Derby-day delight for Millers……
Rotherham United extended their Sky Bet League One winning run to six games with an impressive South Yorkshire derby victory over arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday, thanks to second-half goals from Freddie Ladapo and top-scorer Michael Smith.
The Millers were finding the going tough on a poor Hillsborough surface until Ladapo pounced in predatory fashion before Smith had the 3,500 plus traveling contingent in delirium again with a lovely second goal.
Both sides went into the game in good heart following impressive recent runs of late. The hosts had four successive league wins, and four shut-outs to their name, but Paul Warne’s side went one better, with five respectively.
Warne was able to call upon the services of club skipper and talisman, Richard Wood, who returned to his former stomping ground, following a one-match ban.
Ladapo was recalled in one of the two forward berths alongside top scorer Smith with Sunderland striker Will Grigg ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Arsenal flyer Jordi Osei-Tutu was named in the Millers squad for the first time, alongside another former Owl, Joe Mattock and Ollie Rathbone, who missed the midweek London trip, after a back complaint.
The Millers had the first attack of note when Jamie Lindsay fizzed over a cross which Sam Hutchinson was forced to head behind before the Scottish midfielder showed his defensive instincts, by preventing Owls skipper Barry Bannan from racing away, following the breakdown of a visiting corner.
A fine flowing move involving Smith and Ladapo appeared to put Chiedozie Ogbene in the clear, and although he fired a tame effort into the grateful hands of Bailey Peacock-Farrell, the assistant referee had already raised his flag.
In Wednesday’s first spell of pressure, Hutchinson headed harmlessly over after Rotherham failed to clear a home corner decisively before Wes Harding was on his toes to prevent Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from shooting goalwards.
Minutes later, Marvin Johnson skipped to the by-line to clip a cross which was met on the volley by Mendez-Laing but fortunately for the Millers, Josh Vickers got his body behind his low drive.
The home side were arguably having the best of the proceedings and Jack Hunt was a source of danger on the right flank, and the former Millers loanee cut inside before drilling a low shot from distance which stung the palms of Vickers.
Just before the half-hour mark, Mendez-Laing got a yard of space on Shane Ferguson to fire a skimming effort which Vickers, again, smothered with ease.
The Millers had a scare when Mendez-Laing took advantage of a slight Millers hesitation when the ball may have gone out of play, but nothing was given, and the Owls winger drove hard at a retreating backline, before finding Johnson, whose pass presented Hunt with the chance to get the ball under his spell to fire into the roof of the visitors net, but the flag came to Rotherham’s rescue.
Warne’s side were struggling to impose themselves in the attacking third, and Wednesday were getting a little joy from long balls out of defence, and it happened again, when Callum Paterson got on the wrong side of the visitors’ rearguard, and Bannan was the recipient with a left-footed drive from distance, which arched away from the upright.
With half-time approaching, Wednesday threatened again when Liam Palmer eased past some half-hearted challenges before trying his luck from long range, but his deflected effort failed to trouble the visitors goal before the Owls full-back attempted another speculative effort from distance which was straight down the throat of Vickers.
Half-time: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Rotherham United 0
Warne made a change at the break with Rathbone entering the fray at the expense of Lindsay.
The move failed to turn the tide of the affair and Dan Barlaser had to track back superbly to prevent Mendez-Laing from putting his cross into the danger area.
The Millers got themselves into a defensive mess and Wednesday had a two-on-one situation but they failed to make the most of it when Harding’s last-ditch tackle denied Paterson, who looked to find Mendez-Laing unmarked in the box.
Minutes later, Johnson swung a deep center which saw Paterson rise highest but he could not control his header, as it flew narrowly over the visitors bar.
Despite being second best for large spells, Rotherham silenced the Hillsborough faithful and brought the large traveling hordes behind the goal to their feet when they broke the deadlock, just before the hour mark.
Rotherham did well to force a corner and Barlaser, straight from the training ground, caressed a corner to the back stick, and Wednesday were caught napping, as Wiles snook around the back, to head the ball back into the danger area, and Ladapo, from a masse of bodies in the six-yard box, got a telling touch to force the ball home from close range.
Wednesday responded well to the setback and Bannan forced Vickers into a sprawling save from a free-kick before George Byers was somewhat fortunate to only receive a yellow-card for a scything tackle on Wiles.
The home side were upping the tempo and the Millers were indebted to Ferguson, for a superb last-ditch clearance from Johnson’s dangerous cross before Hunt fluffed his lines when he blazed into the home fans, from the edge of the box, after Rotherham were caught short from Bannan’s corner.
The Millers were temporarily down to ten men when Wood had to receive treatment before Hutchinson deservedly was cautioned for hacking down Rathbone, as Rotherham launched a quick counter-attack.
The game was on a knife-edge, and Rotherham’s lead looked a slender one as Mendez-Laing raced clear, but a combination of the poor surface and a backtracking Ogbene halted his progress, before his tame effort was diverted to safety by Vickers, as Wood put in a heroic tackle, to deny Wednesday on the follow-up.
Owls frustration boiled over when Paterson was booked for clattering Vickers before Rotherham took a stranglehold on the clash and gave themselves some much-needed breathing space by doubling their advantage with seven minutes to go.
Barlaser put a free-kick into the box and with Wednesday failing to clear the danger, one or two Rotherham players tried to force the ball towards goal but the ball fell kindly for Smith, who curled a lovely effort which beat the outstretched hand of Peacock -Farrell to find the top corner of the net.
The Millers extinguished any faint hopes of a Wednesday fightback with some resolute defending near the end before Ogbene almost put the gloss on a professional display with a scraping effort which narrowly cleared the home crossbar.
Warne and his impressive band of men took the acclaim from the Millers faithful, at the end, as Hillsborough remained a happy hunting ground for all those of a Rotherham United persuasion.
Full time: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Rotherham United 2
Sheffield Wednesday 0
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- Sheffield Wednesday- Peacock-Farrell, Palmer, Hutchinson, Bannan, Paterson, Byers, Johnson, Luongo, Hunt (Sow 78), Storey, Mendez-Laing (Kamberi 83). Unused- Wildsmith, Brown, Brennan, Waldock, Berahino.
Rotherham-Vickers, Harding, Barlaser, Wood, Wiles, Ladapo (Mattock 87), Ogbene, Lindsay (Rathbone 46), Ferguson (Osei-Tutu 79), Ihiekwe, Smith. Unused- Johansson, MacDonald, Odoffin, Kayode.
Referee- D Drysdale