The last time Rotherham United played Preston at home, the fans were on the pitch, the players were on the balcony and Wembley glory beckoned.
There was nothing like that 15 months on, but at least the Millers now have a point on the board and their Championship campaign is up and running after three matches.
No play-off final to come, just a difficult match at QPR on Saturday, but Steve Evans’ men can take heart from their second-half show against an organised North End side yet to concede a league goal this season.
Rotherham, helped no end by the introduction of substitutes Jonson Clarke-Harris and Aidy White, gave it a go after the break but just couldn’t break down Simon Grayson’s side who had five at the back whenever they had to defend.
The first half was a hard-fought affair which was turning niggly by the time the interval approached.
The only real chance had fallen to the hosts in the 13th minute. Right-back Lewis Buxton turned his man inside out just like Tony Towner used to at Millmoor in the early 1980s and his cross was met by Matt Derbyshire.
The striker made a good connection, but the ball had been played in just behind him and he could only hook his effort just wide.
Rotherham boss Evans had watched proceedings early on from the West Stand but by the 25th minute he was back in his usual spot in the dugout, and by 25 minutes 10 seconds he was out in his technical area barking out orders and advice
The visitors moved the ball about quite well but never seriously threatened the Rotherham goal, a weak 29th-minute shot from the right of the penalty area by Joe Garner their only effort up to half-time.
Kelle Roos, publically backed by Evans last week and this after defeats against MK Dons and Nottingham Forest, produced a couple of good catches, bringing chants of “Roooooos” from the AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful desperate to see their Dutch shot-stopper do well.
Joe Newell made a driving run into the Preston box on 24 minutes only to lose control just as the goal was opening up, but that was about it in an opening 45 minutes which brought more yellow cards - three - than scoring opportunities.
The Millers were playing with Jordan Bowery on the left flank and midfielder Lee Frecklington pushed forward just behind Derbyshire.
Frecklington appealed in vain for handball as he won a corner in the 45th minute, and the fact that it was the game’s first flag-kick spoke volumes about the opening period.
Evans waited only 11 minutes after the break before making changes and the physical dynamism of Clarke-Harris had an immediate effect.
The young striker obviously felt like he had a point to prove after missing out on the first three squads of the season and the visitors couldn’t handle his pace, power and aerial strength.
He drove a chance over the bar in the 66th minute after Richie Smallwood’s long pass and Derbyshire’s feed and either side of that he wreaked havoc down both flanks.
His balls into the box produced panic in the Preston defence but Derbyshire was unable to profit from close in.
“I felt that we needed some spark and presence in the second half,” Evans said.
“There was some heroic defending from Preston in their box.
“Jonson came on and made an impact, and that’s all you can ask.”
Bailey Wright headed the ball on to the Millers bar in the 78th minute to remind the home side they were in a game, and it needed a smart Roos save to keep out a Neil Kilkenny shot in the 84th minute, with Rotherham just managing to defend the corner.
The Millers hit back and Frecklington sent a shot over the bar and the match finished with Rotherham pressure but a succession of long throws coming to nothing.
Grayson showed his satisfaction with a little ‘yes’ gesture at the end, knowing his team had faced a tough second-half test.
Not a night for Evans to rip off his tie and whirl it round his head, as we witnessed on that unforgettable play-off semi-final night in 2014. But a point in the bag, after two defeats, is something to build on.
Rotherham United (4-4-1-1): Roos: Buxton, Halford, Collins, Mattock (Green 71); Maguire (White 56), Smallwood, Newell, Bowery (Clarke-Harris 56); Frecklington; Derbyshire. Subs not used: Collin, Ledesma, G Ward, Thorpe.
Preston North End (3-5-2): Pickford; Clarke, Huntingdon, Wright; Humphrey (Vermijl 71), Gallagher, Welsh (Browne 90+3), Johnson, Cunningham; Keane (Kilkenny 71), Garner. Subs not used: Kirkland, Woods, Reid, Brownhill.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).
Attendance: 9,078 (1,040).