Injury-hit Millers grab vital point....
Super-sub Georgie Kelly maintained his knack of scoring crucial goals for Rotherham United as his late equaliser earned Matt Taylor’s side a vital point in their quest for Sky Bet Championship survival as champions-elect Burnley were forced to put the champagne on ice at a red-hot AESSEAL New York Stadium.
The injury-hit Millers showed all their battling qualities as they pegged Burnley back twice thanks to an own goal and Kelly’s heroics near the end. The result was all the more memorable as youngster Robbie Hemfrey was given a baptism of fire for his competitive debut between the sticks as he played the second half, due to an injury to Josh Vickers.
Following their weekend reversal at the hands of Luton Town, Taylor made four changes to his starting line-up for the visit of the high-flying Clarets.
Experience was key to home hopes as club skipper Richard Wood made a return to the starting eleven while Shane Ferguson was also recalled.
Cohen Bramall was also given a chance to impress while Domingos Quina was given his first start in Millers colours.
Taylor was also given a pre-match boost when Ben Wiles was passed fit to take a place on the home bench following a long-term ankle injury.
The already-promoted Lancastrians came into the AESSEAL New York Stadium clash knowing that if they bettered Sheffield United’s result then they would lift the Sky Bet Championship.
The home side appeared to be lining up in a 4-3-2-1 formation with Quina asked to ply his trade in a playmaker role alongside Chiedozie Ogbene and in support of lone frontman Jordan Hugill.
The visitors, buoyed on by a loud travelling contingent, made a lively start when Anass Zaroury rampaged down the left flank before planting a cross which was only half cleared by Cameron Humphreys and the ball fell kindly for the on-rushing Connor Roberts, who struck a low effort which was saved by the legs of Josh Vickers.
Zaroury was in the thick of the early action and the Moroccan midfielder, who took part in the Qatar World Cup, latched onto a ball over the top from Roberts before his centre was deflected behind.
The home side had their first attack of note when Quina’s pass released Ferguson, who delivered a first-time cross which Ian Maatsen had to turn behind at the far post under pressure from Ogbene.
From the resultant corner, Ferguson curled a lovely ball into the danger area and from the ensuing clearance, Jamie Lindsay volleyed harmlessly wide of the target.
Vincent Kompany’s side displayed a little over-confidence when Maatsen over hit a backpass which had Bailey Peacock-Farrell backtracking nervously as it dribbled wide of goal before Quina’s poor corner released the pressure on the visitors.
Zaroury was looking a source of danger for the Clarets and after leading Lee Peltier a merry dance, he clipped a cross which Vitinho looked to head goalwards before Roberts blazed a shot over the home bar.
The visitors had gradually upped the tempo, and they broke the deadlock just prior to the half-hour, in clinical fashion.
There looked little danger for the Millers until Roberts clipped an inviting cross and Twine – an old foe when in MK Dons colours – showed great composure with a left-footed volley which gave Vickers no chance, as it found the far corner of the net.
The Millers were visibly rattled, in the aftermath of the opener, and a defensive mix-up saw Vickers in no man’s land, and Vitinho picked up the pieces to loft an effort which flew just wide of the unguarded goal.
The visitors had a degree of control on the game and Johann Gudmundsson, initially, and then Josh Cullen had shots blocked with the latter prompting handball shouts from the visiting players and fans after the ball struck Lindsay just inside the box.
Nevertheless, Taylor’s side went into the break on level terms when Burnley were again guilty of over playing at the back, as Rotherham forced a corner.
Ferguson – with his wand of a left-foot – put the ball on a sixpence again and another delicious delivery under the Burnley crossbar saw Peacock-Farrell under pressure from home runners including Hugill, and Vitinho, in an attempt to clear, could only strike the ball against one of his own players, and it found the back of the Burnley net, to the initial amazement of all those in the ground.
The home side finished the half strongly and Maatsen became the first to see yellow for a hefty challenge on Ogbene before Ferguson’s set-piece was scrambled to safety in the last act of the half.
Half-time: Rotherham United 1 Burnley 1
Taylor was forced into an enforced change at the break with Vickers struggling in the latter stages of the half, and with the Rotherham stopper in no position to continue, Hemfrey had his first taste of competitive action, by taking his place in the Millers goal for the second 45.
The Millers boss also made a tactical switch with Kelly replacing Hugill.
Hemfrey made a confident start as he saved with his legs from Gudmundsson’s early shot before grabbing Vitinho’s cross, at the second attempt.
Kelly also made an immediate impression from the bench when he met Peltier’s cross but his volley was straight down the throat of Peacock-Farrell.
Hemfrey was called into action again when he smothered Gudmundsson’s snap shot smartly.
The Millers fans were doing their best to raise the decibel levels, in support of their side, and their young ‘keeper.
The 21-year-old Scottish ‘keeper was proving his worth on his debut and he stood up tall to parry Roberts’ drive to safety before gathering Jordan Beyer’s point-blank header on his own-line following Gudmundsson’s corner.
Clarets skipper Cullen was then fortunate to escape sanction for a scissors-tackle on Quina but Peacock-Farrell plucked Bramall’s resultant free-kick out of the sky.
Bramall had better luck with another delivery which was met by the head of Kelly but Peacock-Farrell gathered his effort easily before Quina was deservedly carded for a rash challenge on Twine.
The Millers had a scare when Gudmundsson flashed a header just wide following Roberts’ touchline cross before Twine put an effort across goal from sub Manuel Benson’s slide-rule pass.
Hemfrey was acquitting himself well between the sticks, and he showed great reflexes to keep Roberts’ point-blank effort out, although any goal would have been chalked off for offside.
With the game in the balance, Coventry struck a half-volley wide after Burnley had only half-cleared sub Wes Harding’s long-throw into the box.
With ten minutes to go, Burnley looked to have grabbed the decisive winner when sub Tariqe Fosu’s errant pass failed to find Ogbene, and the home side were punished when Cullen found sub Manuel Benson, who showed his class, by cutting inside before striking a lovely left-footed effort which beat the desperate dive of Hemfrey to find the far corner of the net.
The Millers were not to be outdone though and they levelled matters for a second time with five minutes to go.
Just seconds after Wiles’ introduction from the bench brought the AESSEAL New York Stadium to its feet, Burnley failed to deal with a ball into the box, and Ogbene showed great composure to pick out Kelly, who kept his nerve, to slid the ball home giving Peacock-Farrell no chance.
The Millers could have even won in, just minutes later, when firstly Ogbene stung the palms of Peacock-Farrell with a snap shot following a lively break before the Northern Ireland international was forced into another smart save to deny Fosu.
Full-time: Rotherham United 2 Burnley 2
Rotherham United 2
Teams: Rotherham- Vickers (Hemfrey 46), Bramall, Coventry (Wiles 85), Wood, Hugill (Kelly 46), Ogbene, Lindsay, Ferguson (Harding 62), Peltier, Humphreys, Quina (Fosu 70). Unused- Odoffin, Hjelde.
Burnley- Peacock-Farrell, Gudmundsson (Cork 83), Twine (Obafemi 77), Foster (Barnes 77), Roberts, Zaroury, Vitinho (Benson 70), Cullen, Al-Dakhil, Maatsen, Beyer. Unused- Muric, Harwood-Bellis, Bastien, Obafemi.
Referee- R Madley
Attendance- 10566 (2202)