Four-goal thriller at NYS....
It was thrill-a-minute stuff at the AESSEAL New York Stadium as Rotherham United and Blackburn Rovers had to settle for a share of the spoils in a pulsating Roses clash on a rollercoaster afternoon for both sides.
Matt Taylor’s side looked on course to record victory in their first Sky Bet Championship home encounter when goals either side of the interval from Hakeem Odoffin and Fred Onyedinma put the Millers in charge, but it was far from the end of the story.
Onyedinma went from hero to villain when he received two yellow cards in two minutes, including one for his celebration, and Blackburn took advantage of their numerical superiority when Sammie Szmodics – who had missed a first half penalty – made amends with a second-half brace.
Following their Carabao Cup first round victory over Morecambe in midweek, Portuguese playmaker Cafu returned to the Rotherham fold following his opening day sending off at Stoke City while Ben Wiles shrugged off a dead leg sustained against the Shrimps to take his place alongside him.
Fellow midfielder Ollie Rathbone took on the skipper’s armband while Swedish international Viktor Johansson celebrated a Millers milestone by making his 100th appearance between the sticks.
The Lancastrians – much like their changed away strip – made a bright start but it was Rotherham, who threatened first when Onyedinma’s pass released the rampaging Cohen Bramall down the left flank but his cross – which was aimed at Jordan Hugill just yards out – was hacked clear by Dominic Hyam.
Bramall was in the thick of the early action and he had a shot with his weaker right-foot deflected over before Cafu threatened the Blackburn defence with back-to-back corners but they withstood the test.
The Millers turned defence into attack when Johansson raced from his box to snuff out a Blackburn counter before launching a long punt which cleared the Rovers backline. Onyedinma – who had anticipated this to perfection – was the grateful recipient as he darted into the visitors box before firing a low shot which appeared to be diverted away by Aynsley Pears away from goal, but the referee decided to give a goal kick.
Despite the home side’s fast start, Blackburn were presented with a chance to break the deadlock just before the quarter hour.
The visitors threatened in and around the Rotherham penalty area before Szmodics’ mis-hit shot caused havoc and Cameron Humphreys – in an attempt top cut out the danger in front of Joe Rankin-Costello – hauled down the Rovers man in the box and the referee pointed to the spot.
Szmodics took on the responsibility from 12 yards and he appeared to wheel away in celebration as he wrongfooted Johansson with the resultant spot kick but to the jubilation of the home faithful, his well-struck effort struck the inside of the post before Thrhys Dolan made a hash of the rebound when he flashed wide with the goal at his mercy.
The decibel level was raised at the AESSEAL New York Stadium and Rotherham rubbed salt into Rovers’ wounds, just minutes after Hugill had fired into the grateful hands of Pears, by opening the scoring.
Szmodics – with his head maybe still maybe in a daze following his penalty miss – attempted a pass across the pitch which was never on and Odoffin – a scorer in the same fixture last year – could not believe his luck, as he firstly got the ball under his spell, and with it sitting up nicely, he made no mistake to fire a lovely effort from the edge of the box, which arrowed away from the attentions of Pears to find the bottom corner of the net.
To their credit, Blackburn responded positively to the setback and Adam Wharton volleyed over from the edge of the box following a period of visitors’ pressure.
Cafu became the first to see yellow for deliberate handball, as he expected a free-kick award which never came and Szmodics – in a half to forget – soon joined him in the book for a hefty challenge on Rathbone.
Just shy of half-time, Dexter Lembikisa made it a trio of cautions for kicking the ball away before Odoffin headed over from Cafu’s floated free-kick in the half’s last act.
Half-time: Rotherham United 1 Blackburn Rovers 0
Attacking the North Stand, the Millers made the perfect start to the second 45 when they doubled their lead.
Taylor’s side were quick out of the blocks and following a free-kick award, Cafu demonstrated his set-piece prowess, once again, with a lovely delivery into the box, and Onyedinma, who had got on the wrong side of the Blackburn rearguard, met his centre with a diving header, and to the delight of the home faithful, his effort flew into the far corner of the Rovers net.
The second goal led to wild celebrations from home players and fans alike in one of the corners, and the scorer, Onyedinma was shown a yellow-card with the referee deeming them to be over-zealous.
The moment was soon to prove costly for Rotherham and Onyedinma, when the Rotherham winger, was shown a second caution, just two minutes later, bizarrely, in the aftermath of Rotherham being given a free-kick following a foul by Hayden Carter.
The AESSEAL New York Stadium was now at fever pitch and cards were the order of the day with Johansson and both Rotherham manager, Taylor, and assistant manager, Wayne Carlisle, all being given yellow-cards following vehement protests, in the aftermath of the incident.
The Millers – who were roared on by a vociferous home faithful – were now forced to show their defensive mettle and they were certainly doing that, by putting their bodies in the line at every opportunity while threatening with the odd counter attack.
Naturally, Rovers upped the tempo with their numerical advantage and Wharton fired over before Dolan failed to hit the target from a promising position.
The visitors squandered a gilt-edged chance to halve the deficit when two of their replacements, Callum Brittain dug out a cross which looked on course for Ryan Hedges to tap home, but he fluffed his lines with a wayward finish from close range.
It was now backs-to-the wall stuff but the Millers’ resistance was finally broken with just over 15 minutes to go.
A threaded pass into the box by Adam Wharton presented Szmodics – with the chance to atone for his nightmare first-half – and he duly took it when he fired a goalbound effort which took a nick off a Rotherham defender, and Johansson was deceived, as the ball found the heart of the home goal.
The Millers fans were fearing the worst and it came home to roost when Blackburn equalised just three minutes later.
A hopeful through ball was not cut out decisively by Tyler Blackett, who failed to clear his lines, and Szmodics pounced on the hesitation to advance on goal, and the ex-Peterborough midfielder kept his nerve to calmly round Johansson, before firing goalwards and despite the last-ditch attentions of Humphreys, the ball found the home goal.
The Millers’ players were giving their all for the cause, and in a rare counter, sub Sean Morrison headed over from fellow sub Tolaji Bola’s corner.
Normal service was resumed when Harry Pickering fired straight into the grateful hands of Johansson before the Blackburn defender brought the best out of the Swedish stopper, with a dipping volley which Johansson superbly tipped over his own bar.
The visitors missed a couple of late chances to take maximum points over the Pennines when sub Niall Ennis blazed wide before Pickering flashed wide from Ennis’ assist.
It was perhaps fitting that Johansson stood up tall in Millers colours on his big day, as he often has, and he earned another valuable point for his side when he kept out Sam Gallagher’s powerful downward header deep in stoppage time.
Full-time: Rotherham United 2 Blackburn Rovers 2
Rotherham United 2
Blackburn Rovers 2
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Lembikisa (Bola 81), Bramall, Blackett, Cafu (Morrison 61), Wiles (Kayode 88), Hugill (Kelly 61), Onyedinma, Rathbone (McGuckin 88), Odoffin, Humphreys. Unused- Phillips, McCart, Ayres.
Blackburn- Pears, Pickering, Hyam, Szmodics, Dolan (Gallagher 68), Rankin-Costello, Carter, Markanday (Hedges 57), Leonard (Ennis 57), A Wharton (Buckley 90+5), Travis (Brittain 57). Unused- Wahlstedt, Tronstad, S Wharton, Garrett.
Referee- R Madley
Attendance- 10828 (1916)