Calamity followed by character ... the story of Sunderland 1 Rotherham United 1

Millers match action. Picture by Trevor PriceMillers match action. Picture by Trevor Price
Millers match action. Picture by Trevor Price
ROTHERHAM United. Brave Rotherham United. They were tested in the Stadium of Light and refused to blink.

They were a goal down after only 31 seconds, they rode their luck when Sunderland missed a first-half penalty, they had spot-kick shouts of their own turned down.

They fought back.

The Millers deserved Tuesday's draw against one of League One's big-hitters. They could even have won against one of League One's big-hitters so strong was their response to early adversity.

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Jake Hastie scored his third goal in three games to stun the home side who are among the favourites for automatic promotion.

This was always a night when Rotherham were going to learn a lot about themselves. It also became an evening when they proved a lot to themselves.

They're a work in progress but they're making progress, challenging Sunderland in the last hour as they'd been challenged themselves in the opening 30 minutes.

"We had words at half-time," said manager Paul Warne. "We didn't play well at the start. To say I gave them a 'gee up' would be a nice way of putting it.

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"I didn't think we were winning headers at the back. The centre-halves weren't winning headers, which isn't like them.

"Second half, I felt our back four were a lot better. We were a lot more advanced up the pitch. Our front two caused Sunderland problems. A point away from home is always good.

"Sunderland paid us the compliment of taking an attacker out of their starting 11 so they had three defensive midfielders.

"I honestly thought we were going to win. I had a real belief when the Sunderland team came out, and the lads have got a real belief as well."

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The flags had been flying in the home end before kick-off and the home side were flying after less than a minute as Rotherham fell behind.

The Millers were caught napping by Alim Ozturk's long free-kick and Marc McNulty ran in behind the defence to round Daniel Iversen and slot the ball home.

Freddie Ladapo tried his luck with an eighth-minute 20-yarder as the visitors tried to find a way back but the save was easy for Jon McLaughlin.

Iversen was called into much more serious action soon afterwards, diving full length to superbly claw away a curling effort from Aiden McGeady who had scampered in from the left.

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The goalkeeper came to the rescue again, in the 28th minute, diving low to his left to hold McGeady's weak penalty after Clark Robertson had felled Dylan McGeouch.

The Millers had loud spot-kick shouts rejected by referee Ben Toner either side of McGeady's failed attempt, the first for a Luke O'Nien handball and then when Carlton Morris went down under Ozturk's influence.

"We should have had at least one penalty," said Warne. "I thought the one on Carlton was a penalty and their manager thought so as well.

"Dan's penalty save was the turning point of the game."

Ladapo tested McLaughlin with a 39th-minute header from Jake Hastie's cross and Paul Warne's men should have been level in the 42nd minute but Matt Crooks headed over at the back post when it seemed easier to score.

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Boos rang out from the away seats as Toner left the field at the interval.

The draw left Rotherham in 14th place but they have two matches in hand on many teams and look capable of climbing the table.

"If we can go on a nice little run and pick up points, great," Warne said. "We've made 12 new signings and the average age of the team is 23. There are signs we are improving. Hopefully we can win our games in hand and push nearer the top."

After the break, the Millers pinned Sunderland in their own half and Mclaughlin spread himself well to deny Hastie after 62 minutes. However, there would be no stopping the young Scot four minutes later.

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Cranes dominated the skyline, rising from the banks of the nearby River Wear, and against this imposing backdrop the winger gave the visitors a huge lift, smashing home from 12 yards after being fed by the tireless Ladapo.

"Jake took his goal well," Warne said. "He got his full-back on a booking early on and was a threat. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I like wingers!

"Freddie did really well. He unselfishly laid it off and Jake produced a good finish."

The Millers were dominant but a slip by Robertson let in substitute Charlie Wyke and once more Iversen performed heroics to thwart the Black Cats.

It was the last time Sunderland really threatened.

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Rotherham, pressing, running and competing to the end, might have taken all three points in time added on only for Crooks to head a difficult chance over the bar.

Warne grinned: "I'm thinking: 'Just let the clock run down!' The lads were saying to me afterwards: 'But, Gaffer, we were trying to win it.'

"I said: 'It's all right you saying that but Sunderland went up the other end and got a corner and if they had scored from that it would have been a longer journey home.'

"Our game-management gives me a heart attack sometimes!

"This match showed the character we have got. We didn't collapse after going a goal down so early and then the lads, bless them, think they're going to win it in the last minute."

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The Stadium of Light. Lit up by Millers effort and resolve. The stadium of fight.

Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Jon McLaughlin; Conor McLaughlin (Chris Maguire 70), Alim Ozturk, Jordan Willis, Denver Hume; Dylan McGeouch, George Dobson; Lynden Gooch (Will Grigg 85), Luke O'Nien, Aiden McGeady; Marc McNulty (Charlie Wyke 60). Subs not used: Lee Burge, Max Power, Tom Flanagan, Grant Leadbitter.

Rotherham (4-4-2): Daniel Iversen; Matt Olosunde, Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Ben Wiles, Matt Crooks, Jamie Lindsay (Shaun MacDonald 88), Jake Hastie; Carlton Morris (Michael Smith 81), Freddie Ladapo (Dan Barlaser 90+3). Subs not used: Lewis Price, Billy Jones, Richard Wood, Julien Lamy.

Goals: McNulty 1 (Sunderland); Hastie 66 (Rotherham).

Referee: Ben Toner (Lancashire).

Attendance: 29,078 (1,004).