Match Report: Rotherham 3 Preston 1 (agg 4-2)

Rotherham United v Preston North End League One Play Off Semi Final - Wes Thomas scores for Rotherham
Rotherham United v Preston North End League One Play Off Semi Final - Wes Thomas scores for Rotherham
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Rotherham United are off to Wembley after coming from behind to beat Preston in their play off semi-final second leg at the New York Stadium.

Wes Thomas’ header cancelled out Paul Gallagher’s opener for the visitors before Lee Frecklington, also with a header, fired the Millers in front.

Then, in the second half, after soaking up pressure from Preston, top scorer Kieran Agard put the seal on a trip to the capital by slipping home the third for the home side.

Rotherham had started the better of the two teams but they were pegged back when Gallagher’s 16th minute inswinging free kick from wide on the left, 40 yards from goal went all the way through without a touch and past Collin in the Millers’ goal.

Before that, Frecklington, who had overcome a knock having been taken off in the first leg which finished 1-1, had Rotherham’s first opportunity when the midfielder got on the end of a Pringle free kick but failed to really test Declan Rudd.

Gallagher’s goal against the run of play, coming after some poor defending, was soon forgotten though as on 24 minutes, Ben Pringle, another player who had been struggling with an injury, whipped in a superb free kick of his own and Thomas attacked the ball brilliantly to guide it past Rudd.

Bouyed by the equaliser, Rotherham continued to press and it came as no surprise when they took the lead after 34 minutes, with Frecklington more than making up for his weak header earlier.

Pringle again was the provider, finding his midfield colleague with an inch perfect cross which Frecklington powered home superbly from 15 yards out.

Preston were almost afforded a way back into the tie when just before the 45 minute mark, a speculative shot from John Welsh slipped through the fingers of Adam Collin and, as the home fans held their collective breath, the ball squirmed wide for a corner which came to nothing.

Just a couple of minutes into the second half, Preston were lucky to have their full quota of players when striker Kevin Davies’ late challenge, high on Joe Skarz left the Millers defender requiring lengthy treatment.

However, referee Keith Stroud saw fit to let the former Bolton striker off with a yellow card.

Shortly after play resumed, Rotherham almost wrapped the game up as Pringle came close to adding the goal that his performance to that point had deserved.

A cross from the right was headed away but only into the path of Pringle who let fly with a stunning left foot volley which rocked the crossbar and the ball was eventually cleared.

On 54 minutes Joe Garner, the North End hero on Saturday, fired a volley over the bar from a Gallagher cross as Preston began to psuh harder for an equaliser.

And while Alex Revell had a header land on the roof of the net from a Pringle corner, it was Preston who looked most likely to score the next goal.

On 62 minutes Gallagher should have done better by at least finding the target as substitute Chris Humphrey’s cross found the Scot unmarked in the box, but he headed well wide of goal.

However for all of Preston’s pressure, it would me the Millers who would find the net next and fittingly it was Agard who seemed to have sealed the victory.

Most of the credit must go to James Tavernier though as the full back took the ball down the right, cut inside onto his left foot then back onto his right before feeding the unmarked Agard, leaving the winger to slide the ball just inside the post from eight yards.

Preston made sure Rotherham fans weren’t resting on their laurels when King struck the post, his shot deflecting off a Millers defender, on 73 minutes.

Then with ten minutes remaining, the fingertips of Collin, which had almost caused embarassment in the first half, came up trumps as Garner’s shot ricocheted of Skarz and looked to be heading in, only for Collin to get the slightest touch to the ball and send it onto the inside of the post.

Revell almost added more glory to the night for the Millers as he charged down the right and aimed for the far corner with a well struck shot only to be denied by Rudd, while Tom Clarke cleared the rebound under pressure from Agard.

Then, after over seven minutes of injury time, referee Stroud finally blew the whistle and onto the pitch poured the jubilant Rotherham fans who can now look forward to a final date with Leyton Orient at Wembley on May 25.

ROTHERHAM UNITED: Collin; Tavernier, Morgan, Arnason, Skarz; Agard, Frecklington, Smallwood, Pringle; Revell, Thomas. Subs: Shearer, Davis, Milsom, Vuckic, Hitchcock, Rowe.

PRESTON NORTH END: Rudd; Wiseman, Clarke, King, Wright, Buchanan; Welsh, Kilkenny, Gallagher; K Davies, Garner. Subs: Stuckmann, Keane, Laird, Humphrey, Beavon, Holmes, Brownhill.

Referee: Keith Stroud (Hants)