Millers grab late point......
A much-improved second-half display earned Rotherham United a share of the spoils with fellow strugglers Reading, thanks to Joe Mattock’s late effort.
At a rain-soaked AESSEAL New York Stadium, Sam Baldock put the Royals ahead at the interval with a well-taken effort.
However, Paul Warne’s men demonstrated their never-say-die spirit, once again, to grab a point thanks to Mattock’s scuffed effort before coming close to snatching victory, late on.
Following a dominant display at local rivals Sheffield Wednesday last weekend, Millers chief Warne kept faith with his starting line-up for the visit of the Royals.
Club skipper Richard Wood retained his place at the heart of the Millers defence – with Clark Robertson and Lewis Price shrugging off illness to line-up on the substitutes’ bench, after the duo missed the trip to Hillsborough.
The visitors settled into the game the quicker and former Millers loanee John Swift switched the play to great effect and Andy Yiadom swung over a tantalising cross which saw Sam Baldock nip in front of Wood to power a header which whistled narrowly over the home bar.
Minutes later, Josh Sims was the first to see yellow for dissent before Anthony Forde had Rotherham’s first attack of note when Tyler Blackett’s clearance fell kindly for the Irishman, who tried his luck with a dipping effort from distance, which had Anssi Jaakkola nervously scurrying across goal, as it shaved the upright.
However, Reading broke the deadlock on nine minutes when Sims injected pace into a Royals move before playing a clever switch pass which saw Baldock beat the offside trap, by getting on the wrong side of Wood and he kept his nerve to slide the ball into the bottom corner of the net giving Marek Rodak no chance.
The Millers responded positively to the early setback and Will Vaulks stung the palms of Jaakkola with a stinging drive from distance before Joe Mattock delivered an inviting centre which was met by the head of Jon Taylor, but he was unable to direct his effort goalwards.
Moments later, Michael Smith dragged a long-range effort harmlessly wide of the target before Swift robbed Richie Towell of possession before embarking on a mazy run to the edge of the box which ended with a low effort which dribbled narrowly wide of the far post.
The Royals had faint appeals for a spot kick when Sims burst into the box before losing his footing under the challenge of Mattock but the referee waved away visiting protests before Reading failed to deal decisively with Forde’s deep free kick into the area, at the other end, and Towell latched onto the pieces to drill a low effort which was hacked away by Yiadom – with Jaakkola sprawled across goal.
Moments later, Rodak’s long punt upfield was cushioned by Wood into the path of Vaulks, who fired an instinctive effort from distance which fizzed narrowly wide before Smith had to be on his toes, defensively, to direct Garath McCleary’s delicious centre to safety.
Just past the half-hour mark, Forde’s short corner gave Vaulks a shooting opportunity but his clipped effort was straight down the throat of Jaakkola, who instigated a lighting Royals counter-attack which saw Swift play an inviting ball across the face of goal and Baldock looked likely to make it two, but he fluffed his lines when he blazed over from a promising position.
The visitors were looking the most likely and the lively Swift played a delicious one-two with Baldock which split open the Rotherham defence before striking a low effort which brought a fine reflex save from Rodak before McCleary was crowded out on the follow up.
With half-time approaching, Baldock ghosted away from the Rotherham backline to attempt a speculative lob which had Rodak backtracking nervously as it cleared the home crossbar before Swift played a superb reverse pass to put McCleary in the clear and despite the ball initially getting stuck under his feet, he cut inside to curl an effort which had Rodak at full stretch to palm the ball away.
In the last action of the half, Mattock became the next to see yellow for rash tackle on Sims.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Reading 1
Following a lacklustre first-half display, Warne made a double change at the interval with Robertson and Jamie Proctor introduced- with the Millers boss reverting to a 4-4-2 formation.
The move almost paid immediate dividends when Towell struck a fierce effort which was palmed away by Jaakkola. The Royals ‘keeper was called into action, seconds later, as he punched clear Proctor’s flick-on from Vaulks’ long throw before Robertson headed wide from the resultant corner.
The Millers were looking a transformed outfit after the break and Forde dug out a cross which skimmed off the head of Smith before falling kindly for Robertson, who toe-poked the ball towards goal on the stretch, but it was deflected into the side netting.
Moments later, Vaulks latched onto some poor Reading defending to strike goalwards but it smashed against Taylor en-route to goal before Towell’s peashooter from distance was smothered by Jaakkola.
On the hour mark, Taylor latched onto a wayward pass to leave Leandro Bacuna in his wake but the Millers failed to make count with Proctor unable to get his shot away before Vaulks could only scuff an effort which was comfortably gathered by Jaakkola.
Minutes later, Mattock hung up a cross which saw Smith leap highest but the in-form Millers striker could not control his header and the chance was lost before Yiadom struck a swerving effort which brought a parried save from Rodak, who gathered at the second attempt.
The Royals came within a coat of paint of sealing the deal when Swift got around the back to pull the ball back to Sims, who sidefooted against the foot of the post from point-blank range, to the relief of the home faithful.
At the other end, Reading made a hash of a clearance from Forde’s centre and Vaulks hit a volley, sweet as a nut, but fortunately for the visitors, Jaakkola got his body behind his powerful effort before Proctor became the next to test the Royals ‘keeper with a smart turn and shot on the edge of the box, which he managed to smother smartly.
Minutes later, sub Joe Newell’s inswinging centre was aimed towards Semi Ajayi and although the Nigerian international could not direct his header towards goal, the ball fell to Vaulks, who blasted into the home faithful behind the goal.
In a rare Reading foray, Sims had a shot blocked before Bacuna cut inside to fire a left-footing effort which had Rodak flying across goal, as it flew inches wide of the target.
The hosts were piling on the pressure and Newell got a yard of space on his marker to deliver a superb centre which was inches away from Proctor with Chris Gunter turning the ball behind.
From the resultant corner, Vaulks rose highest to meet Forde’s corner but agonisingly for the hosts, his effort was hacked clear by a well-stationed defender on his own line before the Millers hooked the ball back into the box whereby it skimmed off the head of Tom McIntyre, as the ball bobbled narrowly wide with Jaakkola unable to intervene.
The Royals ‘keeper was cautioned for time-wasting, as he looked to take the sting out of the Millers, but it came back to haunt the Berkshire outfit when Rotherham equalised with 90 minutes on the clock.
Newell delivered another tantalising corner into the box and with Ajayi in attendance, Mattock appeared to scuff the ball towards goal and despite the attentions of a Royals defender on the line and Robertson on-hand to turn the ball home – the goal was given to the jubilation of the home faithful.
The Millers were sensing an unlikely victory and they came within a whisker of the three points when a weak Reading clearance fell for Vaulks, who drilled a low effort which narrowly evaded Proctor, as it shaved the far post.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Reading 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood (Robertson 46), Forde, Taylor (Newell 68), Towell, Williams (Proctor 46), Smith. Unused- Price, Palmer, Manning, Wiles.
Reading- Jaakkola, Gunter, Yiadom, Bacuna, Baldock (Bodvarsson 79), Swift, McCleary, Sims (Loader 87), Blackett, Rinomhota, McIntyre. Unused- Mannone, Edwards, Barrow, Kelly, Osho.
Referee- R Joyce
Attendance- 8775 (433)