A towering header from stand-in captain Dan Burn rescued a point for battling Fulham in a pulsating encounter at Rotherham this evening. Kit Symons’ side came from behind three times to earn a point at the New York Stadium and the Fulham caretaker manager professed himself delighted with the professionalism of his much-changed side.
Symons’ side have enjoyed something of a resurgence since the popular former centre back stepped into the breach after the departure of Felix Magath but had to display real spirit after falling behind three times to the attacking intent of a team well-drilled by Steve Evans. The Millers have taken eight points from their last four fixtures – a run that saw them take on Blackburn, Norwich and Leeds before this game – and seem to have taken to life in the Championship like the proverbial ducks to water.
There was a degree of controversy about the goal that gave them the lead midway through what had been a quiet first half. A purposeful run from Paul Taylor saw the on-loan Ipswich midfielder dribble past two defenders before shooting towards goal from the edge of the box. The shot seemed to be going wide before taking a deflection off Alex Revell – who appeared to be in an offside position in the eyeline of Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettienlli – and nestling in the bottom corner. The goal stood and Bettinelli’s vociferous protests, which earned him a yellow card, came to naught.
Rotherham’s lead lasted all of five minutes. George Williams, who has enjoyed such an impressive start to his international career with Wales, carried the ball dangerously into the penalty area before his promising run was crudely halted by a clumsy challenge from Lee Frecklington. In media interviews afterwards, Evans was quick to assert that Williams had dived – but it was telling that there were no complaints from his players at the time. Ross McCormack clinically converted the penalty, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way with the minimum of fuss.
The hosts pressed for an immediate reply with both Revell, who volleyed just over from a dangerous position, and Frecklington, who was denied by a smart save from Bettinelli, going close. They were quickest out of the traps after the break, too, and restored their lead ten minutes after half time. A long throw was only half-cleared and the lively Ben Pringle’s inch-perfect cross was acrobatically volley home by Jonson Clarke-Harris, who scored his second spectacular goal in as many games at the New York Stadium after a stunning effort against Leeds on Friday. His sublime finish from close range gave Bettinelli little chance.
Fulham needed just three minutes to bring themselves level this time. A sweeping move from the visitors saw McCormack and Lasse Vigen Christensen combine to feed Cauley Woodrow on the edge of the box. The England under-21 international striker curled home his first goal of the season into the top corner with the aid of the slightest of deflections – but it was still a goal of real quality.
Symons’ side still looked shaky at the back but appeared to have ridden their luck when Kari Arnason fluffed two good chances to restore Rotherham’s lead and substitute Matt Derbyshire somehow failed to head home from three yards out just minutes after coming on. But the home side did find a third five minutes from time when Pringle’s cross-shot took two wicked deflections off Elsad Zverotic and Nikolay Bodurov on its way past a bemused Bettinelli – and it looked as if the points were safe.
But Fulham steadfastly refused to give in. They levelled in the last minute of normal time when Burn soared to plant a powerful header beyond Adam Collin from McCormack’s left-wing corner and it was little more than their unquestionable spirit merited.
ROTHERHAM UNITED (4-4-2): Collin; Richardson, Skarz, Morgan, Arnason; Green, Frecklington, Taylor (Smallwood 89), Pringle; Revell, Clarke-Harris (Derbyshire 78). Subs (not used): Loach, Broadfoot, Swift, Bowery.
GOALS: Revell (28), Clarke-Harris (55), Bodurov (o.g. 86).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Bettinelli; Zverotic, Stafylidis, Bodurov, Burn; Christensen, Hyndman (Parker 73), Eisfeld (Dembele 64), G. Williams; McCormack, Woodrow (Smith 82). Subs (not used): Kiraly, Hutchinson, Kavanagh, Roberts.
GOALS: McCormack (pen 33), Woodrow (58), Burn (90).
REFEREE: Mark Brown (Lancashire).