ROTHERHAM United’s Championship era ended on a positive note as they claimed a hard-fought draw with Derby County.
In a game of few chances, Lee Frecklington put the Millers ahead with a well-taken goal but Tom Ince denied the Millers victory after he scored from the spot- after he was felled by Jonson Clarke-Harris in the box.
After picking up four points out of the last six following a home victory over Ipswich Town and a hard-fought draw at Preston North End, Millers boss Paul Warne kept faith with his Deepdale starting line-up for the season finale against the Rams.
Clarke-Harris was given another opportunity to impress by leading the Rotherham line while academy products Laurence Bilboe, Jerry Yates and Darnelle Bailey-King were named on the home bench.
The Millers had an early scare when Craig Bryson’s cross from the right flank took a slight deflection off Joe Mattock which almost caught out Richard O’Donnell at his near post but fortunately for the Millers, the ball smashed into the side netting.
Moments later, Richard Wood was forced to head behind before Rotherham made a hash of clearing Jacob Butterfield’s corner, in the visitors’ next attack, and the ball pinged around the home box before Richard Keogh stabbed goalwards but O’Donnell was well-positioned to snuff out the danger.
In Rotherham’s first foray, Richie Smallwood’s fierce effort was blocked en-route to goal by Bradley Johnson before Jon Taylor showed the Derby defence a quick pair of heels to work a shooting position where his snap shot stung the palms of England ‘keeper Scott Carson.
The move was Taylor’s last involvement in the game as he failed to shrug off a knock sustained early in the game before Clarke-Harris flashed a dangerous cross-cum-shot across the face of the visitors goal.
Moments later, Clarke-Harris headed harmlessly wide following sub Ben Purrington’s centre before Will Vaulks’ superb clipped ball over the top almost put Tom Adeyemi in the clear but the ball skipped off the AESSEAL New York Stadium surface into the grateful hands of Carson.
With half-time approaching, Johnson’s error was latched upon by Clarke-Harris, who embarked on a powerful run to drive hard at the Derby rearguard before firing over from the edge of the box.
At the other end, Ince injected pace into a visitors’ attack to drill a fierce effort from the edge of the box which was smartly parried to safety by O’Donnell before Mattock had to be on his toes to head clear at the far post following Marcus Olsson’s dangerous cross.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Derby County 0
Half-time substitute, Will Hughes had the first effort of note in the second half with a stabbed effort through a ruck of bodies in the box but O’Donnell was able to watch the ball sail harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, Clarke-Harris fought hard to win a free-kick in an inviting position but he failed to make it count with the resultant set-piece when he fired straight into the Derby wall.
In the next Millers’ attack, Frecklington’s clipped ball forward was superbly chested down by Clarke-Harris into the advancing run of Adeyemi, who tried his luck with a left-footed effort from distance but Carson was well-placed to gather his effort.
There was a moment of controversy when Semi Ajayi looked to usher the ball into touch before being robbed by Johnny Russell near the touchline, who tumbled under his challenge, but the referee waved away visiting appeals for a spot-kick.
Just shy of the hour mark, Ajayi came to Rotherham’s rescue with a timely tackle after Ince’s slide-rule ball released Bent, who looked set to shoot until the Millers’ centre-half’s timely intervention.
Moments later, Richie Smallwood’s curled an inviting free-kick which was nodded goalwards by Wood, who had nipped infront of his marker on the edge of the box but Carson snuffed out the danger with a minimum of fuss.
The visitors squandered a gilt-edged chance to take the lead when Johnson fluffed his lines with a scuffed shot from a promising position after being played in by Nugent following Bent’s aerial duel with Wood.
Minutes later, Gary Rowett’s men were made to pay for the miss when Mattock delivered a tantalising centre from the left flank which flew over the ruck of bodies in the box and Frecklington ghosted in unnoticed at the far post and the Rotherham skipper kept his nerve to drill a low effort into the corner of the Derby net giving Carson no chance.
The home side were lifted by the breakthrough and Smallwood’s up-and-under was met by the head of Wood, whose header lacked power as Carson was able to claim with ease.
Moments later, Vaulks robbed Hughes of possession before racing clear to clip a cross which was misjudged by Keogh and with Carson in no man’s land, Adeyemi pounced on the loose ball but the Cardiff loanee was unable to slot the ball past the visiting ‘keeper, who smothered his close range shot.
However, the game took a cruel twist for the Millers when Derby caught the Millers napping with a quick corner and Clarke-Harris appeared to clip the heels of Ince in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Ince dusted himself down to send O’Donnell the wrong way with the resultant penalty and level matters.
Moments later, O’Donnell prevented Neil Blackman with a reflex save following a snap shot from the visiting substitute. O’Donnell had to make another save in stoppage time as he did well to hold Ince’s vicious free-kick.
Teams:- Rotherham- O’Donnell, Mattock, Vaulks, Wood, Frecklington, Taylor (Purrington 14, Bailey-King 75), Ajayi, Fisher, Clarke-Harris, Adeyemi, Smallwood. Unused- Bilboe, Morris, Belaid, Bray, Yates.
Derby- Carson, Bryson (Hughes 46), Keogh, Russell (Bent 56), Ince, Baird, Johnson, Pearce, Butterfield, Nugent (Blackman 78), Olsson. Unused- Mitchell, Christie, Anya, Vydra.
Referee- D Deadman
Attendance- 10763 (2595)