A point on the road for the Millers...
It was a tale of two penalties at St Andrew’s as Rotherham United were cruelly denied the opportunity to make it two wins out of two on the road as Birmingham City struck late to cancel out Kieran Sadlier’s first goal for the club which looked set to give the Millers victory.
In a game of few chances, Blues skipper Harlee Dean had a goal ruled out, in the first half, before Lukas Jutkiewicz headed against the bar.
The game looked certain to end goalless until Rotherham were awarded a penalty - with four minutes to go, which Sadlier duly despatched after Ben Wiles was brought down in the box.
However, there was further drama to come when Billy Jones was penalised for hauling down Jon Toral in the penalty area and Jeremie Bela, who missed a late chance to net the winner, took the opportunity to maintain Birmingham’s unbeaten start to the campaign, by firing home from the spot.
Following their narrow home defeat at the hands of Millwall last time out, Millers boss Paul Warne made five changes to his starting line-up for the visit to England’s second city.
Experienced operator Jones was drafted into the Rotherham defence, by being asked to ply his trade in the left-back berth – with Joe Mattock unavailable, due to injury.
Warne also freshened up his options in the Millers engine room with Wiles partnering Shaun MacDonald in the central positions while summer recruit Mickel Miller was handed his Rotherham debut, on the left-hand side of midfield.
In a 4-4-1-1 formation, Matt Crooks was recalled to the first eleven, as he was given the task of supporting lone frontman, George Hirst, who was rewarded for his impressive substitute cameo against the Lions, by being asked to lead the Millers line, in his first start.
The Millers, who were sporting their white and black away strip for the first time, had the better of the early exchanges with Wiles forcing Neil Etheridge into a smart save, following a darting run, before the Filipino stopper was called into action, once again, to deny Angus MacDonald, who had stung his palms, with a shot from distance.
Minutes later, Chiedozie Ogbene dragged a shot wide before Miller had an effort deflected behind, following a smart run from the halfway line.
In the Blues’ first foray of note, Scott Hogan and Jutkiewicz combined to great effect and the latter got on the end of the former’s low centre but Wes Harding, on his old stomping ground, blocked his goalbound effort, at close quarters.
On the half-hour mark, the Millers had a scare when Bela curled a delightful free-kick into the danger area and Dean, who had got on the wrong side of Harding, headed into the roof of the visitors’ net, but to the relief of those with a Rotherham persuasion, the goal was chalked off by the assistant referee for offside.
At the other end, Ogbene showed good anticipation to cut out Bela’s tame pass before letting fly from just outside the box, but his effort took a wicked deflection off Adam Clayton, who looked to block, and the ball looped agonisingly out of Etheridge’s reach, but flew narrowly wide of the target.
Despite the Millers commanding the lions’ share of possession for large parts of the first period, Birmingham had a good spell just short of the break when Harding’s weak backpass put Jamal Blackman in trouble, and his attempted clearance struck Hogan, and fell kindly into the path of Jutkiewicz, who had the chance to fire into the unguarded net, but he fluffed his lines with a wayward effort.
In the last noteworthy action of the half, Angus MacDonald was yellow-carded for hauling down Jutkiewicz, unceremoniously and from the resultant free-kick, Ivan Sanchez attempted to catch out Blackman, at his near post, but the Chelsea loanee correctly guessed his intentions to palm the ball to safety.
Half-time- Birmingham City 0 Rotherham United 0
The home side started the second half as they finished the first when Ivan Sanchez’s long-range shot was smothered by Blackman before Bela won a tussle with Harding, before firing a dipping effort which narrowly cleared the visitors’ goal.
With the game in the balance, sub Michael Smith failed to make a clean connection with a header following Shaun MacDonald’s caressed corner before Birmingham came within a coat of paint of the opener when Sanchez’s cross saw Jutkiewicz get the better of an aerial duel with Michael Ihiekwe to loop a header goalwards and a backtracking Blackman could only hold his breath, as the ball hit the top of the bar before falling to safety.
The Millers were taking the sting out of the majority of the home side’s attacks and Ivan Sunjic was cautioned for hauling down Ogbene in full flow before Clayton’s cross saw Jutkiewicz head against the bar for a second time, but any goal would have been ruled out for offside.
With the game meandering to a likely draw, the affair sprang to life with four minutes to go when Shaun MacDonald threaded a pass into the feet of Wiles, who spun in the box, before having his foot dragged away from him by Bela, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Sadlier kept his nerve to fire high into the roof of the Blues net giving Etheridge, who had dived the right way, no chance.
However, the Millers squandered an opportunity to grab their second Championship away win of the season when sub Toral evaded the attentions of Sadlier to ghost into the box and Jones, in attempting to cut out the danger, naively bundled him over in a tangle of legs, and the referee pointed to the spot, for a second time, in a matter of minutes.
Bela atoned for his earlier error, by sending Blackman, the wrong way, to level matters for the home side.
However, Bela missed a gilt-edged chance to be the matchwinner, in the dying seconds, when Etheridge’s long punt forward was misjudged by Ihiekwe and with Blackman in no-man’s land, the French winger looked set to loop an effort into the empty net, but he could only clip a tame effort into the Rotherham stopper’s grateful hands.
Full-time- Birmingham City 1 Rotherham United 1
Birmingham City 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams- Birmingham- Etheridge, Pedersen, Friend, Dean, Colin, Sunjic (Gardner 77), Clayton, Bela, Sanchez, Hogan (Toral 66), Jutkiewicz. Unused- Prieto, Roberts, Crowley, Medina, Boyd-Munce
Rotherham- Blackman, Harding, Ihiekwe, A MacDonald, Jones, Ogbene, S MacDonald, Wiles, Miller (Sadlier 69), Crooks, Hirst (Smith 61). Unused- Johansson, Wood, Lindsay, Vassell, Ladapo.
Referee- A Madley