Rotherham United kept within touching distance of the Sky Bet League One Play-Offs as they picked up a hard-earned point at Southend United on Saturday afternoon, with Freddie Ladapo’s 11th goal of the season forcing a draw.
A Rob Kiernan own goal had handed the Millers a lead going into the break, but a whirlwind second half saw the hosts turn things around through Jason Demetriou and Sam Mantom before Ladapo struck.
It was the Millers who created the first opportunity of the afternoon as former Southend man Ladapo showed great feet to work a yard of space on the edge of the area. He then powered a vicious effort towards the far corner, but Nathan Bishop responded well to parry the ball around the post.
Conceding that chance seemed to spark the hosts into life and they looked to stamp their authority on proceedings, but they were unable to take advantage from a succession of set pieces. Demetriou did manage to take aim following an incisive run from Brandon Goodship on eight minutes, but his shot flew over the bar.
Both teams continued to battle against the elements as a swirling wind played a factor at Roots Hall, but Paul Warne’s men started to see more possession in central areas. Two chances then came in a matter of minutes midway through the first half, but neither Chiedozie Ogbene nor Clark Robertson could find the target with their attempts.
With half an hour on the clock, the deadlock was broken, and it was Rotherham who took the lead in fortuitous fashion. Jake Hastie drilled a corner across the turf and a scramble ensued after it ricocheted off a number of bodies before it was eventually turned home. Dan Barlaser was seemingly the closest white shirt to the ball, but Rob Kiernan was the man to be attributed with an own goal.
Ben Wiles was the next player to set his sights on goal as he watched a loose ball drop onto his right foot with 35 minutes played, and his perfectly timed volley skidded inches wide of the post with Bishop transfixed. That proved to be the final meaningful bit of forward play in a tightly contested first half.
Half-time | Southend United 0-1 Rotherham United
Following the restart, Rotherham almost doubled their lead as Robertson diverted a Barlaser corner narrowly off target via his head. However, with 49 minutes on the clock, Ogbene was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area and Demetriou calmly converted the spot kick to restore parity.
Remarkably, just three minutes later and the hosts had turned the game on its head. The ball was won in midfield and a threaded pass found the feet of Mantom who raced into a one-on-one duel with Iversen, and he made no mistakes with the finish to come out on top in front of the home supporters.
Another goal then came on the hour mark and it was the Millers who were celebrating this time around. Hastie;s initial effort rattled the crossbar before bouncing back into the box, but Michael Ihiekwe was able to recycle possession. His cross then found Robertson and the defender showed awareness to send a knock down into Ladapo who rifled one past Bishop.
As the end-to-end action warmed up the supporters on all four sides of the stadium, Sol Campbell’s side almost went ahead once more as McLaughlin sent a half-volley into the turf, only for it to bounce awkwardly before clipping the crossbar on its way over. Some superb defending from a Rotherham man then denied Humphrys a free header inside the six-yard box on 78 minutes.
The Millers piled on the pressure in the dying embers of the contest as they entered opposition territory on several occasions, only for the Southend rearguard to stand firm to absorb wave after wave of attacks. Ladapo almost notched a last-gasp winner on the half-turn, but Bishop denied him with a strong save and the elusive third goal wouldn’t come.
Full-time | Southend United 2-2 Rotherham United
Southend United: Bishop, Bwomono, Milligan, Humphrys, Dieng ©, McLaughlin (Cox 83’), Goodship (Ndukwu 87’), Kiernan, Mantom (Hutchinson 75’), Demetriou, Lennon.
Unused Substitutes: Oxley, Hamilton, Rush, Kinali.
Rotherham United: Iversen; Olosunde, Ihiekwe ©, Robertson, Mattock; Ogbene, Wiles, Barlaser, Hastie, Ladapo, Smith (Morris 77’).
Unused Substitutes: Price, Clarke, Thompson, MacDonald, Lamy, Vassell.
Attendance: 5,652 (423 Millers).