Millers denied by last-gasp equaliser...
IT will be honours even going into Wednesday night’s League One play-off semi-final at the AESSEAL New York Stadium after Scunthorpe United and Rotherham United were forced to settle for a share of the spoils at Glanford Park, following a pulsating encounter.
It was a bitter-sweet afternoon for the Millers, who led twice through goals either side of the interval by Jon Taylor and sub Joe Newell but a Michael Ihiekwe own goal and a last-gasp Cameron McGeehan effort put the tie back in the balance.
The Millers made the short hop to North Lincolnshire in good heart after securing a fourth-placed finish during the regular season finale over Blackpool, last weekend.
Manager Paul Warne opted for experience at left back in the shape of Joe Mattock, at the expense of Ben Purrington, while the Millers boss decided to shore up his midfield options by employing Matt Palmer, Richie Towell and Will Vaulks, in the central positions. Taylor and Ryan Williams were asked to provide the ammunition from the flanks to lone frontman Michael Smith.
The Millers forced an early corner following Jordan Clarke’s misjudged header but Taylor’s floated centre was ushered to safety by a home defender – with Vaulks lurking at the far post.
At the other end, the visitors were indebted to Williams for a timely tackle after Clarke bared down on goal before Conor Townsend caught the Millers napping from the resultant corner but his shot was blocked by Towell en-route to goal.
Moments later, Duane Holmes stung the palms of Marek Rodak with a snap shot following a fine home move involving one-time Millers loanee Josh Morris before Ivan Toney almost sneaked in around the back but a combination of skipper Richard Wood and Ihiekwe snuffed out the danger.
In the next phase of play, Taylor won a battle of wills with Townsend but one time Millers target Rory McArdle stuck out a timely leg to cut out his dangerous cross before Josh Emmanuel came out on top in a footrace with Holmes, to prevent the home midfielder getting his shot away.
Despite the early promptings, Rotherham broke the deadlock when Towell clipped a lovely ball over the Scunthorpe rearguard and a jet-heeled Taylor got on the wrong side of his marker to advance towards the home goal before keeping his nerve to toe-poke the ball past Matt Gilks.
However, the Millers joy proved short-lived when Scunthorpe levelled matters, almost immediately, when Hakeem Adelakun got the better of Mattock to play a slide-rule pass into the path of the lively Holmes, who clipped the ball over the advancing Rodak, and a backtracking Ihiekwe, in attempting to clear could help the ball into his own net.
The home side were buoyed by the equaliser and Toney almost broke away before the Millers faithful had their hearts in their mouths from Morris’ resultant corner when the ball was bundled against the bar, from point-blank range, before being scrambled to safety by the visitors.
Just past the half-hour mark, McArdle’s error paved the way for a quick Rotherham counter involving Smith, Vaulks and Towell but Taylor’s incisive centre was cut out by a retreating defender before Vaulks’ peashooter from distance was straight down the throat of Gilks.
In the next Millers attack, Scunthorpe failed to clear decisively and Towell volleyed goalwards but he blazed his effort harmlessly over before Murray Wallace became the first to see yellow, for upending the Brighton loanee, moments later.
In the last action of the half, Wood soon joined him in the book for a rugby tackle on Toney, near halfway.
Half-time:- Scunthorpe United 1 Rotherham United 1
Following the break, Palmer became the next to be cautioned following a handball award.
The home side had a head of steam when Funso Ojo had a low shot blocked before McArdle rose highest from Adelakun’s sweet centre but fortunately for the Millers, Rodak was well-stationed on his own line to pluck the ball out of the sky.
There was a moment of controversy when Taylor’s free-kick was gathered by Gilks, who launched an early punt upfield, in the path of Holmes and with the Millers short of numbers, Taylor hauled down the home midfielder, to the agast of the home faithful – but the referee decided to book Taylor – with Emmanuel around on the cover.
The home side were forced into a reshuffle when home ‘keeper Gilks had to be replaced after failing to shrug off a knock while Newell was introduced, almost instantaneously from the bench, at the expense of Taylor and the two substitutes were immediately in the thick of the action.
The move paid handsome rewards for Warne when Emmanuel embarked on a marauding run, which saw him shrug off the attentions of Morris, before floating a cross which paved the way for Towell to attempt a spectacular volley, but despite the ball screwing off his boot, it fell kindly for Newell, who fired the ball across sub Rory Watson to find the bottom corner of the home net.
The Iron almost fired back immediately when Palmer’s mistake saw Holmes put in the clear and the ex-Huddersfield midfielder fizzed a shot across the face of goal forcing Rodak into a parried save, and the ball rolled tantalisingly into the path of Toney but from an acute angle, the Newcastle loan man could only fire his shot into the side netting.
With the game on a knife edge, Smith went on a mazy run which ended with a skimming drive which was blocked before sub Semi Ajayi tried an ambitious effort which failed to trouble the home goal.
Moments later, Holmes pounced on a loose ball to give Morris the chance to strike but Ihiekwe hacked his shot over his own bar before Williams almost extended Rotherham’s lead with an incisive run and shot which shaved the home upright – with Watson nervously scurrying across goal.
However, Scunthorpe levelled matters for a second time, in the dying minutes, when Rotherham failed to deal with a long throw into the box, and with neither Rodak and Ihiekwe able to take charge, sub Cameron McGeehan bundled the ball home from close range.
In the last noteworthy action of the game, Wallace dragged a shot harmlessly wide of the target – with both sides given a generous ovation from both sets of supporters at the final whistle.
Full-time- Scunthorpe United 2 Rotherham United 2
Scunthorpe United 2
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- Scunthorpe- Gilks (Watson 61), Clarke, Townsend, Wallace, Ojo, Toney (Hopper 90), Morris, Adelakun (McGeehan 75), Holmes, McArdle, Yates. Unused- Bishop, Novak, Vermijl, Burgess.
Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel, Mattock, Wood, Ihiekwe, Williams (Forde 90), Taylor (Newell 62), Palmer, Towell (Ajayi 71), Vaulks, Smith. Unused- Price, Purrington, Ball, Lavery.
Referee- T Robinson