FOR Rotherham United, there are no long and winding roads on their FA Cup journeys. In recent times, if they’ve even made it round the first bend then they’ve usually found themselves in a cul-de-sac.
There was genuine hope here for a while of a trip to recently unchartered territory - ie, the third round, or at least into the draw for it - only to have it snatched away with under 10 minutes to go.
In truth this was always going to be a stiff one. So, it was definitely going to be that much harder trying to sort it out with 10 men for half the game.
That they got within about eight minutes of earning themselves a second chance against a dangerous attack, owed plenty to their resistance after half-time although it wasn’t entirely backs-to-the-wall and two or three opportunities presented themselves as well as a couple of near-misses.
But the cup is very often about if onlys and near-misses and at least they remained in this one to the end, unlike the past five FA Cup defeats which had all been by margins of 3-0.
Manager Andy Scott wasn’t a happy bunny, even appearing back out pitchside to speak to the media with only a shirt and jumper to combat the cold, Shropshire air ... “I’m not cold,” he said. “My blood’s boiling.”
Perhaps he had sensed at half-time that things might go against his side after their reduction to 10 men following the sending-off in the first half’s final moments of Marcus Marshall who was at right-back.
Everyone inside the Greenhous Meadow (fancy something like that for the new stadium name anyone?) knew what the second-half pattern would be and we weren’t disappointed.
Rotherham needed to keep Shrewsbury at bay for starters in that second half and so induce some frustration.
Instead, just as they had done when leading against Crawley at half-time the previous week, they conceded in the opening couple of minutes and the home side instantly had a foothold.
That wise old owl, Graham Turner, the Shrews boss, reckoned the sending-off was a key moment. Certainly the opening two minutes of the second half were key over and above Marshall’s dismissal.
Just 70 seconds after the restart, Alex Revell was sent clean up the right. His low centre saw Sam Wood slide in front of his marker and fail to connect by a whisker.
A goal then, it’s 2-0 and who knows. Instead, Shrewsbury went straight downfield, won a corner from which former Miller Ian Sharps struck home a loose ball for the equaliser - with keeper Conrad Logan complaining vehemently and angrily that he had been impeded.
You felt at that stage it was only a matter of time before the crucial second followed. It did take quite a while, though.
The tie started fairly low-key but with the home side indicating they had the sort of pacy penetration on the flanks that harms teams at this level. Unbeaten at home, they are a real attacking threat, but Rotherham kept pace, aided by Logan’s stunning save from a header by Gornell who also fluffed another excellent heading opportunity.
Rotherham’s advantage came on 41 minutes following a forward break by Marshall which ended with Wood, who grafted diligently throughout, earning a penalty when Matt Richards tripped him.
Lewis Grabban, who appears to have a different penalty style for every occasion, calmly sent the keeper the wrong way for his 13th goal of the season.
But in the final minute Marshall, unsure of his bearings in a position he is still trying to familiarise himself with, attempted to poke the ball away as he turned only to topple Mark Wright.
The very harsh first yellow - gained by a challenge in the Shrewsbury area as he stretched to try and regain a ball he had lost control of - now came into painful focus as the second one was flashed. Scott sent on Dale Tonge to right-back with Brett Williams the one sacrificed.
Shrewsbury’s equaliser removed real anxiety and helped spur them on. Rotherham, with Revell winning his duel with Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, had their moments.
As the corner count mounted - the home side had 19 in all - Rotherham battled away for their cup lives. Amidst some wild shooting and near-misses, Logan pulled off a stupendous save, arching backwards to tip over a deflected Marvin Morgan shot that looked to have beaten the big keeper.
With eight minutes left, the lanky Morgan forced his way between Newey (did he tug back the Millers man in doing so?) and Mullins who, checking the TV coverage, appeared to have a tug himself. Not enough to send a giant like Morgan tumbling like he did but the striker made the most of it and got what he may have been looking for for.
One-time Barnsley midfielder Nicky Wroe thrashed home the penalty with eight minutes to go and Rotherham’s cup journey had come to a halt.