Millers earn key point....
Rotherham United produced a never-say-die, backs-to-the wall performance to earn a valuable point in their quest for Sky Bet Championship survival against play-off chasing Norwich City.
The Millers made it four points out of six over the Easter period after claiming a share of the spoils in Norfolk with Josh Vickers – in his first league start of the campaign, producing a shut-out following a series of saves, and a resolute Rotherham side, who defended from back to front in determined fashion.
Following their eye-catching victory over West Bromwich Albion on Good Friday last time out, Millers boss Matt Taylor made four changes to his starting line-up.
There were a couple of enforced changes. Swedish stopper Viktor Johansson was unavailable due to injury. Vickers deputised between the sticks in his first league start since March 2022.
Taylor also reshuffled his defensive pack. Tyler Blackett was given a starting berth following his impressive substitute cameo against the Baggies with Bailey Wright ruled out because of a knock sustained in the same game. Cohen Bramall was also recalled, at the expense of Leo Hjelde, who had a place on the bench.
Fans favourite Ollie Rathbone – who was handed 25 minutes on his return from injury against West Brom – was recalled to the Millers engine room and was handed the skipper’s armband in the process.
Jordan Hugill returned to his old stomping ground in good heart following his two-goal salvo on Good Friday.
Buoyed by a vociferous home support and a 2-0 victory over Blackburn last time out, Norwich were quick out of the blocks and Onel Hernandez made light work of Wes Harding to dart down the left flank before giving Teemu Pukki a sight of goal, but the Finnish striker saw his shot from the edge of the box blocked by a retreating defender.
Vickers had no time to rest on his laurels following his return to action and Sam McCallum stung his palms with a long-range effort before American forward Josh Sargent was the next to call him into action but Rotherham’s keeper was his equal with a fine, reactive save.
It was one-way traffic in the early stages and Pukki was denied by a well-stationed visiting defender following excellent work from Hernandez in the build-up before Gabriel Sara curled a low effort just wide of the Millers goal.
The home side turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye following Jacob Sorensen’s tackle on Hugill on the edge of the box and Sara and Pukki led the home cavalry charge before Hernandez’s drilled effort from the edge of the box was deflected behind by Harding.
The Millers had a scare when Sara clipped a lovely ball over the Millers rearguard and Pukki looked set to bare down on goal but Bramall anticipated the danger and prevented him shooting goalwards with a timely tackle.
Taylor’s side were riding their luck and some lovely interplay involving Sara gave Pukki another shooting opportunity and he duly obliged with a fierce effort which whistled over the Millers bar.
The Millers gradually grabbed a foothold in the Carrow Road clash, by seemingly taking the sting of the Canaries’ early storm and it was almost crowned when Rathbone’s slide-rule pass gave Jamie Lindsay the chance to advance to the edge of the home box before picking out an unmarked Tariqe Fosu – but a la West Brom – the Brentford loanee spooned his effort over when he really should have done better.
Nevertheless, Norwich always looked a threat in the attacking third, and normal service was resumed when Sara’s corner was only half-cleared into the path of McCallum, who unleashed a rasping left-foot effort from distance which looked to be arrowing into the bottom corner of the goal until Harding deflected the ball away with goal with a timely intervention.
In a rare Rotherham foray, Fosu and Rathbone worked the opening for Conor Coventry, who tried luck from long-range but he blazed his shot into the home fans behind the goal.
The Millers were penned deep late in the half and timely interceptions from Cameron Humphreys and Coventry helped preserve parity before Sara fired harmlessly wide, just seconds later.
Minutes later, Coventry became the first to see yellow as he illegally halted the flow of a Norwich counter by holding back Sargent off the ball before Humphreys denied Pukki with a good block.
The Millers had a let-off just before the interval when Rathbone was penalised for bringing down Sargent on the edge of the box but from the resultant free-kick, Sara’s effort flew over the Rotherham wall but also sailed just wide of the away goal.
Half-time: Norwich City 0 Rotherham United 0
The Millers made a positive start to the half when Harding fizzed a lovely cross which evaded both Hugill and Fosu before Bramall was clattered by Marquinhos.
Bramall’s resultant free-kick appeared deep but Humphreys managed to hook the ball towards goal but Angus Gunn palmed the ball over his crossbar, although a free-kick had already been awarded.
Rotherham had another half-chance when Fosu released Bramall down the left, but his clipped cross was plucked out of the sky by Gunn.
The home side were granted an opportunity when Humphreys brought down Pukki, Marquinhos’ resultant free-kick was charged down but the ball fell kindly for Canaries skipper, Andrew Omobamidele, who looked set to threaten the visitors goal but a number of Rotherham defenders put their bodies on the line to prevent him shooting goalwards.
The Millers had a stroke of luck when the lively Hernandez had the visitors in a daze with fleet of foot, before striking a low left-footed effort which Vickers half-stopped, but the ball looped towards the unguarded net until Blackett made an acrobatic last-ditch clearance to keep the ball out.
The Millers goal was living a charmed life and Marquinhos forced Vickers into a lovely save to his right before Bramall blocked McCallum on the follow-up. Rotherham made a hash of clearing the following corner, but Pukki – often reliable in front of goal – shinned his point-blank effort wide of goal.
Taylor’s side were proving a tough nut to crack while having the odd foray into Norwich territory and sub Domingos Quina floated a cross which caught the wind at Carrow Road but Gunn made a smart, backtracking catch.
Minutes later, Hugill was brought down by sub Abu Kamara and Quina floated a delicate free-kick which was met by the head of sub Lee Peltier, but he could not direct his header towards the Norwich goal.
In the dying minutes, Rotherham had a sniff of goal and Coventry – almost gave them a smash-and-grab win, with a drilled drive from distance which Gunn smothered smartly on his own line.
Predictably, Norwich threw bodies forward in an attempt to grab a late winner and the Millers were indebted to Harding for granting them a point to take back north when Sara swung over a corner which Vickers – uncharacteristically flapped at – and Tzolis looked to steer the ball home, but Harding hacked clear from his own line.
Seconds later, Norwich pumped the ball back into the box and Tzolis again had a glimpse of goal but he flashed wide despite having the goal at his mercy.
Taylor’s men weathered six minutes of stoppage time and the loyal, vocal band of Millers followers were almost on their feet in the last seconds when Lindsay headed straight into the grateful hands of Gunn.
Full-time: Norwich City 0 Rotherham United 0
Norwich City 0
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Norwich- Gunn, Aarons, Omobamidele, Marquinhos (Tzolis 82), McCallum (Giannoulis 66), Sara, Sorensen, Pukki (Idah 66), Sargent, Hernandez (Kamara 82), Gibbs. Unused- Krul, Byram, Hayden.
Rotherham- Vickers, Harding, Bramall, Coventry, Fosu, Hugill (Ferguson 90), Ogbene, Lindsay, Rathbone (Quina 60), Humphreys, Blackett (Peltier 80). Unused- Hemfrey, Kelly, Odoffin, Hjelde.
Referee- J Simpson