Late equaliser denies Millers...
ROTHERHAM United were denied their third win in four Sky Bet League One games, in agonising circumstances, when Tranmere Rovers struck an injury-time equaliser at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Man-of-the-match, Ben Wiles looked well set to give the Millers victory with a well-taken strike but Stefan Payne broke Millers hearts with a toe-poked finish, in the dying embers of the game.
Following their last-gasp defeat at the hands of local rivals Sheffield Wednesday last time out, Millers chief Paul Warne retained his starting line-up for the third game in a row.
Recent recruit Chiedozie Ogbene was named amongst the home substitutes while there were a few familiar faces in the Rovers line-up - with one-time loanee Liam Ridehalgh and experienced midfielder Darren Potter returning to their old stomping ground.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Dan Barlaser skimmed a free-kick into the box and former Tranmere defender Michael Ihiekwe rose highest to plant a header into the danger area but the ball narrowly evaded a number of home runners, including Kyle Vassell.
Minutes later, Vassell appeared to be heading into a cul-de-sac before he was needlessly felled by Kieron Morris near the touchline and Barlaser fired a ball into the box which Scott Davies had to punch clear before Smith was the next to deliver a centre into the Tranmere box but Clark Robertson, who had ghosted away from his marker, could only power a downward header into the grateful hands of Davies.
The Millers were forced into an early reshuffle when Vassell failed to shrug off a knock and Ogbene was asked to enter the fray for his first appearance in Rotherham colours.
Just past the quarter hour, Freddie Ladapo got Matt Olosunde’s throw under his spell to work a shooting position, but his wayward effort failed to trouble the Rovers goal before Morris had Tranmere’s first shot in anger – with a powerful run and shot from a tight angle, which forced Daniel Iversen into a sprawled save.
Moments later, a crossfield run from Olosunde was brought to an abrupt halt by Potter but Barlaser failed to exact retribution from the resultant free-kick when his shot struck Connor Jennings, in the visitors’ wall before Olosunde’s long throw was misjudged by George Ray, who failed to anticipate the bounce, and Ladapo almost pounced, but he was snuffed out by a retreating defender.
The game lost a little rhythm prior to the interval – until Wiles’ dribbled shot through a ruck of bodies almost deceived Davies, but a combination of the ‘keeper’s efforts and the upright kept the ball out before Potter put his body on the line to block Smith’s drive, in the next phase of play.
With half-time approaching, Payne became the first to see yellow following a foul on Richard Wood before Matt Crooks had the last noteworthy action of the half when he hooked a shot, on the turn, although his effort was straight down the throat of Davies.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Tranmere Rovers 0
The Millers had the early initiative at the start of the second half and Ogbene drove hard at makeshift full-back Sid Nelson to dart into the Rovers box but his dangerous cross was diverted to safety by Ridehalgh, at the far post.
Moments later, Ogbene got the better of Nelson, once again, to drill a delicious ball across the six-yard box but Smith was unable to make a telling connection before Potter’s threaded pass, at the other end, split open the Rotherham defence and Paul Mullin’s dinked effort was spilled by Iversen, as the ball dribbled harmlessly wide of the target.
Just before the hour mark, Ogbene was again the provider with a direct run which caught Morris off guard before the ex-Brentford flyer planted a cross which was flicked on into the path of Crooks, who blazed an effort into the home faithful behind the goal, when he should have done better.
Moments later, fine work from Mullin gave Jennings, a glimpse of goal, but he fluffed his lines with a wayward effort before Morris was fortunate to hook over his own goal to divert Ladapo’s deflected cross away from goal.
With the game in the balance, Rotherham notched the breakthrough with 17 minutes to go when Olosunde’s cross was not dealt decisively by the visiting defence and despite evading the attentions of Smith, Wiles took an initial touch before latching onto the loose ball, ahead of a number of defenders, to scoop the ball into the roof of the Rovers net from close range.
However, the Millers’ lead was almost short-lived as Potter almost came back to haunt his former club with a low shot, which took a slight deflection of Wood, to fizz across goal, with Payne inches away from turning the ball home with an outstretched leg, at the far post, before the ex-Barnsley striker had a point-blank shot, blocked by a mass of Rotherham bodies in the box, just moments later.
Potter was pulling the strings for the visitors and another pin-point pass presented Jennings with the chance to strike but a block tackle took the sting out of his shot before Crooks almost sealed the deal for the hosts when he waltzed past David Perkins before firing a long-range effort which whistled just wide.
In the dying minutes, Crooks turned provider with a slide-rule ball which put Ladapo in the clear but hampered by a tight angle, the ex-Plymouth striker could only fire into the grateful arms of Davies.
The moment proved crucial as Tranmere levelled matters, with almost the last kick of the game when Morris made something out of nothing, despite the ball almost going out of play, to deliver a cross into the box and with no-one in Rotherham colours taking charge, Payne was on-hand to poke the ball home.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Tranmere Rovers 1
Rotherham United 1
Tranmere Rovers 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Iversen, Wood, Vassell (Ogbene 12), Wiles, Ladapo (Mattock 89), Barlaser (Lindsay 46), Robertson, Ihiekwe, Olosunde, Smith. Unused- Bilboe, MacDonald, Thompson, Cooper.
Tranmere- Davies, Ridehalgh, Nelson (Woods 90), Ray, Monthe, Morris, Potter, Mullin (Hepburn-Murphy 75), Jennings, Perkins, Payne. Unused- Pilling, Ponticelli, Gilmour, Maddox, Walker-Rice.
Referee- A Haines
Attendance- 8691 (982)