Smith earns Millers point...
ROTHERHAM United stretched their unbeaten run to five games ahead of the impending international break with a gutsy point on the road at Blackburn Rovers.
A fine defensive rearguard effort from Paul Warne’s side kept the Ewood Park clash in the balance going into the final quarter and Michael Smith had the Millers travelling contingent dreaming of an elusive Championship away win – with a well-taken header.
However, Rotherham’s joy proved short-lived when Bradley Dack levelled matters with nine minutes to go with a close range effort.
Following their last-gasp victory over Swansea City in their last outing, Millers chief Warne made three changes to his starting line-up for the trip over the Pennines.
Club skipper Richard Wood returned to the heart of the Millers rearguard alongside Clark Robertson, as Nigerian international Semi Ajayi was asked to ply his trade in a holding midfield role.
QPR loanee Ryan Manning and Joe Newell were rewarded for their impressive substitute cameos against the Swans – with starts at Ewood Park, as Jon Taylor and Kyle Vassell had to settle for places on the bench.
In the early minutes, Rotherham had the first sight of goal when good work from Smith and Richie Towell gave Ryan Williams an opportunity to strike, but his effort was blocked at point-blank range by a well-stationed home defender.
At the other end, Zak Vyner had to be on his toes to divert Kasey Palmer’s dangerous centre to safety before the Bristol City loanee produced a great tackle to prevent Adam Armstrong from bursting into the Millers box.
Minutes later, Joe Mattock’s floated ball was nodded by Smith into the path of Newell, who got the ball under his spell before firing an effort with his in-step but his shot was deflected wide of the target before Smith did superbly to dig out a cross near the by-line which was met by the head of Newell, but his downward header lacked power.
Just past the quarter hour, Rovers failed to deal with Zyner’s long throw and the ball fell invitingly for Towell, who attempted a dipping volley from distance which had David Raya backtracking nervously, as it flew narrowly over the home bar.
However, Rovers missed an opportunity to break the deadlock when a ball over the top put Amari’I Bell in the clear, as he raced away from Vyner, but Marek Rodak was quick off his line to narrow the angle, by smothering his goalbound effort with his body before Dack fluffed the rebound to release the pressure on the Millers.
Moments later, another Vyner exocet throw caused havoc in the home box but a number of Rotherham attackers were unable to divert the ball goalwards before Rotherham squandered a gilt-edged chance to take the lead when Newell floated an inviting corner to the far stick and Smith’s cushioned header was inch-perfect for Mattock, just yards out, but the Millers left-back could not control his header, as it ballooned over.
Just past the half-hour mark, Rovers came within a coat of paint of the opener when Armstrong made something out of nothing to ghost past Vyner and managed to evade the attentions of Towell to get his shot away, just inside the box, but fortunately for the Millers, his well-struck effort beat Rodak but struck the underside of the crossbar before falling to safety.
The hosts were cranking up the pressure just shy of the interval and Harrison Reed’s disguised corner caught the Millers napping and Dack almost capitalised with a fierce goalbound strike but his effort struck the masse of bodies in the box before Rodak and Mattock almost got in a mess following a long home clearance but the ball fortuitously ran to safety with Armstrong in hot pursuit.
Half-time- Blackburn Rovers 0 Rotherham United 0
The home side started the second half as they finished the first when fine one touch passing involving Dack split open the Rotherham defence to give Danny Graham the chance to strike, but his low effort was smartly smothered by Rodak, down to his left.
Moments later, Elliott Bennett tried his luck from distance – with two efforts in as many minutes with Rodak parrying his first effort before getting his body behind his second attempt at goal.
In a rare Millers second-half foray, Smith superbly controlled a cross field pass to strike an effort across the face of goal and despite Raya being a hapless bystander, Darragh Lenihan was on-hand to hack the ball clear from his own line before the Millers goal led a charmed life with Wood heading clear from underneath his own crossbar from Graham’s innocuous header before Lenihan fired a cross-cum-shot from the right flank which had Rodak, who anticipated the cross, scurrying back to his own line to parry the ball to safety, just in time.
In a whirlwind 60 seconds, Bell stung the palms of Rodak with a low effort before Smith latched onto a long punt to drag a shot harmlessly of the target, at the other end.
Minutes later, Dack looked to be heading into a cul-de-sac but he showed fleet of foot to evade two Rotherham defenders on the edge of the box to bare down on goal but Rodak stood up tall to block his goalbound effort before Armstrong ghosted past Vyner with a minimum of fuss to plant a dangerous centre across the Rotherham goal line – but no home attacker was in attendance to turn the ball home.
The Millers fans had their hearts in their mouths when Bennett delivered a pinpoint cross which was met by the head of Graham – with the goal at his mercy, but the ex-Middlesbrough striker fluffed his lines with a wayward header.
Despite Blackburn’s second half pressure, Rotherham stunned the home faithful with 15 minutes to go, by breaking the deadlock, when Williams took on Bell before showing good skill to sit up a cross which was tantalising for Smith, who rose above his marker, at the far post, to direct a downward header, which squirmed past the attentions of Raya to find the heart of the home goal and send the Millers travelling contingent into ecstasy.
Smith went from villain to hero when he received a yellow card for dissent before Blackburn came close when Armstrong cut inside Ajayi to smash a fierce effort which was superbly parried by Rodak into the path of Ryan Nyambe, who nodded goalwards but Wood blazed the ball clear from his own line.
However, Blackburn continued to press and they levelled matters with nine minutes remaining when a lucky ricochet fell kindly for sub Ben Brereton, who kept his nerve to drill a low cross, which took Rodak out of the game and Dack was on-hand to tap home into the unguarded net.
The home side were going for the jugular and they squandered a chance to take the three points late on when Dack turned provider to give Kasey Palmer, the opportunity to strike but he blazed over when he should have done better before Rodak’s weak punch, under pressure from Dack, almost fell in his own net.
In the dying seconds, Bennett almost grabbed the headlines with a piledriver which whistled narrowly over before Armstrong fired wide following a goalmouth scramble, in the last action of note.
Full-time- Blackburn Rovers 1 Rotherham United 1
Blackburn Rovers 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Blackburn- Raya, Reed (Nyambe 46), Rodwell, Smallwood (Brereton 77), Armstrong, Graham (Rothwell 77), Bell, Dack, Lenihan, Bennett, K Palmer. Unused- Leutwiler, Rothwell, Brereton, Downing, Travis, Conway.
Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner (Wiles 70), Mattock, Ajayi, Wood, Towell, Robertson, Manning, Newell (Taylor 60), Williams (Vassell 90), Smith. Unused- Price, Forde, M Palmer, Proctor.
Referee- D Webb
Attendance- 12847 (683)