Rotherham 1-0 Fleetwood (AET)Fleetwood Town slipped to a spirited extra-time defeat in the Capital One Cup first round at the hands of Rotherham United at the New York Stadium.
Matt Derbyshire scored a penalty in the second half of injury time to break the resilience Fleetwood had shown to keep the Millers, who were promoted to the Championship last season, at bay.
The late defeat ensured that the Cod Army was denied a place in the second round of the competition for the third consecutive season.
Ahead of the game, Graham Alexander, the Fleetwood manager, made three changes to his line-up as Jamie Proctor, fresh off the back of his eye-catching cameo against Crewe Alexandra, made his first start since joining the Club in the summer.
Stewart Murdoch and Matty Blair also came in for their first starts in place of Steven Schumacher and David Ball respectively – changes that reflected an alteration in shape against the Championship opponents.
In an evenly contested opening 10 minutes, the host’s controlled larger spells of possession as they looked to use the power of Jordan Bowery and the pace of Kieran Agard to carve out early openings.
Fleetwood’s defence remained resilient, though, with Chris Maxwell’s flap at Ryan Hall’s corner proving to be the only worrying moment for a backline up against a side who topped the scoring charts in League One last term.
The centre back pairing of Nathan Pond and Stephen Jordan and goalkeeper Chris Maxwell had to be at their best as Town weathered large periods of pressure from the Millers.
John Swift, the 19-year-old Chelsea loanee, set the tone for the half as he had a goal bound effort blocked by Nathan Pond, before curling another effort narrowly wide of Maxwell’s far post.
In a rare break forward, Gareth Evans blasted Fleetwood’s first shot of the game over Scott Loach’s bar.
Rotherham, though, continued to assert themselves as the dominant force. Hall’s strike from 20-yards was well grasped by Maxwell after he checked inside Murdoch, before Scottish midfielder Michael Tidser flashed another effort wide after being slipped in by Swift.
Swift, again, sent an effort narrowly wide via a deflection moments later and Millers captain, Craig Morgan, saw a powerful effort well saved by Maxwell from the resulting corner.
The home side’s grip did not loosen in the early stages of the second half. Rotherham left back, Joe Skarz, and Agard were guilty of wasting further efforts as Maxwell continued to keep Steve Evans’ side at bay.
Ryan Hall deflected effort went narrowly over the bar just the hour mark, but as the game began to become more open, Town fashioned their best opportunities of the contest.
Matty Blair, played in by a fine ball over the top by the industrious Josh Morris, controlled well but could only strike straight at the onrushing Loach before Evans had a similar effort saved by the feet of the Rotherham goalkeeper.
With the clock ticking down, the frustration of the home fans was being felt around the New York stadium as more chances were spurned and with 10 minutes remaining, Evans nearly made them pay with two opportunities in a matter of seconds.
First, the winger sent a free kick just wide before Loach was alert to deny the 26-year-old as he raced through one-on-one after being set away by Morris.
With five minutes remaining, back came the host’s as Alex Revell, played in by Paul Green, slid a cross shot agonisingly wide of Maxwell’s far post, before Green smashed the foot of the same post following a drilled cross from substitute Matt Derbyshire.
With the Cod Army forcing the game into extra time, Evans decided to twist and introduced star midfielder Ben Pringle to intensify the search for the goal that would decide the tie.
It was Town, though, who came closest in the opening stages. Antoni Sarcevic pealed away from his marker and connected with Evans’ angled cross to produce a Van Basten-esque volley that brought a fine save from Loach.
Adam Campbell, on as a second half substitute, produced a performance full of promise alongside Proctor in attack and nearly capped his debut off with a left footed strike that went narrowly over as the first half of extra time entered its closing stages.
All of Town’s hard work was to be undone in the early stages of the second period as Matt Derbyshire converted a well struck penalty past Maxwell after Agard has been brought down in the penalty area.
Alexander threw on David Ball in a last ditch attempt to rescue the tie, but their efforts came to no avail as Town lost their first game of the season in a spirited and hard fought manner.