REPORT | Preston North End 1 v 1 Rotherham
ROTHERHAM United earned their second away point of the season following an impressive display at Preston North End.
The Millers made the perfect start thanks to Richie Smallwood’s smart half-volley from the edge of the box and Tom Adeyemi came within a whisker of making it two, minutes later.
However, Preston got themselves back on level terms thanks to Stevie May’s curling effort and although the Millers arguably had the better of the second half at Deepdale despite a late home rally, Paul Warne’s men had to settle for a share of the spoils.
For their last away game of the season, Millers boss Warne made two changes to his starting line-up for the trip over the Pennines.
Club skipper Lee Frecklington gave the Millers a pre-match boost by being named in the visitors’ engine room while striker Jonson Clarke-Harris was handed his first start of the season following an injury-plagued campaign as top-scorer Danny Ward was absent because of a hamstring injury sustained in last weekend’s victory over Ipswich Town.
There was a familiar face in the PNE squad as former Millers fans favourite Ben Pringle was named on the bench while one-time Rotherham target May was handed a rare start for the Lilywhites.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Clarke-Harris tumbled under the challenge of Alan Browne and from the resultant free-kick, Jon Taylor curled a long-range effort which sailed over the Preston wall but Chris Maxwell dived smartly to his right to smother his shot.
In Preston’s first foray of note, Tommy Spurr delivered a delicious centre which saw May get on the wrong side of his marker but the ex-Owls striker, who was at full stretch, could only scuff the ball wide of the target.
Moments later, Will Vaulks’ speculative effort from distance was deflected over by Browne before Rotherham made the breakthrough on nine minutes from the resultant corner kick.
Taylor swung an inswinging centre which was only half-cleared into the path of Smallwood on the edge of the box, who controlled smartly to fire a fine, left-footed half-volley which flew past the ruck of bodies in the home box before beating the despairing dive of Maxwell to find the bottom corner of the net.
The Millers were buoyed by the breakthrough and Taylor had a shot blocked en-route to goal before Adeyemi latched onto a ball into the box to curl an effort which looked to be arrowing into the far corner, but his shot took the slightest of deflections to take it wide of the goal.
The visitors had a scare when Daniel Johnson’s initial shot struck Semi Ajayi before his follow-up effort was blocked bravely by Richard Wood before Clarke-Harris nonchalantly ghosted in from the flank, at the other end, to try an ambitious effort from distance which skipped off the Deepdale turf forcing Maxwell into a reflex save to bundle the ball to safety.
Moments later, Vaulks’ arrowed pass paved the way for Wood, who remained upfront following a corner, to work a yard of space on his marker to head towards goal but Maxwell was well-stationed to snuff out the danger before the dangerous Aiden McGeady showed fleet of foot to outfox Darnell Fisher, at the other end, before swinging a tantalising centre which was inches away from the attentions of Jordan Hugill.
McGeady was proving a thorn in the Millers side’ and some more dazzling footwork from the ex-Celtic winger left Joe Mattock grounded before he dug out an effort which was straight down the throat of Richard O’Donnell.
Minutes later, McGeady ghosted into the box before being crowded out by a masse of Rotherham defenders but the ball fell kindly for Hugill, who looked set to test O’Donnell but he fluffed his lines with a dragged effort which failed to trouble the Millers goal.
However, Rotherham failed to heed the warning as Preston levelled matters with four minutes of the half remaining, when the Millers halted a run on the edge of the box but the ball fell invitingly for May, who curled a beauty from 20 yards which beat the outstretched hand of O’Donnell to find the top corner of the visitors goal.
The Millers responded to the setback in superb fashion and could have regained the lead in first-half stoppage time when Vaulks and Taylor combined smartly to pave the way for Frecklington to float a cross to the far post which saw Clarke-Harris nod down into the path of Adeyemi, who could not control his effort as it blazed over the bar.
Half-time- Preston North End 1 Rotherham United 1
The Millers were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and a lovely one-two involving Adeyemi and Clarke-Harris paved the way for the Cardiff loanee to drill a low effort which looked destined for the bottom corner of the goal but Maxwell produced a superb save, low to his right, to keep the ball out before Preston scrambled the ball to safety.
Moments later, Taylor’s floated cross saw Frecklington rise highest to power a header towards goal but Maxwell plucked the ball out of the air with consummate ease before superb work from Clarke-Harris released Taylor down the right flank but the Millers winger over hit his cross and the chance was lost.
In the next phase of play, good work from Vaulks on halfway presented Taylor with the opportunity to dink a cross which saw Frecklington emerge from the ruck of bodies to usher the ball goalwards but his effort lacked power as Maxwell gathered smartly before McGeady’s cross-cum-shot had O’Donnell backtracking nervously towards his goal as the Millers’ stopper produced a superb tip away one-handed to keep the ball out.
Moments later, Clarke-Harris found himself surrounded by Preston defenders before showing a turn of speed to race away from their attentions as Taylor cut inside to drill a low effort which stung the palms of Maxwell before Wood put his body on the line with a characteristic block to deny Hugill, at the other end.
Smallwood became the first to see yellow for cynically hauling back McGeady and after Smallwood was penalised, in another incident minutes later, McGeady curled a low free-kick which had O’Donnell quickly scurrying across his line as the ball fizzed into the Millers’ side netting.
With the game in the balance, Hugill headed harmlessly wide before Vaulks’ innocuous cross was not dealt with decisively by the Preston rearguard but Taylor failed to trouble the home goal with a weak effort from a promising position.
Moments later, Mattock showed great bravery to head clear under pressure from Tyias Browning before Preston almost grabbed a late winner when McGeady jinked his way past the attentions of sub Jerry Yates before floating a cross which saw sub Simon Makienok head goalwards but Ajayi showed good anticipation to hack clear from his own line.
Moments later, the travelling faithful had their hearts in their mouths when Daryl Horgan dug out a cross which saw Makienok win the aerial duel with O’Donnell to plant a header which looped onto the Millers bar before fortunately rebounding into the hands of the Millers’ keeper.
In the last action of the game, Browne blazed an effort over the bar from distance as the Millers returned back over the M62 with a well-deserved point for their efforts.
Full-time- Preston North End 1 Rotherham United 1
Preston North End 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Preston- Maxwell, Browning, Browne, Johnson, McGeady, Spurr, May (Robinson 65), Huntington, Hugill (Makienok 80), Baptiste, Barkhuizen (Horgan 65). Unused- Lindegaard, Vermijl, Pringle, Boyle.
Rotherham- O’Donnell, Mattock, Vaulks, Wood (Belaid 86), Frecklington (Yates 80), Taylor, Ajayi, Fisher, Clarke-Harris (Morris 72), Adeyemi, Smallwood. Unused- Bilboe, Bray, Purrington, Warren
Referee- R Jones
Attendance- 11032 (471).