Rotherham 1 v 1 PlymouthSubstitute Kieran Agard was the Rotherham United hero as his second-half strike gave his side their third successive victory at the expense of Plymouth Argyle.
The ex-Yeovil striker’s first league goal for the Millers proved decisive for Steve Evans’ side as they were frustrated by a dogged Plymouth outlet for the majority of the game.
Following their back-to-back victories over Aldershot and Morecambe respectively, Evans was keen to keep faith with his starting line-up.
However, two changes were forced upon the Rotherham supremo with England U-20 international Josh Morris being drafted in at left-back following his temporary switch from Blackburn Rovers after Bob Harris was recalled by his parent club, Blackpool earlier in the week while Gareth Evans was promoted from the substitutes bench at the 11th hour after Lionel Ainsworth was injured during the pre-match warm up.
Argyle made the long trip north with former Millers loanee Scott Griffiths in their ranks while Northern Ireland international Warren Feeney had to settle for a place on their subs bench.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and they had the first sight of goal when Kari Arnason fired a speculative effort over from distance before Argyle broke clear at the other end and Alex MacDonald’s slid-rule ball released Andres Gurrieri, who whistled a left-footed effort which had Andy Warrington nervously scurrying across goal.
The home side's plans were thrown further into disarray when Dale Tonge injured himself near the corner flag and Mark Bradley was forced to enter the fray with just four minutes on the clock.
Following a fine-flowing move, Evans cut inside from the byline before unleashing a rasping left-footed drive which seemed to swirl in the wind as ‘keeper Jake Cole was forced to punch clear before Argyle cleared the danger.
At the other end, Curtis Nelson’s mazy run split open the Rotherham rearguard but despite his incisive pass giving Paris Cowan-Hall a sight of goal, he failed to make decent contact and his tame effort was comfortably gathered by Warrington.
In a topsy-turvy encounter, the Millers were the next to threaten when Arnason’s long throw was not dealt with decisively by the visitors’ defence and Lee Frecklington showed great technique to adjust his feet before striking a fierce half-volley which forced Cole into a flying save.
The Millers were taking the upper hand and following great passing in and around the visitors box involving Daniel Nardiello and Alex Revell, Ben Pringle struck a sweet curling effort which was arrowing to the bottom corner until Cole’s late intervention tipped it around the post.
From the resultant corner, Pringle then turned provider as his corner was met by the head of Revell but Cole was again on hand to parry the ball to safety.
Argyle seemingly had weathered the storm and the pressure was diffused when Evans was yellow-carded for tripping Cowan-Hall in full flight as the visitors’ countered with menace.
The home side continued to press and they had faint appeals for a spot kick when following a swift move, Frecklington was lining up a shot until Luke Young’s sliding challenge stopped him in his tracks but referee Bond waived away any hopes of a penalty.
Just past the half-hour mark, Rotherham believed they had made the much-needed breakthrough when Pringle’s corner saw Arnason climb highest to plant a header which flew into the heart of the visitors’ goal but his joy turned to despair as the referee had blown for an earlier infringement, possibly involving Nardiello.
The home side were then nearly the victim of a sucker punch when MacDonald got the better of Morris before floating a tantalising cross which was met by the diving head of Guy Madjo, but his header failed to trouble Warrington from point-blank range.
Deep into stoppage time, following a period of head tennis, Revell’s snap shot was snuffed out again by Cole, who was the standout performer of the first stanza.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Plymouth Argyle 0
Following the restart, the Millers seemingly started where they left-off when Morris’ clever pass paved the way for Evans, to weigh up his options before striking a fearsome effort which sailed over the bar when he should have done better.
Minutes later, MacDonald found himself in the book following a late challenge on Frecklington before Argyle started to frustrate the home side in their attempts for the breakthrough.
However, just past the hour mark, after Frecklington was bundled over just outside the box, Rotherham squandered the opportunity from the resultant free-kick when Morris’ powder-puff effort was blocked by the defensive wall.
Minutes later, Nardiello raced down the left channel before ghosting past Maxime Blanchard with a minimum of fuss to power an effort which was smothered by the body of Cole.
Ex-Chesterfield midfielder Jamie Lowry saw yellow for a late challenge before Nardiello’s snap shot across the face of goal had Cole nervously looking across goal.
However, Rotherham were rewarded for their superiority with the opener on 73 minutes with sub Agard making an instant impact following his introduction ten minutes earlier.
Following a switch of play, Nardiello teased and tormented Griffiths on the right flank before drilling a low cross to the front post and Agard nipped infront of his marker to slide the ball home from point-blank range.
The Millers were lifted by the breakthrough and Agard had a shot blocked before Arnason blazed over from distance minutes later.
The visitors were struggling to mount a revival and only threatened Warrington’s goal in the dying seconds when sub Nick Chadwick headed over from Cowan-Hall’s pullback
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Plymouth Argyle 0
Rotherham:- Warrington, Tonge (Bradley 4), Sharps, Morgan, Morris, Evans (Agard 62), Arnason, Frecklington, Pringle, Revell, Nardiello (Odejayi 87) Unused:- Thompson, Taylor, O’Connor.
Plymouth:- Cole, Berry, Young, Lowry (Bhasera 79), S Griffiths, Blanchard, MacDonald, Nelson, Madjo (Feeney 59), Cowan-Hall, Gurrieri (Chadwick 73). Unused:- Gilmartin, Lennox, Richards, R Griffiths
Att :6,938 (633)