Hartlepool United's hopes of a spot in the last four of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy were ended last night.
Pool, on the back of four successive home wins and impressive victories over Sheffield United and Bradford in the competition, were somehow beaten at Victoria Park.
Pool dominated the first half, but went in trailing at the break. And, in the second period they could not find a way through a well-drilled and firm Millers’ back line.
Only eight minutes passed and Pool were in rare territory – a goal down.
Kieran Agard’s corner was fired into the six-yard area and Tom Eaves firmly connected to plant home.
But that merely fired Pool into action. A header turned over from the Millers’ Rob Milsom aside, Pool dominated the half.
Chance after chance was created, but only one converted.
Andy Monkhouse had a header cleared off the line by Lee Frecklington and, after Matty Dolan played the ball into James Poole’s path, keeper Adam Collin saved low.
Simon Walton knocked a free-kick into the area in towards Jack Baldwin. The centre-half scored from a Walton set-piece against Notts County at the weekend, but this time sidefooted wide.
However on 24 minutes, the deserved equaliser arrived.
After exchanging passes with Luke James, Monkhouse drew former Carlisle keeper Collin and slotted in.
Cooper will have been delighted with his side’s response, as they showed all the confidence of a team with seven wins from eight games.
Monkhouse then had another shot, going low across Collin who saved, before James and Michael Duckworth combined on the right to open up the Millers’ defensive line – but right-back Duckworth’s shot was inside the penalty area was weak.
Poole was lively and at the heart of his side’s attacking game. First he floated a shot wide, before being put in on goal, only for his curled finish to be diverted wide by Collin’s outstretched leg.
Then James was played in on goal, but curled his shot wide.
But a minute before the break, with the rarest of attacks, the Millers took the lead.
An attack down Pool’s right broke inside and Agard’s shot was covered by Scott Flinders, only to wrongfoot the keeper with a big deflection.
The goal was as stunning for Pool as the strange performance of referee Darren Drysdale, who bemused all inside Victoria Park with some of his decision-making. For all their first-half dominance, Pool didn’t have such second-half impetus.
Baldwin glanced a header wide, Monkhouse felt he should have had a penalty when bundled over and Poole was crowed out in the area after showing quick feet and tidy control to create an opening.
In injury time a firm Neil Austin volley looked like Pool would level, but Collin saved. From the corner, Baldwin’s header hit the bar; there was still time for Antony Sweeney to volley over from close range.
HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Flinders; Duckworth, Collins, Baldwin, Austin; Dolan (Sweeney 80), Walton; Franks (Richards 87), Poole (Walker 85), Monkhouse; James. Subs (not used): Rafferty (gk), Burgess.
Booked: Austin (38, foul). Goal: Monkhouse (24)
ROTHERHAM UNITED: Collin; Brindley, Morgan, Mills, Scarz (Pringle 61); Agard, Frecklington, Tidser, Milsom; Eaves (Revell 69), Tubbs (Nardiello 67). Subs (not used): Shearer (gk), Davis. Booked: Tidser, Scarz, Frecklington, Agard, Nardiello, Brindley. Goals: Eaves (8), Agard (44).
Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincoln)