Lukas Nmecha’s second goal in as many games wasn’t enough for the Lilywhites as goals from Will Vaulks and Michael Smith gave Rotherham United the win at the New York Stadium.
Vaulks scored the opener via a free kick in first half injury-time, before Smith doubled the lead in the final quarter of an hour.
Nmecha slotted home straight after Smith’s goal, but PNE were left frustrated with referee Lee Probert at the centre of attention after failing to send off three players who retrospective action may well punish.
Manager Alex Neil had no additional bodies available, leaving him with an unchanged 18 from the side that performed so well the previous Saturday against Aston Villa.
And they started by dominating the first half an hour of the game and should have, in reality, been out of sight and up against a side down to nine men.
Chances flowed continuously in the opening minutes, with the Lilywhites opening up the Millers as will.
On five minutes Nmecha forced save from Marek Rodak from a tight angle on the right after an excellent ball lover the top by Paul Gallagher.
Shortly after Tom Barkhuizen clean through and brought down by Matt Palmer in the ‘D’ – only a yellow card – but he was the last man it appeared a clear red card, but referee Probert did not see it that way – not the only decision that could be retrospectively questioned.
From the resulting free kick Gallagher beat the wall and Rodak saved with his legs, with Graham Burke’s follow up blocked.
Nmecha then got away down the right and sent Barkhuizen clean through, Johnson and Burke were supporting to his left, but he went for the shot, but dragged it wide of the left-hand post.
However, within seconds the No.29 was away again, clean through, sent away by Nmecha again, he slid the ball left to Burke, but Rodak again saved at his feet.
All this came before the opening period’s half-way point and on 21 minutes Barkhuizen collected Ryan Ledson’s ball from his own half, shifted it left to Burke, who controlled and shot across Rodak but wide of the right-hand post by a matter of inches.
Ben Wiles had Rotherham’s first attempt of the match, from 25 yards out, a left-footed half volley that Rudd tipped over after a long Vaulks throw from the right on 24 minutes.
But PNE had another great chance as Gallagher freed Daniel Johnson down the right, who drove into the box, but there was too much on his pull back and Ledson’s follow up shot was deflected for the first PNE corner of the game, that Huntington headed a yard wide of the right-hand post.
Four minutes before half-time Semi Ajayi should have been sent off, a clear elbow on Rudd from a corner from the left, clearly a red card, totally missed by the assistants.
But in the first of two added minutes the home side went ahead. A Vaulks with a free kick from 25 yards flew past the wall and into the net, via a deflection, after foul by skipper Tom Clarke on Ryan Williams in a centre-left channel.
The home side man two changes at the break, Joe Newell and Anthony Forde on for Palmer and Jon Taylor as they looked to get a grip on the game, despite being ahead.
Another shout for a red card against a Millers man came before the hour mark, when from a corner the home captain Richard Wood poleaxed opposite number Clarke, but neither the referee or assistant seemed to see anything wrong, despite the PNE No.5 being bloodied by the incident!
North End thought they had a goal with 15 minutes left when Gallagher’s left-wing free kick was met by Nmecha with a header that beat Rodak, but was cleared off the line. The referee checked his watch, but Hawkeye showed it wasn’t over.
But it was 2-0 with 14 minutes left. Substitute Joe Newell broke down the left-hand side and crossed into the six-yard box and Michael Smith headed down and into the goal from three yards out.
Within two minutes the Lilywhites were back in it though, as Clarke picked up the ball from Ledson on the right and crossed deep to the back post where Nmecha brought it down and fired home from close range for his second goal in as many games.
A mad scramble in the box brought a PNE corner with six minutes left and then Barkhuizen’s header was blocked by Wood as the Lilywhites pressed hard in search of the equaliser. The Millers couldn’t get the ball away, it came coming back. Nmecha’s driven cross almost put into his own net by Newell, only for Semi Ajayi to clear off the line.
Somehow referee Probert only found four minutes of added time, another odd call from the match official and despite a late free kick being thrown into the box the home side held on for the points.
Rotherham United line-up: Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood (c), Palmer (Forde, 46), Taylor (Newell, 46), Williams, Smith, Wiles, Raggatt. Subs not used: Price, Yates, Hinds, Southern-Cooper.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Clarke (c), Hughes (Woods, 67), Ledson, Storey, Huntington, Barkhuizen, Johnson, Nmecha, Burke, Gallagher. Subs not used: Crowe, Fisher, Woods, Simpson, Baxter, O’Reilly, Walker.
Attendance: 9,077 (1,141 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr L Probert
Updated at (UK)
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