MEMORABLE occasions when Rotherham United entertain Reading are pretty much guaranteed – history has clearly shown that so far this century.
Back on April 28, the Millers clinched their craved-for Championship status in a fateful final home game of 2014-15 with victory over Reading, the prelude to a euphoric red sea of emotion from fans who spilled onto the pitch at the final whistle.
It was also against the Berkshire visitors where Rotherham recorded just their second – and final – Millmoor league victory of a torrid 2004-05 relegation campaign in March 2005, while the season before, debutant Michael Proctor struck twice in a season-best 5-1 home routing.
But while there was not quite a landmark result on Neil Redfearn’s first home game in charge at the NYS, there were clear glimpses into his brave new world all the same.
On the evidence of particularly the second-half last night, Millers supporters were suitably enthused by what they saw, with warm applause emanating at the final whistle.
Redfearn had cajoled his new charges to express themselves, be pro-active and to try and make things happen. On this evidence, his side look like they are adhering to his words and warming to his efforts on the training ground.
Admittedly, the greenhorn nature of a side infused with a fair bit of youth was displayed on occasions. But a point against a high-flying form side bang in form was not something to be sniffed at.
Ahead of Saturday’s game at Brentford, Redfearn spoke about casting his critical eye over his squad resources with three games within a seven-day spell.
Last night, it was the turn of Tom Thorpe, Tony Andreu, Harry Toffolo and Grant Ward to step up in a home line-up which placed the emphasis on youth with five starters being 22 or under.
The early evidence of the first half evidence suggested a long one for the Millers, with confident Reading going close in the first minute after the ball was worked to Garath McCleary, whose low shot was blocked by Lee Camp.
The Millers gradually grew and while the final ball or option wasn’t always successful, the attacking endeavour was there.
Home fans were starting to buy into their efforts and were almost saluting a sumptuous opener when Matty Derbyshire turned superbly before unleashing a sweet 25-yarder which was met with a splendid acrobatic save from Ali Al-Habsi.
Unfortunately, the hosts were on the end of another moment of majesty, which gave Reading a 26th-minute breakthrough.
Oliver Norwood’s raking pass picked out the prolific Nick Blackman, with the former Sheffield United player showing why he has already eclipsed his goals tally of the past two seasons.
His sublime 25-yarder on the run flew past Camp, a strike which would have graced any occasion, with the goal being Blackman’s 11th of the campaign.
Things could have got worse, but Camp denied Lucas Piazon from point-blank range.
The hosts ended the first half well, with Jonson Clarke-Harris’s unconventional toe-poke from distance flashing just wide and they carried on where they left off on the restart to shock their high-flying opponents, who switched off from Andreu’s deep corner to allow Danny Collins to lash home at the back post.
The early onslaught should have resulted in the Millers taking the lead soon after when Clarke-Harris was sent clear by Andreu, but he was denied by Al-Habsi with the goal gaping.
The game was delicately poised with the hosts, if anything looking the most likely and pushed the visitors into restart.
Clarke-Harris saw his free-kick blocked from a dangerous position before Tom Thorpe failed to convert in front of goal following a goalmouth scramble.
But it was the Millers who survived the biggest scare before the end with Orlando Sa sending substitute Matej Vydra, clear, but Camp produced a fine one-handed stop. The Czech fired over in stoppage-time as Reading pressed, but defeat would have been unduly harsh on the Millers.
Rotherham United: Camp; Buxton, Rawson, Collins, Toffolo; G Ward, Thorpe, Green; Andreu (Maguire 85); Clarke-Harris, Derbyshire (Bowery 80). Unused substitutes: Collin, Broadfoot, Ledesma, White, Richardson.
Reading: Al-Habsi; Gunter, McShane, Hector, Taylor; McCleary (Vydra 62), Norwood, Williams, Piazon (Hurtado 62), Blackman, Sa. Unused substitutes: Moore, Obita, Cooper, Fernandez, Liburd.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).