MANAGER Steve Evans marked this one down as the toughest game, from a physical viewpoint, that the Millers would face all season. And reckoned he’d learn a bit more about this new-look set of players along the way.
Well, he learned plenty from a committed performance that lacked nothing in conviction as they hungrily went for the winner only to be beaten by a breakaway goal five minutes from time which settled a cracking game.
A first defeat then against one of the fancied sides who were hanging on for a lot of the second half as Rotherham, playing some good stuff, threw everything at it to get in front until the late cruel blow.
With Aidy Boothroyd in the other dugout, it was clear what the Northampton way would be – direct and aerial.
Rotherham’s heading ability was instantly put to the test. And if you’re not up to it...
Then there are the set-pieces. The first throw-in was an example of the likely threat because Tozer hurled it massively and it actually landed on the corner of the six yard area beyond the far post which is a fair old distance.
It was, of course, Northampton’s opening home game in the league and all the vibrancy and energy which that brings to players and also the crowd although they had the confidence gleaned from playing here a week ago when they pulled off a shock win in the Capital One Cup against Cardiff City.
After the early hurly-burly from the Cobblers was to be expected but it was the Millers who were so close to the lead in the eighth minute.
Nardiello got possession left of centre, swayed inside former Millers defender Artell and struck a fierce 22 yarder which flew just beyond the far post with the keeper beaten.
Of course, Rotherham required calm heads and composure at the back and Sharps and Arnason were certainly providing that in the testing early stages as Northampton tried to get up a head of steam.
But when the opener came on 25 minutes it had nothing to do with anything aerial except the way it flew into Rotherham’s net.
It all began just inside the home half when Hackett ran back, surprised Noble and earned a throw in. It quickly went down the line to earn another throw which Tozer took quickly to Hackett. He cut in from the right and struck a thunderous left footer from around 22 yards into the far corner.
The response from Rotherham saw O’Connor set up Taylor on the angle and his shot was beaten away by keeper Nicholls.
Rotherham’s overall response was to be admired and, after surviving a 25 yarder onto the bar from Harding, they had Northampton on the rack.
Sharps headed narrowly wide from Pringle’s corner before Odejayi set up a clear chance for O’Connor but he fired wide.
In quick succession Nardiello had a curler headed away by Langmead with the keeper beaten and then Pringle had a 20 yarder held by Nicholls.
The equaliser on 41 minutes was no surprise and well deserved.
A great block by skipper Sharps from a goalbound shot from Guttridge was crucial. Rotherham broke away, Taylor sent Odejayi up the left, he slid the ball square across the edge of the area and Pringle measured his left footer perfectly high beyond the keeper’s right.
Both managers made attacking changes in the second half, Agard and Evans replacing Nardiello and O’Connor and the home side took off a midfielder, Guttridge to put on big Akinfenwa,
He might well have notched too but for a superb clearing header by Wilson after Platt had nodded down to him.
Rotherham then should have scored.
Odejayi sent Agard racing away, he used his pace to go clear but lifted his effort over the top.
Then came controversy when Agard, who would have been clear, was brought down by Johnson who got away with his tumbling fall which toppled the Rotherham striker. Mr Kettle gave nothing when it looked a foul and a red card.
As Rotherham turned up the heat, Nicholls just kept out Agard’s close range touch from a Taylor shot before Pringle had a 22 yarder turned over by the keeper as they hungrily hunted the winner with real purpose and drive.
But with five minutes left, the home side broke from a Rotherham corner and Platt set up Nicholls who went round Shearer to score a winner that was harsh on the Millers.
It was a real sucker punch and the Millers had certainly deserved something from the game.
NORTHAMPTON TOWN: L Nicholls; Johnson, Langmead, Artell, Widdowson; Hackett, Guttridge (Akinfenwa 65), Tozer, Harding; A Nicholls, Platt. Subs: Charles, Demontagnac, Snedker, Mukendi, Wilson, Moult.
ROTHERHAM UTD: Shearer; Bradley, Sharps, Arnason, Wilson; O’Connor,(Evans 63) Taylor. Noble, Pringle; Nardiello (Agard 55), Odejayi (Revell 78); Subs: Warrington, Mullins, Ainsworth, Rose.
Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland).
Goals: Hackett (25) Nicholls (85) for Northampton; Pringle (41) for Millers).