A clash of two opposing styles ended in stalemate at the AESSEAL New York Stadium as Town drew with host Rotherham United in the final Yorkshire derby of the 2015/16 season.
Rotherham enjoyed the best of the opening 20 minutes and took the lead through Greg Halford, but Nahki Wells’ 20th minute goal changed the flow of the game and it was the Terriers who went closer to winning it – with a good penalty shout turned down and Wells having a late goal correctly ruled out for offside.
In the end the share of the spoils gave Town a point, which incidentally secured Town’s place in next season’s second tier with three games left to play.
Rotherham came into the game unbeaten in seven games, with former Town boss Neil Warnock’s brand of direct football virtually securing the Millers’ Championship status. For the first 20 minutes, you could see why.
Playing 4-3-3, with ex-Town man Danny Ward as the central striker, Rotherham put the Terriers under constant pressure for the first part of the half; delivering the ball into the Town penalty area consistently at every opportunity.
Town struggled to find any rhythm in the passing in the face of this, but the first real attack still came from the Terriers as Rajiv van La Parra had a back post header deflected over from Tommy Smith’s far post cross.
However, it was Warnock’s men who took the lead from a 10th minute corner, conceded in scruffy fashion when van La Parra sold Jason Davidson short with a pass and the defender had to back-track and concede a corner. Left back Joe Mattock’s deep delivery was headed down into the path of Greg Halford, whose powerful volley took a couple of deflections in the packed area before creeping over the goal line.
Jed Steer had to be alert three minutes later, pushing Grant Ward’s powerful volley from a narrow angle around his near post after the winger got to a pass ahead of Davidson.
Then Town equalised out of nowhere, thanks to the Gegenpressing that David Wagner is known for. An attack broke down just outside the Rotherham penalty area, but the Town players reacted well and won the ball back immediately. With the home defence not set, Harry Bunn slipped a pass into the path of Wells’ run into the penalty area and the top scorer fired a powerful left-footed drive through goalkeeper Lee Camp’s grasp to level the game.
That goal changed the flow of the game, with virtually every Rotherham pass going astray and Town going on to dominate the ball. Bunn and Wells were twice denied by the last defender when trying to break clear before Bunn blazed a long range free kick high and wide.
Steer easily collected a long range strike from Mattock in response, but the Terriers kept pressing and twice the pace of Wells troubled the home defence, who recovered by making last ditch blocks in the area.
The Terriers also won several corners and free kicks around the Rotherham penalty area, but the delivery from van La Parra and Bunn was errant.
The second half started in a scrappy fashion, so Wagner made a double change just before the hour mark; introducing Karim Matmour and Jamie Paterson.
Despite that, Rotherham’s best chance of the second half came two minutes later when Danny Ward found namesake Grant with a cross that the winger glanced wide with his head.
Town responded immediately, with Joe Lolley embarking on a magnificent infield run from the left that saw him carry the ball from the touchline to the edge of the box before forcing Camp into a low save to his left side.
From the resulting corner it looked like Matmour and Paterson were both tripped in the area in quick succession, but much to Wagner’s visible frustration neither penalty was awarded.
Wells went very close to a second with 11 minutes left, dropping deep to pick up space and turning goalwards before firing inches wide of the far post from around 20 yards out.
Town continued to press, with Matmour winning a 50-50 before feeding the ball to Wells in the area. The Bermudian stepped onto his left foot and curled towards the far post, but the ball had a lack of pace and Camp got down again to push it away.
Encouraged to shoot by the traveling support behind the goal, Joel Lynch powered a long range drive a foot wide of target with five minutes remaining.
The Terriers thought they’d won it in the final minute of normal time when Wells and Paterson played a great one-two to release the striker down the dead ball line, but his superb curling finish from a very acute angle was correctly ruled out for offside; Nahki was about half a yard past the final defender.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Jed Steer; Jason Davidson, Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Philip Billing, Dean Whitehead; Rajiv van La Parra (Karim Matmour, 57), Harry Bunn (Jamie Paterson, 57), Joe Lolley (Sean Scannell, 89); Nahki Wells
Lloyd Allinson, Martin Cranie, Emyr Huws, Kyle Dempsey
Town fans: 1,852