Ajayi grabs vital point for Millers.....
SEMI Ajayi grabbed a late equaliser for the Millers, who took a share of the spoils, against fellow strugglers Reading to maintain the status quo in the fight for Championship survival.
The Millers were staring down the barrel of defeat at the Madejski Stadium following Ovie Ejaria’s first-half strike but Ajayi popped up with ten minutes remaining to give Warne’s side a vital point.
Warne named an unchanged starting line-up from the 2-2 draw with local rivals Sheffield Wednesday last weekend.
The only squad change was on the bench with Zak Vyner returning to the fold, at the expense of Ben Wiles.
The Millers settled into the game the quicker and after the Royals defence failed to deal with a Will Vaulks’ long throw into the box, the ball fell kindly for Jon Taylor, who got the ball from under his feet to get his shot away from the edge of the box, but his effort was deflected over.
From the resultant corner, Anthony Forde swung a centre into the danger area but Vaulks, who had darted to the front post, was unable to direct his effort goalwards, under pressure from a home defender before Yakou Meite had Reading’s first effort of note with a left-footed effort which flashed past the Millers upright.
Minutes later, Rotherham missed a gilt-edged chance to break the deadlock when Vaulks’ pass saw Michael Smith get the better of Liam Moore before playing a slide-rule pass into the path of Forde, who looked a likely scorer, but the Irishman failed to make a clean connection, in front of goal, and the chance was lost.
Just before the quarter hour, John Swift combined smartly with Meite, who won a footrace with Joe Mattock, but the former Millers loanee could only curl an effort harmlessly over the bar before Swift was again the architect with a tantalising free-kick into the box but Billy Jones was on his toes to scramble the ball away - with Moore lurking for a tap-in, at the far post.
Just before the half-hour mark, the Royals were living dangerously at the back but Emiliano Martinez managed to clear the ball, just in time from his own goal line, despite Smith being within a whisker of nicking his pocket before the home side turned defence into attack to open the scoring when Gareth McCleary worked a yard of space on Jones, to race into the box before pulling the ball back into the path of Ejaria, who steadied himself, to carefully steer the ball into the far corner of the net giving Rodak no chance.
The Royals were lifted by the breakthrough and Ejaria smashed an effort over before Nelson Oliveira became the next to threaten the Millers goal with a low long-range shot, but it whistled harmlessly wide of the target.
With half-time approaching, Swift again tried his luck from distance but Rodak was able to watch the ball sail over the visitors bar before Taylor had a shot blocked by Tyler Blackett, in the last noteworthy action of the half.
Half-time- Reading 1 Rotherham United 0
The Millers were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and after Forde’s free-kick caused havoc in the Royals box, Richie Towell took aim from the edge of the box but home skipper Moore put his body on the line to block his effort en-route to goal.
Moments later, Vaulks launched another exocet throw into the area but Michael Ihiekwe, under pressure from a number of home defenders, could only loop a header harmlessly over before Mattock became the first to see yellow for a shirt pull on Meite.
In Reading’s first attack of the half, Taylor’s errant pass was latched upon by Oliveira and good work from McCleary paved the way for Swift, to curl an effort which had Rodak nervously scurrying across goal, as it flashed wide of the target.
Minutes later, Swift was cautioned for a late clip on Towell before Jones’ slide-rule pass saw Towell give Smith, a glimpse of goal, but Matt Miazga stood up tall to block his cross-cum-shot before sub Ryan Williams was booked for a lunge on Oliveira, in his first involvement of the game.
With the game in the balance, Ejaria latched onto a sloppy period of play by the Millers to embark on a marauding run to the edge of the box, but the on-loan Liverpool midfielder dragged his shot wide of the target before Towell and Smith had shots blocked by some last-ditch home defending, at the other end.
Minutes later, Andy Yiadom and Swift presented McCleary with the chance to strike but his left-footed effort was smothered by Rodak before the Millers dramatically levelled matters with ten minutes remaining when Reading failed to clear their lines and Vaulks clipped a ball into the box and Clark Robertson cleverly cushioned a header into the path of Ajayi, who got on the wrong side of his marker, to bundle the ball home from close range.
With parity restored at the Madejski Stadium, the Millers had their hearts in their mouths when Ejaria flashed an effort across the face of goal before Reading came within a whisker of the winner – with five minutes on the clock.
Firstly, Swift launched a quick counter-attack and after Mattock lost his footing, McCleary cut inside to fire a low effort which Rodak could only parry into the path of Oliveira, who looked set for a tap-in, but he bizarrely failed to connect, despite having the goal at his mercy before the Millers were indebted to Rodak for a superb reflex save to deny Ejaria, who fired goalwards, in the aftermath.
In the dying minutes, Lewis Baker headed straight at Rodak from a promising position before Mo Barrow almost took advantage of some hesitation in the Rotherham backline by rounding the Slovakian stopper, but from an acute angle, the Royals substitute could only dribble the ball towards goal and Rodak recovered to snuff out the danger.
In a dramatic finale, Newell almost snatched victory for the Millers when he fired goalwards with his favoured left-foot but the ball agonisingly fizzed just wide before Smith looped a header into the hands of Martinez, in the last action of the game.
Full-time- Reading 1 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Reading- Martinez, Yiadom, Moore, Swift, McCleary (Barrow 86), Baker, Ejaria (Harriott 86), Miazga, Meite (O’Shea 72), Oliveira, Blackett. Unused- Gunter, McShane, Walker, Loader.
Rotherham- Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Forde, Taylor (Williams 58), Towell (Crooks 89), Robertson, Ihiekwe (Newell 70), Smith, Jones. Unused- Price, Vyner, Wood, Yates.
Referee- J Simpson
Attendance- 15958 (763)