A below-par Rotherham United were forced to settle for a point after a 0-0 draw against Carlisle at the New York Stadium.
The definite was 21-year-old French striker Nouha Dicko, who began his spell on loan on the bench, whilst the other name bandied around was St Johnstone’s goalscorer Stevie May, with Rotherham said to be ready to make a club record offer.
The burgeoning confidence of top scorer Agard was reflected in his first involvement in just 60 seconds.
He took a pass from Tubbs, moved inside and although on his left foot, he struck a 25 yarder which whistled inches wide into the South End with the keeper beaten.
Carlisle, who had an excellent 3-0 away win at MK Dons just days after Rotherham lost there, began to knock the ball about quite nicely as they built their attacks and the Millers had a spot of defending to do in the opening stages as they forced the game’s first corner. Matters ended with Collin holding a centre from Robson under the bar.
Pringle almost juggled his way through the area despite being surrounded by defenders. At this point, Revell was in some discomfort and looked towards the bench after taking a knock.
The game was taking a long time to really warm up and the Millers weren’t quite driving at opponents like they have done in most of their home games.
A low 25 yarder from Pringle, after O’Connor’s short free-kick, had Amos diving sharply to save, giving the crowd something to cheer.
Carlisle, getting men behind the ball, were looking quite comfortable and would have been happy how they had negotiated the opening spell. They were getting on the ball with some comfort, but without any real attacking threat. It had all been low key, and the Millers needed to lift their level.
A run by Brindley provided a spark but Agard was crowded out, then O’Connor thundered in a shot only for it to strike teammate Morgan.
Then, from their first proper threat, Carlisle were denied by a fine save from Collin. From a short free-kick they got Robson free, his cross was met by the head of O’Hanlon eight yards out only for Collin to react superbly and turn the ball over the bar.
Rotherham had played as if they expected things to happen rather than really making them happen and, so far, it had certainly lacked the oomph of last week’s display at Stevenage.
Carlisle were no great shakes but Steve Evans could not have been satisfied with this first 45 minutes.
Townsend clattered into Brindley in mid-air and was rightly booked. Then, minutes later and right on half-time, Townsend was sent off for a second booking after scything down Tubbs.
The pattern soon became clear - Carlisle were getting everybody back into their own half and Rotherham were having plenty of the ball.
Frecklington had a shot deflected over and Pringle’s corner was a good one but, from a loose ball, Tubbs couldn’t just turn it past Amos.
When Pringle robbed Chimbonda near halfway, he sent Tubbs racing away. However, the angle was against him and he fired high into the side netting.
Just past the hour Revell, still limping from his early knock, was replaced by Eaves and, at the same time, Tubbs made way for Dicko.
Carlisle’s best chance looked to be from a set-piece and O’Hanlon headed over from a corner.As the North End tried to lift their side, Rotherham continued to pass the ball slowly, going from side to side but Carlisle were happy to let them and the Millers needed some penetration in the final third.
Eaves controlled a long ball superbly but then took the wrong option with a wild shot high into the crowd. Then Rotherham came so closing to leading. Dicko showed his pace up the right, his low cross deflected off Berrett and was almost over the line when Ehmer cleared it away.
Carlisle were battling with everything, as you’d expect with only 10 men and Rotherham were finding it hard to actually make chances so congested was the Carlisle area.
When an error presented Eaves with possession 20 yards out his low shot was tipped round the post by Amos and, as the game moved into its final quarter-hour, Carlisle were sensing a point for which they had fought so hard. Both Eaves and Morgan had efforts cleared off the line, while Collin denied Carlisle a late winner deep into stoppage time.
But this was one of the poorer home performances by the Millers.