Millers battle to draw in the capital..
Rotherham United fuelled their push for Sky Bet Championship survival with a point as they battled to a 0-0 draw against Millwall at The Den.
A typically industrious display could have yielded more for the visitors, who came close through Michael Smith in the second half in a game where clear cut opportunities were at a premium.
Millers boss Paul Warne went for a total restructure in formation for the clash at The Den, opting to implement a previously unused 3-5-2 formation, ringing four changes to the side that were narrowly beaten by Leeds United last time out.
The recently recalled Jerry Yates was given his chance to impress as he was deployed in attack alongside Michael Smith, while Matt Crooks was handed his full Rotherham United debut in the engine room. Richard Wood reclaimed the captain’s armband and was part of the three-man defence which also included Michael Ihiekwe, who has spent the majority of this season out on loan with Accrington Stanley.
Midfielders Richie Towell, Jon Taylor and Anthony Forde had to settle for places on the substitutes’ bench, alongside the creative Joe Newell, who has watched from the sidelines as a result of a groin injury recently.
The visitors suffered an early scare which came inside the first two minutes of action that came about following a dangerous delivery from Jed Wallace on the Millwall right. The returning Ihiekwe made a crucial header in the box to deal with the initial danger, but Ben Marshall picked up possession on the angle of the area and bent an effort at goal which looked to have Marek Rodak beaten before skimming the crossbar and going over.
Both the Millers and the hosts’ have had their set piece abilities spoken highly-of by Championship counterparts and it was Warne’s men who almost lived up to that reputation in the early stages. After a first corner from Billy Jones was repelled, a subsequent cross almost yielded a big chance. The right back’s corner found the run of Clark Robertson in the train of bodies charging for goal, but the Scotsman’s connection wasn’t the cleanest, which allowed the hosts to scramble clear.
The early exchanges continued in that fashion but this time it was the hosts’ turn to try to display their dead ball qualities. Ben Marshall’s inswinging free kick caused problems in the Millers’ area but a well-positioned Semi Ajayi ensured that Millwall had to settle for a corner, with a number of navy blue shirts looking to connect in the box.
Set pieces became a recurring theme in a first half with very limited chances. Both sides looked to utilise their size in dead ball situations but neither were able to profit with any clear cut opportunities. Robertson’s free header from a Joe Mattock corner at the back post could have been considered a half chance, but the angle was always against the former Blackpool defender, who appeared to be heading back across goal as much as anything else, before Jordan Archer made the claim at his near post.
It would be difficult to give either side the edge as the 40 minute-mark approached and it remained the case that both goalkeepers could consider their afternoons relatively quiet. That could have changed when Marshall looked to capitalise on a decent ball in from a corner, which saw him head towards goal unmarked but put his header over the target.
Mahlon Romeo looked to mix it up by taking on a volley from 30 yards out but his dipping effort made for a comfortable save for Marek Rodak in the Millers’ goal, who made an easy claim on the edge of his six yard box.
Half-time | Millwall 0 v 0 Rotherham
The second half resumed in a similar vein to the first with the ball only encroaching either penalty area from dead ball scenarios.
In a slight change of pace, the Millers’ next chance came from a long throw provided by Will Vaulks, which found Ajayi lurking in the penalty area. The Nigerian couldn’t help it on with his head at the first attempt, but remained alert and turned around just in time to rocket a powerful drive over the crossbar with two defenders in front of him.
The best opportunity of the game seemingly came out of nowhere on 55 minutes when Smith, who had struggled for service, bustled through the Millwall defence to race in on goal but the bouncing ball just wouldn’t sit favourably for him, meaning he had to lash a volley at the target which Jordan Archer expertly parried clear.
That wasn’t the end of the Millers’ pressure though and seconds later they could have registered on the scoresheet. This time Archer came too far for a ball in from the Millers right and it dropped for Smith with his back to goal, but the hosts somehow kept it out as he turned and lashed it at the empty net.
After that spell, Warne’s side’s next opportunity came in a fairly intricate fashion following some patient midfield play from Vaulks. He had a number of opportunities to pick out a channel with the ball, but instead retained it and laid it to Ajayi. The Super Eagles man skipped clear of a marker and farmed it wide to Mattock in an advanced position on the left, where a dangerous low cross fizzed agonisingly across the face of goal and behind for a home goal kick.
Robertson had probably made the most aerial connections in both boxes out of all the players on the pitch and made a crucial one in his own as the 80th minute came and passed. A wicked ball in from Marshall on the Millwall left needed clearing and the Scot obliged, stooping to head just inches, but ultimately wide, of his own upright with a number of blue shirts waiting to pounce.
It was two Millwall wingers that combined to create the hosts’ best chance of the half and arguably the afternoon. Jed Wallace’s wicked cross in from the right saw Marshall nip in front of his man to head at goal, and with Rodak rooted to the spot, time seemed to momentarily pause before the ball flashed wide of the upright.
Millwall should and probably would have won it with a counter-attack in the final move of the game. Vaulks’ long throw was repelled before the hosts charged up the other end, J Wallace’s ball across the box to an unmarked Gregory was inch-perfect, but Ajayi, who had tracked back 70 yards or so, did just enough to put him off and ensure what would have been a tap-in, ended up the wrong side of the post.
Full-time | Millwall 0 v 0 Rotherham
Millwall | Archer, Hutchinson, Cooper, Williams, J Wallace, Thompson (Morison 64), Gregory, Romeo, M Wallace, Leonard, Marshall.
Unused | Martin, Onyedinma, Ferguson, Pearce, Tunnicliffe, O’Brien.
Millers | Rodak; Ihiekwe, Wood, Robertson; Jones, Ajayi, Vaulks, Crooks (Towell 88), Mattock; Yates (Vassell 67), Smith.
Unused | Price, Vyner, Forde, Taylor, Newell.