Match report: Rotherham United 1 Walsall 1

Wes Thomas holds off an advancing James Chambers.
Wes Thomas holds off an advancing James Chambers.
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Years ago, they’d open the gates at Millmoor about 20 minutes from the end to let people leave if they wanted to, which meant anybody outside could go in and watch the final stages for ‘nowt’.

A right treat, I can tell you, as someone who did that a few times during my youth football days when we’d kicked off early and I’d cadged a lift to the ground after our game.

So, here’s a thought for Rotherham United’s money-makers. Charge people a fiver to go in and watch the last 20 minutes knowing that with this current side, there’s every chance of a winner or an equaliser.

Imagine the scenario... “Eyup, I see t’Millers are only drawing, should we go down for t’last 20 minutes and see ‘em win?... “Aye, come on then”.

You never know, the way things are turning out, the ground would be full around half-past four with people rocking up.

Of course, it couldn’t happen. But what has every chance to keep happening is what happened here and has done in a few recent home games - the Millers swarming forward and gaining valuable reward at the death.

You should never write them off which is precisely what I was on my way to doing. I should have known better.

There I was, just working my way through the sentence “Rotherham’s 11 match unbeaten run came to an end” when yet another late goal sent the New York Stadium into raptures.

This one was pretty early too by their standards, the 88th minute, but neither myself nor anyone else should ever doubt the never-say-die spirit of this group.

It rescued a game they always looked like rescuing in the second half but one in which they barely got started earlier on.

However improbable it seems, people are right not to totally give up on the top two even though it is looking increasingly stitched on for Wolves and Brentford.

But Rotherham’s first half performance bore no resemblance to a side with any such aspirations.

Although they might well have had an early penalty when Wes Thomas was knocked over (I’ll bet it would have been given outside the area), the first 35 minutes were significant only for the mounting frustration prevailing around anything red and white - players, supporters and, judging by their constant touchline protestations, the management team.

It has to be said, there was some justification for the general puzzlement and I, for one, never considered Lee Frecklington had committed a foul when winning the ball just ahead of Walsall’s opener.

However, when the free-kick was taken quickly, the referee wasn’t to blame for Rotherham’s lack of reaction thereafter. Adam Chambers had bags of time and space to ponder his options; Craig Westcarr dropped off into space unchallenged and then picked out the angled run of Milan Lalkovic who proved sharper than Richard Brindley (in for injured Mark Bradley).

Rotherham were being outmanouevred and outnumbered in midfield.

When they bashed the ball towards Alex Revell, he was outgunned by James Chambers and Andy Butler. Wes Thomas and Kieran Agard couldn’t get into it at.

And how they missed the extra attacking zip provided by the missing James Tavernier, out with an ankle injury picked up on Friday.

It meant not a lot happened although they did get a handle on things and were cranking it up in the final ten minutes.

Straight after half-time, Kari Arnason got up to meet Ben Pringle’s free-kick but could only direct it over. The siege was underway.

The early introduction of Haris Vuckic added the sort of control Thomas hadn’t been able to achieve and proved beneficial. His goalbound shot, diverted past the far post, led to one of countless second half corners.

When Adam Collin blocked Romain Sawyers who had broken deep into the area, one wondered how vital that might prove.

With 17 minutes left, right back Ben Purkiss - one time Sheffield United youngster - got a second yellow for impeding Pringle.

From the free-kick, sub Michael O’Connor had Richard O’Donnell diving across goal to save and, by my reckoning and everyone else’s it seemed, it was his first save and had taken 74 minutes.

Steve Evans reckoned his team had 40 shots in all, in which case whoever worked that out, feel free to calculate my wages next month.

But no one would doubt the pressure they did exert or Rotherham’s drive and desire to pull this out of the fire.

They piled men forward as quickly as Walsall pulled them back. But when Nicky Adams sent a header bouncing wide, it seemed the unbeaten run was over.

But Revell won a header. Agard turned it to Adams and he struck a timely first goal from an angle and in off the bar.

In stoppage time, Frecklington almost repeated his late winner against Stevenage from virtually the same spot.

Anything less than a win might be construed as points dropped. However, the Millers might want to regard this one positively - as a point gained.