Millers denied derby day win....
ROTHERHAM United had to settle for a share of the spoils in their derby clash with local rivals Sheffield Wednesday, despite having the better of the game at Hillsborough.
The Millers looked the most likely in the first 45 minutes but their hopes were dealt a blow when Lucas Joao put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half time.
Rotherham turned the game on its head when Smith struck almost immediately after the interval to level matters before Richie Towell put the visitors’ ahead with a well-struck effort.
However, the Millers were denied a rare Championship away win when Joao popped up for his second of the afternoon, late on.
For the short hop to S6, Millers chief Paul Warne made two changes to his starting line-up with former Owl Richard Wood returning to the heart of the Millers defence, at the expense of Clark Robertson, who was absent due to illness.
Flying winger Jon Taylor was also recalled to the side, as Joe Newell had to settle for a place among the substitutes while back up ‘keeper Laurence Bilboe joined him on the bench with Lewis Price ruled out.
The Millers settled into the game the quicker and they had the first sight of goal when Will Vaulks took aim from distance but Joey Pelupessy bravely blocked his long-range effort before Vaulks turned creator with a floated free-kick which caught the Owls napping and Wood, under pressure from a home defender, attempted to turn the ball towards goal while Semi Ajayi was snuffed out before he could get his shot away.
Moments later, Ryan Williams clipped a centre which skimmed off the head of Michael Hector and from the resultant corner, Anthony Forde pulled the ball back to the on-rushing Taylor, who curled an effort from just outside the box which failed to trouble Cameron Dawson in the home goal.
The Millers were looking the most likely and with Wood causing havoc in the home area, Taylor latched on the pieces to drill a low effort which brought a smothered save from Dawson before Barry Bannan became the first to see yellow for a rash challenge on Vaulks on halfway.
In Wednesday’s first attack of note, Pelupessy fought hard to win possession on halfway and Bannan showed his class with a defensive splitting pass which saw Adam Reach get on the wrong side of Ajayi to race clear but the ex-Middlesbrough winger fluffed his lines with a dragged shot across the face of goal.
Minutes later, Pelupessy was hauled down and Bannan curled the resultant free-kick into the Rotherham area and Towell, in attempting to clear, could only head towards his own goal but the backtracking Marek Rodak could safely watch the ball loop harmlessly over the crossbar.
The home side were indebted to Dawson for preserving parity, six minutes prior to the break, when Forde delivered a tantalising centre which saw Smith arch his neck to direct a goalbound header which forced the home stopper into an acrobatic save before Taylor kept the ball alive to pave the way for Joe Mattock to plant another ball into the box and Smith was again the recipient, but this time, his header flew wide of the target.
The Millers were finishing the half strongly and superb work by Ryan Williams presented Zak Vyner with the chance to attack with menace, before playing a slide-rule pass which saw Taylor beat the home offside trap but the Millers winger failed to make it count when he over hit his cross to the far post.
Despite the Millers having the better of the first half, Wednesday broke the deadlock against the run of play when an innocuous ball forward skipped off the slick Hillsborough surface and Joao got on the wrong side of Wood and with Vyner unable to clear the danger, the Portuguese striker kept his nerve to calmly stroke the ball into the corner of the net.
Half-time- Sheffield Wednesday 1 Rotherham United 0
With the words of Warne still ringing in their ears, the Millers levelled matters just seconds into the second half when Vaulks’ defence-splitting pass caught the Wednesday defence flat-footed and Smith showed his marker a clean pair of heels to bare down on goal and the Millers frontman showed great composure to curl an effort past the outstretched hand of Dawson, to find the far corner of the goal.
The home side responded positively to the setback and Atdhe Nuhiu volleyed goalwards but Rodak was his equal with a smart, reflex save before Bannan’s short corner fell invitingly for Tom Lees, but the home centre-half could only prod an effort into the side netting from a tight angle.
However, Rotherham silenced the home faithful, by taking the lead on 55 minutes, when early build-up play involving Mattock and Williams saw Taylor with his back to goal, on the edge of the box, and the ball was switched to Towell, who got the ball from under his feet, before striking a fierce, low effort from distance and Dawson failed to get his body behind the shot and the ball squirmed into the home net, to the delight of the Rotherham travelling contingent behind the goal.
The home side rallied strongly when Joao volleyed wide from just outside the box before the same player took advantage of Bannan’s pass to fire a snap shot which was straight the throat of Rodak.
Joao was in the thick of the action and the home striker levelled matters, just after the hour mark, when Ajayi’s weak clearance fell kindly for Daniel Pudil, who took his time to deliver a pinpoint centre and Joao worked a yard of space on his marker to meet his cross and steer a clever header into the bottom corner giving Rodak no chance.
The Millers shrugged off the disappointment when Morgan Fox was forced to head Forde’s dangerous free-kick behind before the Irish winger fizzed the resultant corner across the Wednesday goalmouth narrowly evading visiting runners, who would have had a tap-in, if they had connected.
The Millers missed a gilt-edged chance to regain the lead when Williams and Towell exchanged passes to give the former the chance to deliver a cross, which was superbly laid off by Smith into the path of Vaulks, who had the goal at his mercy, but he lashed at his shot and the chance was lost.
Moments later, Williams was tripped by Joao on the edge of the box and Mattock floated a delicate cross which almost fell invitingly for sub Ben Wiles, at the far post, but the ball narrowly sailed over his head before Dawson flapped at Taylor’s centre and the ball ran loose before Wiles lashed towards goal but his effort was blocked by the ruck of home bodies in the box.
In the next Millers’ attack, Towell volleyed over from a promising position before the on-loan Brighton loanee squandered an opportunity to win the game when Vaulks’ clipped centre was superbly cushioned by Smith into Towell’s path, but after initially throwing a dummy to work the shooting opportunity, he blazed over when he should have done better.
The Millers were forced to weather a late storm when Wood was forced to head behind under pressure from Joao before Adam Reach dug out a superb cross which looked inch-perfect for Nuhiu, but he was unable to make a clean connection, despite being just yards away from goal.
Full-time- Sheffield Wednesday 2 Rotherham United 2
Sheffield Wednesday 2
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- Sheffield Wednesday- Dawson, Fox, Pelupessy (Matias 77), Bannan, Thorniley (Pudil 46), Lees, Nuhiu, Joao, Reach, Baker, Hector. Unused- Wildsmith, Palmer, Onomah, Fletcher, Penney.
Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood, Forde (Wiles 73), Taylor, Towell, Williams, Smith. Unused- Bilboe, Palmer, Proctor, Manning, Newell, Raggett.
Referee:- D Bond