Millers fight back twice for Roses draw...
Cult hero Tom Eaves enhanced his status among the Rotherham faithful as his late goal at Ewood Park earned the Millers a valuable point in their fight for Sky Bet Championship survival.
It may be a New Year, but it looked to be the same old story for the Millers on the road when Blackburn took the lead twice through Arnor Sigurdsson and Championship top-scorer Sammie Szmodics – but the Millers led superbly by Sean Morrison – who was a colossal figure at the back – got Rotherham back on level terms before Eaves – atoned for an earlier miss – with a superb headed equaliser.
Following their recent draw with Sunderland, Millers Head Coach Leam Richardson made two changes to his starting line-up.
Box-to-box midfielder Ollie Rathbone shrugged off illness to take his place in the Rotherham engine room while Eaves was handed his first league start of the campaign.
The Millers – who were sporting their all black away colours – had the first glimpse of goal when home ‘keeper Leo Wahlstedt was forced to punch skipper Morrison’s long throw to safety while Rathbone was unable to get the loose ball under his spell and the chance was lost.
The visitors had another half-chance, minutes later, when Viktor Johansson punted a long ball forward and Cohen Bramall flicked the ball onto Nombe – who despite having his back to goal near the touchline – attempted an audacious lob which had Wahlstedt backtracking nervously, as it narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Nevertheless, it was Blackburn, who opened the scoring on eight minutes, arguably with their first attack of note.
There looked little danger for the Millers until Adam Wharton injected pace into a Rovers move before finding Szmodics, who looked to get his shot away, but Hakeem Odoffin managed to put in a timely block but the ricochet fell invitingly into the path of Sigurdsson, who initially held off the attentions of Dexter Lembikisa, before cleverly steering the ball home, despite being off-balance.
The hosts – who came into the game on the back of four successive league defeats – were now playing with confidence and Sigurdsson presented Sondre Tronstad – with the chance to strike and he duly obliged with a fierce left-footed effort which was arrowing into the roof of the Millers net until Johansson’s late, superb intervention.
The Millers had another let-off in the next phase of play when Harry Pickering weighed up his options before picking out the run of Szmodics – who scored a brace in the reverse fixture at the AESSEAL New York Stadium – and the Rovers playmaker kept his nerve to fire past Johansson to find the heart of the visitors net, but thankfully for those of a Rotherham United persuasion, the offside flag had already been raised.
The Millers were finding the going tough in Lancashire but Clucas delivered a corner which Morrison, firstly attempted to turn home with a rising header, but he failed to make a telling connection before Christ Tiehi looked to bundle the ball home at the back post, but he was unable to bypass the number of Rovers defenders, including Hayden Carter, on the line.
Moments later, Eaves headed straight into the grateful hands of Wahlstedt from Morrison’s long-throw.
The home side were looking dangerous in the attacking parts of the pitch and Rotherham were indebted to their skipper, Morrison, for keeping them in the game when he put his body on the line to deny Sigurdsson, before getting up quickly, and denying Semir Telalovic with another sensational block on the follow-up.
The Millers were struggling to contain the hosts and the visitors goal led a charmed life when Johansson was at full-stretch to deny Callum Brittain’s low, skimming drive before Brittain turned creator with a tantalising centre which took the Swedish stopper out of the game but a sliding Szmodics was inches away from diverting the ball into the unguarded net.
The moment proved crucial when Rotherham equalised just past the half-hour mark when Morrison – after his earlier defensive heroics – showed his aerial prowess at the other end of the pitch.
The Millers forced a corner and Clucas planted a lovely centre into the danger area and Morrison – showed great upper body strength to hold off any would-be challengers – before rising highest to calmly nod the ball into the corner of the net.
The Millers had fought hard to get back on level terms but Blackburn had an immediate chance to regain the lead, but Johansson – as is so often the case – came to Rotherham’s rescue to preserve parity.
Wharton’s slide-rule pass gave Szmodics a chance to strike a first time shot but Johansson showed superb reflexes to parry his effort before Rotherham eventually scrambled the ball to safety.
Morrison was in the thick of the action and the former Cardiff defender blotted his copybook ever so slightly after a superb first-half when he received a yellow-card following a tactical foul on Telalovic.
Nevertheless, the Millers almost made the perfect ending to the first 45 when a quick counter-attack led by Nombe saw Rathbone try his luck with a lovely curling effort from about 20 yards, but a combination of the woodwork and a flying Wahlstedt kept the ball out and denied him a goal at his hometown club.
Half-time: Blackburn Rovers 1 Rotherham United 1
The Millers went into the second half – with that elusive first Sky Bet Championship away win in sight – but their hopes were dashed almost immediately when they made the worst possible start to the second half.
The visitors lost possession and James Hill picked up the pieces to burst forward before sliding the ball past the attentions of Odoffin to find Szmodics, who demonstrated why he is top of the Championship scoring charts, when he kept his nerve to round the advancing Johansson before slotting home into the empty net.
To their credit, the Millers responded positively to the setback and they threatened next thanks to a combination which served them well in the first 45.
After Eaves was fouled, Clucas - with his favoured left-foot – delivered a lovely free kick into the box and Morrison again showed his power in the air, but this time, he was unable to control his header, as it flew harmlessly over the home goal.
The Millers then missed a gilt-edged chance to level matters just after the hour mark.
The visitors worked their way up the pitch well and Rathbone found Nombe in space, who fired a delicious centre into the six-yard box, and Eaves – after his recent goal at Home Park – looked set to trouble the scorers again, but on the stretch and under pressure from a home defender, he could only scoop the ball over the home bar from point-blank range – when in reality, it looked easier to score.
Minutes later, Morrison’s back-to-back long throws caused havoc in the home box before Richardson made a double change with Jamie Lindsay and Jordan Hugill introduced.
However, it was two of the home replacements, who featured next, when Dilan Markanday’s centre was met by the head of Niall Ennis but Johansson was his equal with a fine save.
The Millers failed to make the most of a break down the left-flank when Eaves failed to anticipate Bramall’s cross, and it was easily cut out by a retreating defender.
At the other end, Szmodics stung the palms of Johansson with a low drive.
However, Rotherham got themselves on level terms for a second time – with just eight minutes to go – when Eaves made amends for his earlier miss – with an equalising goal in front of the Millers travelling contingent.
The visitors attacked with purpose and Seb Revan worked a yard of space on his marker before clipping a lovely cross into the danger area and Eaves held off the attentions of a Rovers defender before powering a downward header past Wahlstedt.
The Millers frontman was the darling of the Rotherham faithful, and nearly made his mark again when he met sub Cafu’s cross, minutes later, but this time, his header flew narrowly wide of the target.
Both sides went for a winning goal and the Millers came closest in stoppage time when Jamie Lindsay’s speculative effort was blocked en-route to goal.
Full-time: Blackburn Rovers 2 Rotherham United 2
Blackburn Rovers 2
Rotherham United 2
Teams: Blackburn- Wahlstedt, Brittain, Hill, Carter, Pickering, Tronstad, A Wharton, Moran (Markanday 64), Szmodics, Sigurdsson, Telalovic (Ennis 64). Unused- Hilton, Gamble, Travis, Weston, Garrett, Gilsenan, Leonard.
Rotherham- Johansson, Lembikisa (Appiah 78), Bramall, Clucas (Lindsay 67), Rathbone (Cafu 78), Tiehi, Odoffin, Revan, Eaves (Kelly 90), Nombe (Hugill 67), Morrison. Unused- Phillips, McGuckin.
Referee- J Gillett
Attendance- 13054 (550)