Millers earn hard-fought point.....
Rotherham United showed all their fighting qualities to peg back an in-form Leeds United in an enthralling White Rose derby under the AESSEAL New York Stadium lights, and in front of the Sky TV cameras.
Hakeem Odoffin’s third goal of the season cancelled out Crysencio Summerville’s early opener and Rotherham - despite a shaky start - were worthy of a share of the spoils against Daniel Farke’s promotion-chasing outfit following a much-improved second half display.
The Millers returned to Sky Bet Championship action following the November international break. Interim manager Wayne Carlisle took charge of the team for the first time with Sean Morrison taking on the skipper’s armband.
Daniel Ayala was named alongside the home captain in the home rearguard despite suffering a muscle injury late in the game at Vicarage Road in the Millers’ last outing.
Hakeem Odoffin and Fred Onyedinma were also recalled to the starting eleven.
Viktor Johansson was between the Rotherham sticks following his stint with Sweden while Dexter Lembikisa and Ciaran McGuckin were named on the home bench after being with the Jamaican and Northern Irish Under-21’s squads, respectively.
In front of a sell-out crowd, Leeds had the first glimpse of goal when Joel Piroe headed over the Millers bar after good work by Dan James on the right flank.
The home side worked a good opening with Ollie Rathbone and Odoffin at the heart of it, but the move came to nothing.
Nevertheless, the Millers suffered the worst possible start when Leeds broke the deadlock with just seven minutes on the clock.
With the home side short of numbers on the right hand side of the pitch, Georginio Rutter found Summerville in acres of space, and the Dutch forward made no mistake to dart in the box, before picking his spot in the bottom corner of the Millers goal with a well-struck effort – evading both a last-ditch attempted block from a Rotherham centre-half, and the attentions of Johansson.
The Millers had a sniff of goal when Morrison’s long throw caused havoc in the Leeds box but the Whites scrambled the ball clear.
The visitors sprung defence into attack in the blink of an eye when Morrison’s run forward was halted, and Leeds worked the ball to Rutter – who picked out James, who got on the wrong side of Cohen Bramall in the battle of the speedsters, but the Welsh winger fluffed his lines when he blazed over from a promising position.
The Millers had a half-chance when Christ Tiehi and Odoffin kept the ball alive with some head tennis in the box but Sam Nombe – who was playing as the Millers lone striker – hooked over with a volleyed effort.
The home side had a huge let-off when Piroe had the luxury of marauding forward with ease before finding Summerville – who made light work of Morrison – to bare down on goal but Johansson – not for the first time, this season – kept the Millers in the game with a save, at close quarters.
With the Millers struggling to get the ball clear, Rutter drilled a low effort narrowly wide of the target, soon after.
The visitors were looking the most likely and following the breakdown of a Rotherham attack, Summerville got the better of Seb Revan before putting on the after burners. The winger turned provider, this time, presenting Glen Kamara with the chance to strike but the Finnish international fired into the side netting.
Minutes later, James had a shot blocked en-route to goal following a fine-flowing move from the visitors before Johansson was called into action once again to smother Piroe’s measured strike from distance.
The visitors had another opportunity when Piroe – with his weaker right foot – volleyed into the home fans behind the goal after Ayala’s miscued clearance flew into his path.
The Millers were looking for a confidence boost, and they duly got it in first-half stoppage time when they levelled matters.
The home side were able to find Nombe in the channel, who gave Rathbone the chance to cross, but although his weak centre appeared to be cleared, Rotherham kept the ball alive and with no Leeds defender taking charge, Odoffin pounced on the loose ball to fire a left-footed effort which wrongfooted Illan Meslier to find the visitors goal.
Half-time: Rotherham United 1 Leeds United 1
The Millers – lifted by the equaliser – made a bright start to the second half, and they came within a whisker of taking the lead when Nombe showed good upper body strength to outmuscle Ampadu in the box, and with Meslier racing from his line, Rotherham’s club record signing kept his nerve to strike goalwards, but despite Meslier being beaten, Leeds skipper Liam Cooper came to his side’s rescue, as he kept the ball out from near his own goal line.
The momentum of the game had temporarily shifted with the home players now being more than a match for their visitors, and the Millers fans were responding in kind to support their team.
Chances were now at a premium for both sides and Farke was the first to blink when he made a triple change with 20 minutes to go with Patrick Bamford and Wilfried Gnonto among those introduced.
Rotherham made a double change themselves – almost immediately – when Jordan Hugill replaced Nombe – who received a warm ovation from the Rotherham fans as he left the pitch – while Lembikisa was introduced at the expense of Revan.
The game was in the balance and Rotherham were indebted to Lee Peltier – who showed all his experience – to firstly deny Summerville with a superbly-timed tackle before getting up quickly to snuff out the danger from James with another challenge.
Minutes later, Leeds arrowed a ball over the top and Gnonto took aim with a first-time effort which dipped narrowly over the Millers bar.
The home side had a chance of their own when Tiehi burst forward before finding Fred Onyedinma, who left Cooper in his wake, to dart into the visitors box, but Meslier proved a vital last line of defence, when he diverted his low shot to safety.
A winning goal was in the sights of both teams’ and Leeds missed a gilt-edged chance to edge the encounter when James’ hanging cross was met by the head of sub Pascal Struijk, just yards out, but he nodded wide of the target when it looked easier to score.
The Millers had a few opportunities near the end when Morrison rose highest to meet Rathbone’s corner – following a period of home pressure - but the Rotherham skipper headed narrowly wide before Bramall failed to make the most of a home breakaway, in the next phase of play.
It was almost heartbreak for the Millers in the dying seconds of regulation time when Gnonto’s mis-hit centre was not dealt with decisively by Morrison, and fellow sub Jaidon Anthony was on-hand to stroke home from close range, however, any Leeds’ joy was short-lived as the assistant referee had already raised his flag.
In stoppage time, Summerville – who was a thorn in the Millers side all evening – fired a free kick over before stinging the palms of Johansson with a low effort.
The final whistle saw three corners of the AESSEAL New York Stadium applaud the efforts of their side, who narrowed the gap to fourth-bottom Huddersfield to just three points, but having played a game more.
Full-time: Rotherham United 1 Leeds United 1
Rotherham United 1
Leeds United 1
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Bramall, Ayala, Onyedinma, Rathbone (Lindsay 90+3), Peltier, Odoffin, Morrison, Tiehi, Revan (Lembikisa 72), Nombe (Hugill 72). Unused- Phillips, Eaves, Kelly, Hall, Appiah, McGuckin.
Leeds- Meslier, Firpo (Gnonto 70), Ampadu, Cooper (Struijk 80), Piroe, Kamara (Poveda 70), Summerville, Rodon, James (Anthony 85), Gray, Rutter (Bamford 70). Unused- Darlow, Ayling, Byram, Gruev.
Referee- O Langford
Attendance- 11471 (2229)