Millers denied late on....
Rotherham United had a rare Sky Bet Championship victory on the road snatched from their grasp when Middlesbrough broke their hearts with a late leveller at a cold, windswept Riverside Stadium.
The long suffering Millers travelling fans were dreaming of their first league win on their travels since November 2022, and it became a reality when Cafu’s first goal in Millers colours’ put them ahead.
The Millers – who were putting their bodies on the line from start to finish - were holding firm but their resistance was finally broken when sub Marcus Forss levelled matters with just eight minutes to go.
The visitors made two changes to their starting line-up following their last outing against Stoke City.
Head Coach Leam Richardson reshuffled his midfield pack with Cafu and Jamie Lindsay being recalled.
Ollie Rathbone and Sam Nombe had to settle for substitute berths at the Riverside Stadium alongside Peter Kioso, who returned to South Yorkshire following his loan spell with Peterborough United in the first part of the campaign.
The hosts fielded a number of familiar faces to Millers followers in their squad.
Former fans favourite Dan Barlaser and one-time loanee Dael Fry were named in the starting eleven while Matt Crooks was among the home replacements.
The hosts had the first glimpse of goal when Morgan Rogers’ slide-rule ball presented Isaiah Jones with the chance to race clear but his centre aimed at Sam Greenwood was cut out by a retreating Millers defender.
Nevertheless, Rotherham had a good chance to break the deadlock when the home side were guilty of overplaying at the back with Tom Glover putting Rogers under pressure, and Sam Clucas got a timely nick on the ball to give Jordan Hugill – who was lining up against his former club - the opportunity to curl a delicate effort which flew narrowly of goal.
The home side had the first real spell of pressure when Lukas Engel’s through ball paved the way for Greenwood to spring the Rotherham offside trap, but Seb Revan was on-hand to snuff out the danger with a timely clearance before Viktor Johansson parried Barlaser’s resultant corner to safety.
Michael Carrick’s side came close when Barlaser’s lovely corner was met by the head of Matt Clarke, who guided his looping header towards goal, but despite Johansson diving acrobatically, the ball floated just wide of the target.
The hosts were forced into an early change when Isaiah Jones never fully recovered from a muscle injury sustained following an innocuous challenge from Hugill, and Forss was introduced.
Moments later, Hayden Hackney and Forss combined smartly to present Finn Azaz with the chance to strike, but his near-post effort fizzed harmlessly wide of the target.
The Millers had a scare when Rogers clipped a ball forward and Forss - sandwiched between Johansson and Revan – tumbled under the challenge of the Aston Villa loanee in the box, but the referee waved away any home protests.
There was an off-the-ball altercation on half way between Clucas and Greenwood which left the Millers midfielder needing treatment, and seemingly a little bad blood between the two players.
Greenwood was in the thick of the action and after Barlaser’s short corner, he firstly tried his luck with a dipping effort which had Johansson at full-stretch before Christ Tiehi blocked his snap shot at close quarters, seconds later.
The Millers were forced into a substitution of their own when Cohen Bramall – who needed treatment on a few occasions – had to eventually leave the proceedings and Kioso made his eagerly awaited Rotherham return.
Greenwood threatened again with another fierce effort which Sean Morrison felt the full force of when he bravely put his body on the line to deny him before the Rotherham skipper became the first to see yellow for hauling back the on-loan Leeds midfielder in another ‘Boro attack.
Minutes later, Barlaser and Clarke again combined from a home set-piece when the latter nodded wide when he should have done better from the former Millers’ playmaker’s corner.
The Millers’ fans had their hearts in their mouths when Kioso’s tame back pass left Johansson short changed before Greenwood lost his footing under the full-back’s challenge but the referee again took no further action to Rotherham’s relief.
With half-time approaching, Hackney was the latest to incur the wrath of the referee by being cautioned before Forss latched onto Hackney’s through ball to poke an effort towards goal but Johansson was his equal with a smothered save at the second attempt.
The Millers were weathering the storm near the break and Johansson darted from his goal to shut out Rogers near the touchline with a committed challenge before Morrison showed all his experience to deny Forss and then Luke Ayling in the last acts of the half.
Half-time: Middlesbrough 0 Rotherham United 0
Attacking their noisy band of followers in the corner of the Riverside Stadium, the Millers made a positive start to the second 45 and Clucas’ corner caused havoc in the ‘Boro box before the ball was scrambled clear while Kioso dragged a long-range effort wide of the target.
Revan then sprinted up the left flank and made some hard yards but his centre was cut out by a home defender before Lee Peltier’s up and under almost fell kindly for Hugill, but he could not get the ball under his spell.
However, the Millers were rewarded for their positive intent when they broke the deadlock just before the hour mark.
Lindsay latched onto the bits and pieces to set Hugill away and the Millers frontman played an inch-perfect ball forward which took Ayling out of the game, and Cafu was the beneficiary, as he kept his nerve in the one-on-one situation with Glover to slide the ball past the ‘Boro ‘keeper and into the heart of the home goal.
The home side were visibly rattled by the Rotherham opener and home frustration was evident when Ayling wildly blazed a shot into the stand behind the goal.
Home tensions’ rose further when Johansson was yellow-carded for taking too long with a goal kick before Clucas soon joined him in the book for cynically hauling down Ayling just outside the box.
Johansson showed great opportunism to head clear – near the 18-yard line – under pressure from Forss before Rotherham were almost in dream land when Cafu turned provider with a lovely inside of the boot cross which narrowly evaded the attentions of Hugill, who looked on course to make it two, before he was denied by a home defender.
The moment proved crucial when ‘Boro levelled matters with eight minutes to go.
Forss was involved early in a ‘Boro move and following passes from Hackney and crucially from Rogers, Forss made no mistake when he powered home past Johansson with a fierce drive.
With the game in the balance, both sides had chances to win it near the end.
Sub Sam Nombe delivered a teasing centre which Engel hacked clear before fellow replacement, Tom Eaves, latched onto Clucas’ resultant corner and planted the ball back towards goal – from a tight angle – but Glover snuffed out the danger.
At the other end, Morrison – not for the first time – made a goal-saving block to deny Greenwood.
There was late drama to come when Hackney planted a delicious centre and firstly, Crooks failed to make a telling connection before another sub, Josh Coburn headed home from close range but ‘Boro’s joy proved short-lived when the assistant referee raised his flag to curtail home celebrations.
Full-time: Middlesbrough 1 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams: Middlesbrough- Glover, Barlaser (O’Brien 81), Clarke, Fry, Hackney, Rogers, I Jones (Forss 20), Ayling, Azaz (Crooks 68), Engel, Greenwood (Coburn 81). Unused- J Jones, Van den Berg, Gilbert, McNair, McCabe.
Rotherham- Johansson, Bramall (Kioso 36), Cafu (Nombe 86), Clucas, Hugill (Eaves 76), Lindsay (Rathbone 76), Peltier, Odoffin, Morrison, Tiehi, Revan. Unused- Phillips, Kelly, Bola, Appiah, McGuckin.
Referee- D Bond