Honours even at Deepdale.....
Rotherham United maintained their unbeaten start to their Sky Bet Championship return following a backs-to-the-wall performance at Preston North End.
The Lancastrians have found goals hard to come by while being a tough nut to crack themselves so far this season and it may come as no surprise that it was honours even, but it only tells half the story as the Millers had to withstand severe spells of home pressure to take a share of the spoils back over the Pennines.
The Millers made the trip in good heart following a four point haul in their first two Sky Bet Championship league games.
There were two changes from the handsome victory over Reading at the weekend.
Cohen Bramall and Lee Peltier made their first league starts for the visitors as club skipper Richard Wood and Shane Ferguson were rested.
Rawmarsh-born midfielder Ben Wiles took on the skipper’s armband for the Roses clash.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and they missed a gilt-edged chance to take the lead in the early minutes when a fortunate ricochet fell kindly for Troy Parrott, and the Tottenham loanee advanced with menace before playing a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of Daniel Johnson, who had ghosted away from the attentions of his nearest Rotherham marker, but he stroked the ball wide of the target when he really should have done better.
The Lilywhites had made a lightning start and Robbie Brady threaded the ball into the feet of Parrott, who worked a yard of space on Grant Hall before firing into the side netting, although it took a slight nick off the Millers centre-half.
The Millers appeared to have taken the sting out of Preston’s lively opening and Wes Harding launched a long throw into the box and with no home defender clearing the danger, Hall hooked the ball over his own head and towards goal but Freddie Woodman made a comfortable catch.
Paul Warne’s side were settling into the Deepdale affair and Bramall tried his luck with a quick dart down the left flank but Jordan Storey snuffed out the opportunity with a timely tackle.
Following a quiet spell, the game sprang to life when Andrew Hughes and Brady combined smartly to take Harding out of the game and the latter pulled the ball back into the run of Parrott, who looked set to test Viktor Johansson in the visitors goal, but Cameron Humphreys came out of nowhere to block his goalbound effort, at close quarters, in a superb piece of defending.
Just past the half hour mark, Rotherham came within a coat of paint of the opener when Harding injected pass into a Millers move before Dan Barlaser played a lovely ball into the path of Conor Washington, who worked a yard of space on his home marker, to calmly thread the ball through his legs, but agonisingly for the Millers, and in almost slow motion, the ball rolled tantalisingly wide of the far post.
Parrott was looking a constant threat for the hosts and following a clever one-two, the Republic of Ireland striker threatened again, but Hall, this time was his equal with a fine block.
Both sides traded good chances near the break and the Millers were indebted to Johansson for preserving parity with Parrott again in the thick of the action.
His Irish colleague Alan Browne provided a timely assist with a lovely through ball and Parrott bared down on goal, and the highly-rated forward looked to pick his spot but the Swedish stopper correctly guessed his intentions and he stuck out a timely foot to divert the ball away from goal.
After Bramall became the first to see yellow for a rash challenge on Browne, the former Lincoln City speedster showed his positive qualities with a rampaging run which left Storey in his slipstream, before delivering a near post cross which Washington anticipated superbly with a precise shot, but Woodman got down low to keep the ball out.
In the last action of the first half, Bramall was again a danger with an innocuous looking cross which ended up smashing against the outside of the home post.
Half-time: Preston North End 0 Rotherham United 0
The Millers made a change at the break with Ollie Rathbone introduced at the expense of Lindsay.
Preston threatened on a couple of occasions, early in the second half, including with Brady, who fired over following good work by Brad Potts but Rotherham, as per the first 45, seemed to have weathered the worst of the home storm.
Just before the hour mark, the hosts took advantage of a moment of overconfidence from Harding, who lost possession, and Browne had Johansson at full stretch with an effort from just outside the box.
The Millers had a reshuffle of the forward positions when the ever-willing Washington was withdrawn and Chiedozie Ogbene was asked to ply his trade as the furthest man forward.
Harding found himself in the book for a pull-back before Ben Whiteman blazed into the home stand behind the goal with a wasteful effort.
Hall was well-stationed to divert Brady’s cross away from danger before sub Emil Riis got the better of Rathbone to waltz into the box, before jinking away from Barlaser to strike a fierce effort which cannoned against the post.
The hosts were turning up the tempo and Georgie Kelly was brought on, in an attempt to halt the home flow of traffic, but Preston continued to threaten the Millers goal and Potts worked a shooting position, and he duly obliged by unleashing a rasping drive from distance which smashed against the crossbar.
The Millers goal was now living a charmed life, and Daniel Johnson looked set to strike home, just minutes later, but once again, a timely, last-gasp intervention from a backtracking visiting defender kept the score goalless.
It was looking a matter of when not if for the home side but to their credit, the Millers were showing true grit and determination, in the face of a home onslaught while Brady was a tormentor-in-chief with a number of pinpoint set-piece deliveries.
The Lilywhites’ fans were cranking up the noise but Rotherham had a great chance, for a breakaway goal, in front of their supporters, when they switched play to great effect and Bramall presented Wiles with the chance to strike, but the Millers midfielder screwed his shot wide of the target.
Normal service was resumed when Ogbene was stripped of possession heading back towards his own goal and Johansson was called into action to firstly deny Whiteman before Riis stung his palms with a low effort.
The Millers had to contend with five minutes of stoppage time, but they were in no mood to give away what they had worked hard for, and the away fans were quick to hail the efforts of their team at the final whistle.
Full-time: Preston North End 0 Rotherham United 0
Preston North End 0
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Preston- Woodman, Whiteman, L Lindsay, Browne (Woodburn 78), Johnson (McCann 78), Brady, Storey, Parrott (Evans 87), Hughes, Ledson (Riis 62), Potts. Unused- Cornell, Cunningham, Bauer.
Rotherham- Johansson, Harding (Kelly 70), Bramall, Barlaser, Barlaser, Wiles (Wood 90), Ogbene, Washington (High 62), J Lindsay (Rathbone 46), Hall, Peltier, Humphreys. Unused- Vickers, McCart, Ferguson.
Referee- O Langford