outing, Millers chief Warne rewarded Anthony Forde and Jerry Yates for their influential second-half substitute cameos at Bloomfield Road, by recalling the duo, at the expense of Michael Ihiekwe and Jonson Clarke-Harris, who had to settle for places on the bench.
Club skipper Lee Frecklington and former Argyle left-back Ben Purrington joined them in the Millers squad after shrugging off illness and injury, respectively, while former Millers’ Kelle Roos, Taylor and Toumani Diagouraga were named in the Pilgrims starting line-up.
The home fans had their hearts in their mouths, in the early minutes, when Semi Ajayi’s tame back pass gave Taylor, a sniff of an interception but Marek Rodak showed fleet of foot to clear the danger before Ball paced away from halfway to put the Argyle defence on the backfoot before giving Richie Towell, the opportunity to strike from range but his rasping effort cleared the visitors bar.
Moments later, Will Vaulks became the next to try his luck from distance but Roos was able to watch the ball fly harmlessly wide of the target before a ball into the channel put Yates in the clear, and with Forde acting as a go-between, Vaulks dug the ball from out of his feet to clip the ball goalwards from the edge of the box but his weak effort was straight down the throat of the Dutch stopper.
Just past the quarter-hour, Yates’ neat lay off put Ryan Williams, in the clear, and with no retreating Argyle defender in sight, the home winger cut inside from the flank to bare down on goal but Roos was quick off his line to narrow his angle and smother the danger at point-blank range.
Moments later, Vaulks’ speculative effort was blocked by David Fox but the ball fell kindly for Ball, who split open the Plymouth defence to give Joe Mattock, the chance to dart into the box but his clipped cross was plucked out of the sky by Roos, at his near post.
The former Millers loanee was called into action once again, minutes later, when Towell’s innocuous pass caught the Argyle defence flat-footed and Williams almost capitalised on the indecision but Roos dived at the Australian’s feet, before he could get his shot away.
There was a moment of controversy when Towell halted the dangerous run of Graham Carey, on the edge of the box – with a sliding tackle but the referee penalised the Brighton loanee to the dismay of the home faithful before booking the home midfielder for his protestations. However, the visitors failed to make it count when Diagouraga headed over harmlessly from Carey’s resultant free-kick.
Moments later, Mattock charged to the by line to fire a cross which took a wicked deflection as it ballooned into the air but Ball showed great opportunism to flick the ball towards goal with a clever point-blank header but Roos fortunately managed to divert the ball to safety before Carey became the next to see yellow following a late lunge.
Richard Wood soon joined him in the book following a collision with Roos, as he looked to latch onto a hopeful punt into the Argyle box before Ball showed his class, in the last action of the half, when he got a long ball under his spell to fire goalwards but Ryan Edwards got in a timely block to snuff out the danger.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Plymouth Argyle 0
Following the break, Plymouth started brightly and Rotherham’s hopes of victory took a severe dent when Wood was sent for an early bath, after hauling down Taylor on halfway- for his second booking of the afternoon.
The home side were forced into a defensive reshuffle with Vaulks drafted into the heart of the Rotherham rearguard alongside Ajayi while Frecklington entered the fray, at the expense of Yates, as Ball was asked to ply a lone furrow upfront.
The new-look defence was holding firm until Carey dug out a shot from the edge of the box but Rodak was well-stationed to gather with consummate ease before Ball latched onto Gary Sawyer’s weak header to take aim from distance, at the other end, but his curling effort sailed harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, Plymouth only half-cleared Forde’s free kick and Williams’ slide-rule pass gave Mattock, the chance to strike, but his left-footed effort whistled narrowly over the visitors bar before Williams raced away from halfway to play an eye-of-a-needle pass which was inch-perfect for Forde, who had just Roos to beat, but the Argyle ‘keeper won the battle of wills to block his poked effort.
The duo locked horns, once again, minutes later, when Roos punched Forde’s fizzed free-kick to safety after Sawyer felled Williams on the edge of the box before the ex-Walsall winger drilled a low cross which flew across the Argyle six-yard box – with no Millers runner able to make a telling touch.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Millers were holding firm until Argyle took advantage of a two-on-one corner situation whereby sub Lionel Ainsworth fired a low drive which was saved by Rodak before Vaulks put in a superb tackle to deny Taylor, just yards out.
However, Rotherham resistance was broken when Ainsworth fired a near post corner and Taylor nipped infront of his marker, to head home from point-blank range giving Rodak no chance, as the ball flew into the heart of the home goal.
In the aftermath of the goal, Taylor was cautioned for his over-exurberant celebration infront of the home fans.
The Millers responded superbly to the setback and Towell stung the palms of Roos with a long-range effort before they levelled matters in stoppage time, when Plymouth failed to clear an inswinging corner and with Vaulks looking to turn the ball goalwards, Ajayi was on hand to smash the ball home from close range, infront of the jubilant home faithful.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Plymouth Argyle 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel (Clarke-Harris 86), Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood, Forde (Newell 87), Ball, Towell, Yates (Frecklington 55), Williams. Unused- O’Donnell, Purrington, Ihiekwe, Cummings.
Plymouth- Roos, Sawyer, Edwards, Carey, Jervis (Ainsworth 71), Bradley, Grant (Wylde 76), Taylor-Sinclair, R Taylor (Fletcher 90), Fox, Diagouraga. Unused- Cooper, Miller, Songo’o, Threlkeld.
Referee- A Haines
Attendance- 7562 (456)