Millers earn hard-fought point....
Rotherham United put their midweek horror show behind them to earn a hardworking point on their travels at the expense of Birmingham City.
The Millers gave a good account of themselves in England’s second city to pick up just their second away point of the Sky Bet Championship campaign and it could have been even better for the visitors but Sam Nombe struck the woodwork in the first half before skipper Ollie Rathbone had a shot cleared off the line in the second 45.
For the trip to St Andrew’s Stadium, interim manager Wayne Carlisle made five changes to his starting line-up.
The Millers reshuffled their defensive pack with Daniel Ayala and Hakeem Odoffin – in a makeshift role away from his midfield berth – taking the central positions.
Jamie Lindsay was handed his first start of the campaign following short substitute cameos against Leeds and Hull while Almeria loanee Arvin Appiah was asked to provide the ammunition to lone frontman Nombe.
Midweek starters Dexter Lembikisa, Jordan Hugill, Georgie Kelly, Grant Hall and Sean Morrison were named on the bench.
On a freezing afternoon, the hosts had the first glimpse of goal when Jay Stansfield latched onto a through ball to drill a low effort from the edge of the box which was smartly smothered by Viktor Johansson.
Minutes later, Kojo Miyoshi planted a corner into the danger area and Blues skipper Dion Sanderson volleyed goalwards but Odoffin blocked his effort at close quarters.
The home side were having the better of the early proceedings and Ethan Laird ghosted past Cohen Bramall with ease before pulling back to Stansfield, who struck a first-time shot, which smashed against a retreating Millers defender, but the ball was adjudged to have already gone out of play in the build-up.
In the next home attacks, Johansson had to be on his toes at his near post to diffuse Miyoshi’s free-kick before Odoffin showed good awareness to snuff out Stansfield’s centre.
The Millers gradually got a foothold in the clash and they came close to the breakthrough when Nombe found himself in a tussle with Sanderson – and the visiting frontman showed good upper body strength to make light work of his opposite number, before taking aim with a shot on the run and John Ruddy got a hand to his effort, as the ball dribbled narrowly wide of the target.
Both sides traded chances when Ruddy found a Millers cross too hot to handle and Nombe was waiting to pounce for a tap in until a Blues defender hacked the ball clear from near his own line before Siriki Dembele blazed over at the other end.
The Millers were now imposing themselves on the game and Appiah showed quick feet in the Blues box to leave two home defenders in his wake but he was unable to get his shot away.
The home fans were getting increasingly frustrated with their side and it was no more evidence when Juninho Bacuna led a home breakaway but a wayward pass wasted a two-on-one opportunity.
The Millers had a half-chance when Appiah presented Rathbone with the chance to cut inside before letting fly with a left-footed effort but Krystian Bielik took the sting of his shot and Ruddy was able to gather with a minimum of fuss.
The visitors were growing in confidence and they came within a coat of paint of the opener when Sebastian Revan did well to dig out a cross from the left flank whereby Nombe and Ruddy found themselves in an aerial duel, and the Millers’ record signing got the better of the Blues ‘keeper to nod goalwards, but the woodwork came to Birmingham’s rescue before Lee Buchanan blasted clear.
Half-time- Birmingham City 0 Rotherham United 0
The Millers made a strong start to the second half and the Blues’ were almost the architect of their own downfall when Ruddy attempted a short goal kick to Emanuel Aiwu, who left his ‘keeper short-changed with a back pass, and Rathbone spotted an opportunity and after winning a challenge with Ruddy, the Millers captain had the whole goal at his mercy, but unluckily, his rising shot struck Sanderson – as last man – en-route to goal before the hosts scrambled the ball to safety.
The home side almost rubbed salt into Millers’ wounds turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye but Ayala put in a timely tackle to deny Stansfield on the counter.
The Millers were sensing an opportunity and Nombe – who was looking a constant threat – fired an effort just wide before trying his luck from distance, soon after, but he failed to hit the target.
On the hour mark, Lindsay became the first to see yellow for hauling down Dembele in full flow before Lee Peltier epitomised Rotherham’s battling spirit with two crunching tackles on halfway.
In a rare home foray, Stansfield blasted over following some fine interplay in the build-up before Rathbone had a sight of goal at the other end but Aiwu bravely blocked his shot.
Carlisle made a double change with 20 minutes to go with Lindsay and Peltier – who had just been cautioned for a foul on Dembele – replaced and Hugill and Morrison were introduced into the fray.
The game was in the balance and Dembele skipped round Lembikisa before clipping a centre which was caught sweet on the volley by Cody Drameh, but Johansson was his equal with a fine parried save before Lukas Jutkiewicz blasted over on the follow-up.
Rotherham had a couple of chances of their own when Nombe got the better of his marker before looking to squeeze the ball home from a tight angle but a combination of Ruddy and Aiwu kept the ball out.
The visitors then squandered a gilt-edged chance to take home the points when Nombe turned provider with a lovely cross into the path of Odoffin – who had stayed up field following an earlier attack – but the Millers midfielder-turned-defender failed to make a telling connection on the volley, and the chance was lost.
The Millers were looking the most likely and they came close again when Revan worked a yard of space to clip a centre into the danger area and Hugill got the better of an aerial challenge with his marker to plant a header back across goal, but the ball flew narrowly wide of the target.
The visitors had a let off of their own when Miyoshi threaded a ball into the feet of Jutkiewicz, who fired home with a low effort despite the attentions of Ayala and then Johansson, but a flag from the assistant referee spared Rotherham’s blushes.
The game was now end to end and Odoffin nearly made up for his earlier miss with a stinging volley which Ruddy did well to keep out before Johansson was called into action to deny Bielik at the other end with a smart save.
The Millers held firm near the end to earn just reward for their battling display, by taking a share of the spoils back north.
Full-time: Birmingham City 0 Rotherham United 0
Birmingham City 0
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Birmingham- Ruddy, Laird (Drameh 26), Buchanan, Sanderson, Bielik, Bacuna (James 59), Miyoshi, Dembele, Stansfield, Aiwu, Burke (Jutkiewicz 59). Unused- Etheridge, Roberts, Sunjic, Gardner, Donovan, Hogan.
Rotherham- Johansson, Bramall, Ayala, Lindsay (Morrison 72), Rathbone, Peltier (Hugill 72), Odoffin, Tiehi, Revan, Nombe, Appiah (Lembikisa 58). Unused- Phillips, Hall, McGuckin, Eaves, Kelly.
Referee- A Davies