Rotherham United dug in to claim an impressive point against a highly-fancied Watford side at AESSEAL New York Stadium, as the two sides played out a fiercely-contested 1-1 draw.
Richard Wood continued his rich vein of form in front of goal, by notching his third in as many games after just three minutes, but the Hornets struck back to get in level, through Vakoun Bayo’s stunning volley.
Rotherham undoubtedly earned their point as solid performances from steadfast centre backs Richard Wood and Lee Peltier kept an ever-threatening Watford attack at bay, showing their experience. Elsewhere on the pitch, youngster Norton-Cuffy and his wing-back counterpart Cohen Bramall caused problems all afternoon, as well as Ollie Rathbone, who was a constant thorn in the side of the visitors with his all-action performance in the centre of the pitch.
Richie Barker called on the fans to be the 12th man for this fixture, and the rapturous atmosphere at the AESSEAL New York Stadium was already proving to be just that.
The Millers started brightly and exactly on the 3 minute mark, Wood stunned the Hornets and gave Rotherham the lead with an expertly placed header from a Wes Harding cross.
Watford went in search of an instant response, however, as Joao Pedro came running at the Millers’ back three, spreading the ball to Yaser Asprilla. Asprilla delivered a low cross into the box back to Pedro, who was denied twice by blocks from Peltier.
The game was proving to be truly end-to-end in the opening 10 minutes as Norton-Cuffy found himself free, as he unleashed a left-footed effort which was blocked by a well-positioned Hause.
The Millers earnt a free kick in a dangerous position as Ogbene got on the end of a brilliant Ben Wiles ball and was fouled by Joao Pedro. Bramall lined up to shoot, but his effort was parried away by Bachmann.
Rotherham continued to press high and effectively, playing the majority of the opening exchanges on the offensive, as Ogbene proved to be a constant threat to the Watford backline.
Another chance was carved out for the Millers when Bachmann’s 23rd minute goal kick only fell as far as Barlaser, who played a ball forward into the feet of Rathbone – he then spun and found Conor Washington. Washington made room for the shot but it dragged just wide.
It was Watford’s turn to attack when Joao Pedro stood over a threatening free kick on the half-hour mark, as he fizzed it through a sea of bodies, fortunately for the Millers, no one could make a telling contact.
The visitors levelled the score in the 33rd minute when Edo Kayembe delivered a cross into the box, which was met by a thumping Vakoun Bayo volley.
The game began to open up again after the equaliser, with goalscorer-Kayembe finding space down the right for a cross into the box, which narrowly missed the head of Pedro as the sides went in level.
HALF TIME: MILLERS 1 v 1 WATFORD
The Millers continued to attack into the second half, as Norton-Cuffy rounded Sema and delivered a low cross into the box, which required a clearance from Kabasele on 48 minutes.
A huge chance for Rotherham presented itself, when a chaotic scramble in the box fell for Peltier who took aim, but his goalbound effort was diverted away from goal by a well-timed block.
Watford countered as Joao Pedro stormed down the left and executed a dangerous cross which met Asprilla – his powerful effort was palmed away by Johansson.
On 55 minutes, Dan Barlaser found himself in space outside the box and was urged by the fans to shoot – the midfielder obliged, as his powerful strike was pushed away by Bachmann.
Another significant chance presented itself in the Millers’ favour just before the hour mark, as Rathbone chased down the ball doggedly to win possession in a threatening area, he then fed Wiles who beat Hause for pace into the box. Wiles’ low cross was just behind the stride of Washington, as the visitors scrambled clear.
The Millers were presented with a slice of fortune on the hour mark when Pedro’s cross evaded everyone in the box before kissing the post and bouncing to safety, as the visitors started to turn the screw.
Watford continued to mount pressure as Keinan Davis attempted to slide through Bayo for a tap-in, however it was Harding to the rescue again, as he slid to block the cross – and was quickly back to his feet to clear the danger.
The Millers were forced to dig deep to protect their point in the final exchanges of the game, but always carried a threat on the counter attack, with Eaves agonisingly close to finding the advancing Ogbene inside the final 10 minutes.
Watford earnt themselves a freekick in a dangerous area, as Edo Kayembe’s tip-toed run up had the AESSEAL New York Stadium waiting with baited breath. His strong effort struck the wall, as Tom Eaves reacted quickest to thump it away, as the Millers held on for a point.
FULL TIME: MILLERS 1 – 1 WATFORD
Rotherham – Johansson, Harding, Bramall, Barlaser, Wood ©, Wiles, Norton-Cuffy, Ogbene, Washington, Rathbone, Peltier.
Subs – High (Barlaser 62’), Eaves (Washington 62’), (Wiles 80’), Ferguson (Rathbone 90+2’) McCart (Harding 90+2’), Unused – Vickers, Kelly,
Watford – Bachmann, Choudhury, Pedro, Sema, Kamara, Cathcart ©, Asprilla, Bayo, Kabasele, Hause, Kayembe.
Subs – Gaspar (Kamara 63’), Davis (Asprilla 67’), Unused – Hamer, Troost-Ekong, Gosling, Sierralta, Hungbo