Honours even in Roses clash....
Rotherham United compounded the Sky Bet Championship form book by earning a hard-working point against table toppers Preston North End in an enthralling AESSEAL New York Stadium clash.
It could have been so much better for the Millers as they took a first-half lead in the Roses affair before being pegged back by Ryan Lowe’s high-flyers.
Jordan Hugill maintained his happy knack of scoring against his former clubs by notching his second goal of the campaign, following a superb strike from distance, but Liam Lindsay cancelled out his effort, soon after, for the Lilywhites.
Following back-to-back away defeats at the hands of Huddersfield Town and Millwall, Millers boss Matt Taylor made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit of the Lancastrians.
Cohen Bramall returned to the starting line up after jarring his knee at the John Smith’s Stadium while Andre Green was also recalled after being named a substitute in South London.
There was a home debut for Sam Clucas but Taylor was still without the services of playmaker Cafu, who continued to miss out with a hamstring injury.
The Millers had a little bit of joy in the early stages down the right flank in the shape of an on-rushing Dexter Lembikisa, who delivered a trio of inviting centres with the last one headed away bravely by Jordan Storey.
The home fans had their hearts in their mouths when Vitkor Johansson had to wait an age for the ball to reach the box under pressure from Duane Holmes, but the Swedish stopper was able to gather at the second attempt.
The Lilywhites were playing with a great deal of confidence - unsurprisingly given their start to the campaign – and Cameron Humphreys had to be well-stationed to divert Robbie Brady’s dangerous cross over his bar with two visiting players lurking for a tap-in.
From the resultant back-to-back corners, Andrew Hughes nodded straight into the grateful hands of Johansson from Brady’s set-piece.
Minutes later, Preston turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and Holmes darted clear before trying to find visiting skipper Alan Browne in the box but Humphreys was again on-hand to hack clear.
From the following corner, Rotherham were caught napping and Browne’s pull back was dummied by Ali McCann and Holmes had the chance to strike but his low shot was blocked en-route to goal.
Around the half-hour mark, the Millers were indebted to Johansson for preserving parity when Holmes kept the ball alive following Browne’s corner and the American midfielder floated a cross into the box which looked inch-perfect for Milutin Osmajic, to head home from close range but the home ‘keeper firstly showed good agility and then superb reflexes to parry his effort over his own bar, against all the odds.
The moment proved crucial when Rotherham took the lead – just minutes later – thanks to Hugill’s heroics in front of goal.
There looked little danger for the Lilywhites when an ambitious ball was played into the left channel, but Hugill made light work of two defenders near the touchline before embarking on a run towards the Preston box – and despite Lindsay’s last ditch attempt to block his shot, Hugill duly took his opportunity to strike and he fired a lovely right footed effort which gave Freddie Woodman no chance as it arrowed into the far, top corner of the visitors net.
The Millers’ joy almost proved short-lived when Johansson uncharacteristically spilled a high ball and Lindsay – in the ensuing melee – headed goalwards but Tyler Blackett spared the Rotherham ‘keeper blushes with a timely clearance from near his own bar.
In the next phase of play, Ollie Rathbone became the first to see yellow for a late challenge on McCann.
The visitors had upped the tempo and two Republic of Ireland internationals’ combined when Browne rose highest to meet Brady’s corner, but his header flew narrowly wide of the home goal.
The Millers lead was looking a slender one and so it proved when Brady – with another dangerous corner – planted the ball underneath the Rotherham crossbar and Preston – who had looked threatening from set-pieces all afternoon – made it count this time when Lindsay brushed aside any would-be challenges, by heading home from close range.
The home side’s hopes were dealt another blow – just seconds before the half-time whistle blew – when Humphreys found himself in a foot race with Osmajic, before pulling up with a muscle injury, and he had to be helped from the pitch by the home side’s medical team.
Half-time: Rotherham United 1 Preston North End 1
With Humphreys unable to continue, Taylor was forced into a tactical switch by going with three at the back with Blackett the only recognised centre-half. Bramall and Lembikisa were pushed inside while Seb Revan – who was introduced – and Onyedinma were now the wing-backs.
Green now joined Hugill up top as a front pair but it was the Millers goal, which was threatened on two occasions.
Firstly, Johansson was forced to smother Brady’s cross before McCann blasted over following a lightning Lilywhites counter-attack.
Minutes later, Clucas was yellow-carded for hauling down Holmes in full flow before his manager, Taylor soon joined him in the book for dissent.
With Rotherham temporarily down to ten men following an injury to Christ Tiehi, Preston and Holmes squandered a half-chance when he blasted over from distance before Brad Potts became the latest to be cautioned following a move which saw both Green and Hugill grounded.
There were cards a plenty when Blackett was yellow-carded for a hefty challenge on Browne on halfway before club-record signing Sam Nombe was introduced with 20 minutes to go with his replacement, Clucas, given a generous ovation from the AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful following an impressive home debut.
The Millers’ makeshift defence were proving a tough nut to crack but Johansson was called into action to parry Ryan Ledson’s stinging drive before springing to action to deny Osmajic – a certain goal – on the follow-up.
Johansson was being severely tested by the quality of Preston’s set-pieces and he showed his bravery, once again, to divert Browne’s corner away from goal.
With the game on a knife-edge, Nombe almost something out of nothing following some defensive hesitation from the visitors but he was unable to threaten the target from an acute angle.
With the game in the balance, the Millers had an almighty scare when Potts skipped down the right flank before playing a centre which forced Blackett into a hurried clearance, from just yards out, but fortunately for the Millers, the ball struck the outside of the post before falling to safety.
In the last action of the game, the visitors had faint appeals for a spot kick when sub Liam Millar was felled under the challenge of Onyedinma in the box, but the referee waved away visiting protests.
Any late goal would have been tough on the Millers, who were more than a match for the visitors, who remain unbeaten in their Sky Bet Championship campaign, following a superb start.
Full-time: Rotherham United 1 Preston North End 1
Rotherham United 1
Preston North End 1
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Lembikisa, Bramall, Blackett, Clucas (Nombe 73), Hugill (Kelly 90+5), Green, Onyedinma, Rathbone, Humphreys (Revan 46), Tiehi. Unused- Phillips, Eaves, Appiah, McGuckin.
Preston- Woodman, Lindsay, Browne, Brady (Millar 70), McCann (Whiteman 70), Storey, Hughes, Ledson (Stewart 88), Holmes (Frokjaer 70), Osmajic, Potts. Unused- Cornell, Cunningham, Bauer, Woodburn, Whatmough.
Referee- S Allison
Attendance- 11434 (2419)