Nick Powell earned Stoke a draw after Rotherham had taken the lead twice in a six-goal thriller in South Yorkshire.
Stoke entered the fixture without a win in six, but with an added air of optimism after they had looked a much better side with their new signings on the pitch last time out in a 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers. Michael O’Neill’s side’s injury list had been dwindling by the day, and he had Nick Powell fit from a knock in the last game as well as Steven Fletcher back from a groin injury that had kept him out for two weeks.
The Potters would be without James Chester after he had picked up a red card last time out at Ewood Park. Danny Batth replaced the Welshman in the starting XI, and O’Neill made just one other change with Jordan Cousins replacing Joe Allen. Goalkeeper Adam Davies returned to the bench after being sidelined for three months.
Rotherham had endured a difficult season so far, but were aiming to follow up a huge 1-0 win against Derby with another victory against the Potters to aid their fight to stay in the Championship. Paul Warne named an unchanged side from that victory, as he put faith in his starting XI to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) January 19, 2021
The game began with Stoke zipping the ball about nicely, on what was a crisp Premier League-like pitch at the New York Stadium.
City’s first chance came as Cousins’ fierce volley was deflected over, after his shot had looked to be heading goal bound.
It was after just fourteen minutes that the Potters had found the opening goal, and it was probably the most comical they had scored all season.
Powell broke through past the halfway line on the left side, and he threaded the ball through to a surging Rhys Norrington-Davies. The full back’s cross then took a huge deflection and the ball looped over Blackman in the Rotherham goal into the net.
Angus McDonald was the guilty party, and it was a huge slice of luck that saw the travelling side ahead.
Just minutes later and Rotherham could have levelled the scores. Harding headed a brilliant delivery from a corner onto the post, and it was a let off for Stoke after some poor defending had let the defender run free.
Neither team had a foothold in the game with half an hour gone, but it was just after the thirtieth minute that Rotherham found an equaliser.
It was yet another defender at fault, with Danny Batth the perpetrator this time. The 30-year-old presented the ball to Matt Smith, and an inch perfect cross to the feet of Matt Crooks was dispatched emphatically past Bursik. The Millers had been threatening to grab the leveller since Stoke had taken the lead.
A quiet end to the half saw Stoke dominating the ball, but with no end product to show for their possession. The whistle was blown on an eventful first period after two added minutes.
Half Time: Rotherham United 1-1 Stoke City
It had been a half largely played at the feet of the Stoke players, but the best chances had certainly gone the way of the hosts.
Michael O’Neill would be disappointed with the way his players had thrown away their lead after being good value for the early goal, despite it coming in comical circumstances.
He would have no qualms in calling on substitutes such as Allen, Clucas or Fletcher if things were not going his side’s way in the second period.
Rotherham would fancy their chances to go on and win the game in the second half, especially if the Stoke backline kept allowing them to attack so easily.
Just five minutes into the half, and the Millers had the lead for the first time in the game through Smith.
The Stoke defence failed to clear, and a cross was put back in to the box with Smith the first to pounce on more poor defending from the Potters and head the ball into an unguarded net.
Their lead lasted just nine minutes however, and Stoke were back in it with a leveller just after the hour mark. It was Rotherham’s turn to fail to clear the ball, and Powell turned provider yet again with a sumptuous cross onto the head of Batth, with the centre back making no mistake and heading in at the back post.
The flurry of goals did not stop however, and the home side took the lead again just seven minutes later. Some appalling defending from Stoke allowed yet another cross, and after the ball came loose Crooks was on hand to arrow a brilliant shot into the top left hand corner and notch his second of the game.
For a team known for their defensive prowess, especially away from home, it was a surprisingly poor performance at the back by Stoke. It was clear how big a miss James Chester was to the backline.
The goals did not stop coming, and the yo-yo nature of the game continued as City found their second equaliser of the game with fifteen minutes to go. It was another brilliant cross, this time by substitute James McClean, and he found the onrushing Nick Powell with the midfielder burying a header past Jamal Blackman. Both sides had been poor at the back, but Stoke could count themselves lucky that they were still in the game after 75 minutes.
Stoke were the team pushing for the winner as time ticked on, but Rotherham still looked dangerous with their balls into the box causing problems for the defence.
McClean summed Stoke’s evening up with a poor free kick in a great area with just seconds remaining. The referee soon called time on a great affair for the neutral in South Yorkshire.
Full Time: Rotherham United 3-3 Stoke City
MOTM: Matt Crooks
It was fair result on the balance of the game, but one that could have swung either way, with both teams having chances to take all three points and making costly errors at the back.
Paul Warne would go home happy with his team after they showed fight to take the game to a Stoke side full of quality, and came away with a point in their quest to stay in the league.
He certainly would have taken that point before the game, but in retrospect will be disgruntled that his team did not take all three after leading Stoke twice.
Michael O’Neill certainly would not be a happy man after his side’s performance. The Potters were lackadaisical in defence and allowed Rotherham to bully them in their own box with numerous aerial balls.
MON says he was disappointed to have only taken a point against Rotherham United this evening.
📺 Watch the interview now on YouTube.#SCFC 🔴⚪️
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) January 19, 2021
Stoke did dominate possession, but looked toothless up front for the large majority of the game.
O’Neill’s only saving grace was the poor defending by The Millers themselves. Stoke’s three goals would have likely not have been scored against stronger opposition.
The result leaves Stoke in seventh, but likely to drop some places after teams below play their games in hand, whilst Rotherham move up to 22nd. City next face Watford at the bet365 stadium on Friday, with Rotherham travelling to Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Match report by Oliver Walton.