Rotherham United produced a terrific display to blunt table-toppers Middlesbrough after a 0-0 draw at the Riverside Stadium.
The Millers bagged their first away point of the season against the pre-match odds, and it could have been better with Paul Warne’s side creating several presentable opportunities on Teeside.
Rotherham more than matched the home side for large spells of the game, with the best chance falling to Ryan Williams in the first-half, whist Michael Smith also had an effort superbly tipped over in the second half.
Boss Warne made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Bolton Wanderers at the weekend as he oversaw his 100th match in charge of the Millers.
Defender Billy Jones and winger Jon Taylor failed to shake off knocks, whilst Richard Wood was given a place on the bench after picking up an injury during Saturday’s game. Zak Vyner was restored at right-back, whilst Ryan Williams switched to the wing and Ryan Manning returned to midfield with Clark Robertson lining up alongside Semi Ajayi at the back.
The leisurely start to proceedings certainly suited the Millers who were looking to upset the form book by taking something from table-toppers Boro. Both Michael Smith and Kyle Vassell enjoyed promising breaks down the left side, but Boro were well set in the middle to cut out both crosses into the area.
The game finally got moving on the 20 minute mark. After the Millers put the Boro goal under pressure with three consecutive corners, they created their first opportunity. Northern Ireland international Vassell made the break down the left side before cutting the ball back to the onrushing Williams who looked to have a simple tap-in, but Darren Randolph smothered the effort six-yards out.
The chance seemingly woke up the home side who had a wonderful opportunity themselves moments later. Martin Braithwaite was sent clear on goal but when he looked well placed to open the scoring, his tame effort was easily saved by Marek Rodak.
Rotherham were back into their stride soon after with Smith and Joe Mattock both forcing corners as Boro were required to defend several crosses into their area.
There was little coming from the hosts, as Warne’s side defied the league standings to more than hold their own in the opening 30 minutes.
Stewart Downing’s free-kick was slammed into a Millers’ wall as the home supporters starting showing signs of frustration.
On 31 minutes good work from Richie Towell saw a ball cut-back from the left which was deflected kindly into the path of Will Vaulks, but the stand-in skipper skied his effort from 25 yards.
With 10 minutes to go until the break, Boro started to up the tempo. The hosts created a good opening when Mo Besic fed Braithwaite down the right of the area, but the Danish international’s centre flashed straight across the six-yard area, with no red shirt on hand for a tap-in.
Before the break Braithwaite turned over a half-chance from Aden Flint’s knockdown, and the Flint himself planted a header wide from Downing’s centre.
Middlesbrough 0 v 0 Rotherham
Vaulks became the first name in the book just after the break after a shirt pull on half-way halted a Boro counter.
The hosts looked to have more purpose about their play, and the Millers had Manning to thank for a spirited block as Downing let fly from 20 yards.
Boro continued to crank up the heat as Friend’s cross almost made it through to the onrushing Jonny Howson, who couldn’t convert under pressure.
At the other end, the Millers continued to carry a threat, and after good work by Towell, Manning flashed an effort from long range just wide of the near post.
The home side missed a great chance just before the hour mark when Downing’s strike was parried by Rodak, but Britt Assombalonga couldn’t convert the rebound under pressure from Robertson.
The Millers made the first change shortly after when Ben Wiles replaced Williams on 61 minutes.
There was nearly an opportunity for the visitors as Mattock raided down the left. After looking up, he spotted the run of Towell, but Boro spotted the danger late and made the clearance.
Downing had several sighters in the first-half, and he was closer on 70 minutes when he dipped a half-volley from the edge of the area into the side netting.
Manning was matching Downing for efforts on goal and the QPR loanee tried his luck from distance again with 15 minutes remaining but sailed his effort wide.
Rodak was called into action again as Boro stepped up their efforts. The Slovakian stopper was quickly out to deny Assombalonga from eight yards, whilst at the other end Smith’s 20 yarder was tipped over by Randolph.
Rodak smothered an effort from sub Rudy Gestede in the closing stages, as the hosts put the Millers under some heavy pressure.
Warne’s side held out for a deserved point, as the Millers boss celebrates his 100th game in charge with the Millers’ first point on the road this season.
Middlesbrough 0 v 0 Rotherham
Middlesbrough: Randolph; McNair (McQueen 72), Ayala, Flint; Friend; Howson, Clayton, Besic, Downing; Braithwaite (Gestede 72), Assombalonga (Hugill 82).
Subs not used: Konstantopoulos; Batth, Fry, Saville.
Rotherham: Rodak; Vyner, Robertson, Ajayi, Mattock; Williams (Wiles 61), Vaulks, Manning, Towell, Vassell (Forde 82) ; Smith (Proctor 90).
Subs not used: Price, Wood, Palmer, Newell.
Attendance: 21,235 (265 away)
Referee: Darren Bond