Proctor strikes late for Millers
SUPER-SUB Jamie Proctor was the Rotherham United hero with an injury-time equaliser to earn Rotherham United a deserved share of the spoils, at the expense of local rivals Sheffield United.
Chris Wilder’s men led twice through Mark Duffy and Chris Basham but Rotherham, who dominated for large spells, were not to be outdone and they were rewarded when Jon Taylor initially levelled before Proctor struck late on to extend the Millers unbeaten run to six games, following a lively derby clash.
Following the November international break, the Millers returned to action, by hosting the high-flying Blades, in a Sky TV encounter.
Versatile Will Vaulks returned to the first-team fold and took the skipper’s armband after sitting out the last outing at Blackburn, due to suspension – with Semi Ajayi reverting back to his centre-half role alongside Clark Robertson.
Jon Taylor was asked to provide the ammunition from the flanks, as he was recalled, at the expense of Joe Newell while Richard Wood joined him on the home substitutes’ bench.
The Millers had the first sight of goal, in the early seconds, when Taylor skipped past his marker, with consummate ease, before floating a cross which was inch-perfect for the on-rushing Richie Towell, who volleyed goalwards but his effort struck a retreating defender which took the sting out of his shot and Dean Henderson was able to claim smartly, on his own goal line.
Moments later, Rotherham countered with purpose and when Joe Mattock’s cross was only half-cleared, Vaulks latched onto the pieces to strike goalwards, from the edge of the box, but he was unable to control his volley, and the chance was lost.
In the next home attack, Ryan Manning was the next to try his luck but John Egan bravely put his body on the line to block his goalbound effort before Vaulks’ exocet long-throw bounced in the box to reach Taylor, at the far stick, who headed goalwards from close range, but under pressure from a Blades defender, his header flew narrowly over the bar.
However, the visitors silenced the home faithful, in their first attack of note, when Rotherham gave away possession in midfield and the visitors injected pace into the move to put Duffy, in the clear, and the Blades midfielder kept his cool to work a shooting position and he made no mistake to wrong foot Marek Rodak and slide the ball into the opposite corner of the goal.
The goal seemed to temporarily knock the Millers out of their stride but they were back on the front foot when Zak Vyner floated a long free-kick into the box and the presence of Michael Smith forced Henderson to flap at his attempted clearance- with the ball dribbling to safety before Taylor superbly worked a yard of space on his marker to whip a tantalising centre which saw Ajayi tower above his marker to plant a fine header which brought a fine save from Henderson, who tipped over the bar.
Henderson was in the thick of the action and the lively Taylor teased and tormented his marker with a mazy run which ended with a toe-poked effort which had the Manchester United ‘keeper at full stretch to keep the ball out.
Minutes later, the Millers goal led a charmed life when John Fleck’s miscued effort from a short corner fell invitingly for Chris Basham, who attempted to turn the ball home at the far post but Towell put in a block before David McGoldrick scuffed the ball back towards the Millers goal but fortunately for the home side, Vaulks was on-hand to hack clear from his own line.
With half-time approaching, Ryan Williams incisive run and shot blazed harmlessly wide of the visitors’ goal before Towell showed fleet of foot to evade the attentions of two Blades players before trying his luck from distance but his long range effort failed to trouble Henderson.
In the last action of the half, a jet-heeled Taylor left Basham in his wake before playing an inviting ball across the Blades goalmouth, but the ball narrowly escaped the attentions of Towell, who would have had a tap-in, if he was able to meet his centre.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Sheffield United 1
The Millers were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and Towell ventured with purpose to deliver a fizzed centre which was met by the head of Smith, who looked to glance goalwards, but his effort flew harmlessly wide of the target before Taylor was upended by Basham on the edge of the box but the Millers winger failed to exact retribution from the resultant free-kick when he smashed his effort over.
At the other end, Duffy’s perfectly weighted pass gave Kieron Freeman the chance to race into the Millers box but Manning showed his defensive instincts to divert the ball to safety before the QPR loanee was the next to trouble the Blades with a snap shot which was blocked by Basham, en-route to goal.
With the game in the balance, McGoldrick’s clever knockdown gave Oliver Norwood the chance to strike but his effort, from the edge of the box, was deflected narrowly wide of the target before Rodak was called into action to deny Duffy with a smart, full-length save.
Minutes later, sub Joe Newell clipped a corner which was met by the head of Ajayi, who nodded back into the danger area and with the ball pinballing around the box, Robertson fired an instinctive effort which brought a stunning, reflex save from Henderson, before the ball was scrambled clear.
The Millers finally broke United’s resistance on 66 minutes when Vyner’s ball into the box was only half-cleared into the path of Taylor, who calmly got the ball under his spell, to drill a low effort which took a slight deflection of a Blades defender before nestling in the bottom corner of the net giving Henderson no chance.
The Millers were lifted by the equaliser and Freeman had to be on his toes to hack clear before Newell hung up a cross which saw Taylor nip in front of his marker to head goalwards but Henderson was well-stationed to pluck the ball out of the sky.
The game was on a knife-edge and the Blades were indebted to Henderson for preserving parity when Ajayi towered above his marker to meet Newell’s corner forcing him into a superb save before Towell clipped a ball into the box which was again met by the Nigerian international and despite Henderson being rooted to his spot, the ball flashed agonisingly wide for the home side.
Against the run of play, the Blades regained the lead with six minutes to go when one-touch football saw Billy Sharp cleverly hang up a cross which beat the outstretched hand of Rodak and Basham emerged from the ruck of bodies at the edge of the box to nod home at the back post.
However, Rotherham refused to throw in the towel and they equalised for a second time in injury-time when Smith dug out a cross from the by-line which the visitors failed to cut out and the ball fell tantalising for the on-rushing Proctor, who kept his nerve to smash the ball home, from the edge of the box, and send the home faithful into ecstasy.
Full-time- Rotherham United 2 Sheffield United 2
Rotherham United 2
Sheffield United 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner (Vassell 87), Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Taylor, Towell, Robertson, Manning (Newell 63), Williams (Proctor 87), Smith. Unused- Price, Wood, Palmer, Wiles.
Sheffield United- Henderson, Stevens, Fleck, O’Connell, Basham, Sharp (Johnson 90), Egan, Norwood, McGoldrick (Clarke 62), Freeman, Duffy (Stearman 87) Unused- Moore, Baldock, Coutts, Washington.
Referee- P Bankes
Attendance- 11607 (2601)