Verdict – Rotherham United 1 Peterborough United 1: Millers’ late woe was not complete surprise

Former Rotherham United manager Steve Evans saw his Peterborough United side grab a stoppage-time equaliser at New York Stadium.
Former Rotherham United manager Steve Evans saw his Peterborough United side grab a stoppage-time equaliser at New York Stadium.
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ROTHERHAM UNITED could not claim not to have been warned.

When Steve Evans ruled the roost at the New York Stadium late goals and fightbacks became a big feature of his two promotion-winning seasons.

Who, for instance, can forget the League One play-off final at Wembley in 2014? Two goals down at the break to Leyton Orient, the Millers’ dreams of a Championship return seemed to be over only for the Scot to inspire a comeback from his side that culminated in the glory of a penalty shoot-out triumph.

That same campaign also brought last-gasp wins over Oldham, Gillingham and Orient en route to a fourth-place finish, while Preston North End were also pegged back in a six-goal thriller at Deepdale thanks to a Lee Frecklington strike at the finish.

With these never-say-die rescue missions still relatively fresh in the mind it was no wonder that fourth official Simeon Lucas indicating there would be a minimum six minutes stoppage-time brought a sharp intake of breath from the home fans in the 9,573 crowd.

Such anxiety proved well-founded, a neat Peterborough move ending with Junior Morias drilling a low cross for Jack Marriott to sweep into the net.

As Evans charged down the touchline in a fashion similar to they way he marked Alex Revell’s equaliser at Wembley – albeit without his trousers falling down this time – the look on current Rotherham manager Paul Warne’s face told its own story.

His side had dominated the second half, taken a deserved lead through substitute Caolan Lavery and really should have put the game to bed long before Marriott had netted his 30th goal of the season.

“I thought we had done enough to win the game,” said Warne, fitness coach during Evans’s three and a half years at the helm. “But 1-0 is never enough.

“For them to nick it like that at the death was difficult to swallow, but it doesn’t detract from my pride at how we played. The performance was excellent.”

Warne, to his credit, refused to hide behind the equaliser coming in the ‘99th’ minute when only six minutes of stoppage-time had been indicated.

“There is no drama there for me,” he said. “If he thinks there is six minutes there is six. If he thinks within that six minutes that Richie Towell came off injured and we made a substitution, then he has to add something. I won’t be all boo-hoo about that.”

Evans, meanwhile, was elated to avoid defeat against his former club.

“My teams have had a lot of late goals at the New York Stadium and that is because we have a desire to turn a draw into a win or a defeat into a draw,” he said.

“This was always going to be a difficult game for us. From the first day this stadium opened the supporters have made it a hard place to come. I said to the players during a break in play, ‘We might have to go to the 95th minute’. I didn’t think any longer, but we got the positive result in the end.”

When in charge of Rotherham, Evans and his agitator-in-chief Paul Rayner would invariably be found berating the fourth official for much of the afternoon.

Little has changed on yesterday’s evidence. Twice in the first half the Posh pair demanded to know why referee Scott Oldham had not awarded a penalty despite Semi Ajayi being guilty of nothing more than exemplary defending when Maddison took a couple of tumbles.

Rotherham’s best effort in a largely dull opening 45 minutes saw David Ball stab a shot wide, but the hosts stepped up a gear after the break.

Richie Towell, Joe Newell and Lavery all went close during a torrential downpour that descended on the New York in the opening stages of the second half.

As the rain eventually eased, Posh may have thought the storm had been weathered, but then substitute Lavery broke the deadlock.

David Forde’s free-kick was flicked on by Joe Mattock to create sufficient panic in the visitors defence that the Sheffield United loanee was able to fire through a scrum of bodies.

Rotherham then had chances to put the game beyond Posh, but Michael Smith saw his header clawed to safety by Conor O’Malley and then Newell fired over.

Maddison responded with a ferocious shot that Marek Rodak turned acrobatically around the post. That seemed to be that only for Maddison’s late, late strike to ensure Evans’s second return to the New York was much happier than his first at the helm of Leeds United a little under two years ago.

Greg Halford’s stoppage-time penalty condemned the Scot to a 2-1 defeat that afternoon and clearly it still rankles. As does chairman Tony Stewart’s assertion in last week’s Yorkshire Post that the current Rotherham team was the best of his decade at the helm.

“I read his comments with interest,” said Evans. “We didn’t always agree when I was here. I still respect him. He was like a dad to me.

“But this team is not as good as the one (that won promotion) from League One.

“I have not spoken to Tony, apart from when I first joined Posh. But they are not as good as my League One team, that is my opinion.

“Is the right-back better than James Tavernier? Would (Kari) Arnason and (Craig) Morgan play today if they were here?

“Same with (Lee) Frecklington at his best. And (Alex) Revell? I am not going to answer that.”

Rotherham United: Rodak; Emmanuel, Vaulks, Ajayi, Mattock (Ihiekwe 84); Forde, Palmer, Towell (Williams 90), Newell; Ball (Lavery 60), Smith. Unused substitutes: Price, Wood, Taylor, Yates.

Peterborough United: O’Malley; Shephard, Taylor, Tafazolli (Freestone 73), Hughes; Forrester, Grant; Maddison, Cooper (Morias 51), Lloyd (Ward 56); Marriott. Unused substitutes: Bond, Da Silva Lopes, Doughty, Anderson.

Referee: S Oldham (Lancashire).