Despite James Vaughan’s first goal in over a year and a two goal lead going into the final five minutes, Town couldn’t get the win in today’s Boxing Day Yorkshire derby at Rotherham United.
A second-half goal from Conor Coady Town looked to have sealed a welcome victory on the road, only for two late strikes to deny the Terriers all three points.
The big pre-match news was Vaughan’s inclusion in the starting XI and that also signalled a change in shape from Powell, who brought Harry Bunn infield from his usual position on the left to play off Town’s two strikers.
That occasionally gave the hosts an overload on Jack Robinson’s side, but during the first-half the Millers were too slow in moving the ball to the flank – allowing Town to recover.
At the other end, Bunn was allowed to find pockets of space and tested goalkeeper Adam Collin with several shots from range in typically direct fashion.
Both sides’ passing was errant at times and one such passage of play gave Town the first genuine chance of the half in the 13th minute. Rotherham winger Ben Pringle was the culprit, gifting possession to Bunn; he released Scannell down the right and his infield pass to Grant Holt was excellent, but the on-loan striker tentatively prodded at the ball as he entered the area and sent it well wide of target.
Barely a minute later Bunn drifted to the right and slammed a low cross towards Vaughan, but the striker’s first-time effort was straight at the goalkeeper.
At the other end, Leicester City loanee Tom Lawrence was playing just off target man Alex Revell and his jinking runs led to both Town centre halves – Murray Wallace and Mark Hudson – enter the book.
Although Rotherham had plenty of the ball, they failed to really test Smithies; their best effort was Lawrence’s firm free-kick midway through the half that was well held by the Town custodian.
Instead, it was left to Town to create – and take – the best chance of the half. The goal owed much to right back Tommy Smith, restored to the line-up in place of Lee Peltier; he ran unopposed almost 40 yards down the right before playing a perfectly weighted pass inside opposition left back Reece James for Scannell to run onto. The winger steadied himself and played a perfect ball across the face of the six yard box, where Vaughan was waiting unmarked to sweep the ball home.
Almost as soon as the second-half started, Grant Holt overstretched and seemingly hurt his knee. Despite some extended treatment from Head Physio James Haycock the striker was unable to continue.
To the surprise of many, Powell didn’t bring on Nahki Wells – instead opting for Oscar Gobern, with Bunn moving forward into attack.
This move paid off just after the hour mark. It was Bunn who hunted down a loose pass in Rotherham’s defence and slid the ball back to Gobern, who steadied himself before delivering an inch-perfect near post cross onto the head of Conor Coady, who headed past Collin with aplomb to double the advantage.
Town looked comfortable going into the latter stages of the game, but unfortunately it all unravelled in the final five minutes of normal time. First midfielder Paul Green was afforded too much time to cross on the Town right and he picked out sub Jonson Clarke-Harris, who headed past a helpless Smithies.
Things got even worse in the final minute of normal time when a second ball dropped for midfielder Lee Frecklington on the edge of the Town box, who sent a deflected shot past Smithies and into the bottom corner to deny the Terriers the win.
Town’s team (3-4-1-2):
Alex Smithies; Murray Wallace, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Jack Robinson, Jacob Butterfield (Anthony Gerrard, 90), Conor Coady, Sean Scannell; Harry Bunn; James Vaughan (Nahki Wells, 77), Grant Holt (Oscar Gobern, 54)
Lloyd Allinson, Adam Hammill, Joe Lolley, Lee Peltier
Murray Wallace (24); Mark Hudson (29)