Play-Offs: Advantage Rotherham after Preston draw

Rotherham's Alex Revell wheels away after putting the Millers into the lead
Rotherham's Alex Revell wheels away after putting the Millers into the lead
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They came, they saw - and although his side couldn’t quite conquer Preston North End in tonight’s play-off semi-final first leg, Steve Evans was still the happier of the two managers after this 1-1 draw at Deepdale.

Evans promised in the build-up to this game that his side wouldn’t abandon the attacking principles which took them to fourth place in League One, and they certainly played their part - not least when Alex Revell’s cool finish put them one up in the first half.

But their hopes of taking a lead into next week’s second leg at the New York Stadium were dashed in the second, when Joe Garner levelled the scores with a finish that would not look out of place at any level of the footballing pyramid.

Of more immediate concern for Evans now will be the fitness of 25-goal top scorer Kieran Agard, who was a surprise omission from the Millers’ squad. Agard was later revealed to have suffered a hamstring tweak, and all eyes will now be on him ahead of Thursday’s return leg.

With Agard missing, Rotherham’s attacking potency rested upon the shoulders of Revell and Wes Thomas, and the former made his mark with the opener to send the travelling Millers supporters into dreamland.

Ben Pringle’s clearance fell invitingly for Revell, who chested superbly past Jack King and raced towards Declan Rudd’s goal. Centre-half Bailey Wright was caught in two minds, between closing down Revell and marking Thomas, and Revell was afforded all the time in the world to slide the ball through the legs of Rudd and put his side ahead with his 11th of the season.

Only two sides beat Preston at Deepdale during the League One season, and Rotherham’s hopes of becoming the third took a blow when Garner lit up the famous old ground in the second half.

Latching on to a long ball forward, he chested down superbly under the close attention of James Tavernier and captain Craig Morgan. The striker then touched over the head of Kari Arnason and, with the ball still not having touched the floor, he volleyed first time over Adam Collin and into the top corner of the Rotherham net.

Despite the setback, Rotherham continued their positive intent and could have gone back ahead with a superb chance for Lee Frecklington. But the midfielder took one touch too many and was denied by Rudd. Frecklington injured himself in the process and was later replaced by Claude Davis.

As the game neared its conclusion, a draw seemed inevitable but the Millers nearly had the final say, with just seconds of the five minutes added time remaining. Haris Vuckic headed firmly at goal, but Rudd was equal to it and pulled off a brilliant save to tip the ball over the bar.

The Millers go into Thursday’s second leg with home advantage at the New York Stadium - but only champions Wolves have conceded less away goals than Simon Grayson’s Preston. Game on!