Nouha Dicko took his Rotherham United total to six goals in as many games as he hit a brace in this Christmas cracker of a game at New York Stadium.
After going behind early in the game, the Millers established a 2-1 lead at the break thanks to Dicko and Kieran Agard, before the Frenchman hit his second of the game early in the second-half. However, a Bakary Sako penalty and finally a goal by James Henry finished off the scoring, and meant that the points would be shared.
Manager Steve Evans made one change to the team that claimed all three points at Ashton Gate last Saturday with Alex Revell dropping to the bench and Slovenian international Haris Vuckic leading the line against second-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers. Meanwhile, Evans’ options were further boosted by the return to fitness of Michael O’Connor who made the bench.
In a fairly low-key start to the game, the first real opportunity came the way of the visitors when they broke away from Ben Pringle’s free-kick only to see Icelandic midfielder Bjorn Sigurdarson lack the desired contact on the ball after a fine run by Bakary Sako.
For the home side, Nouha Dicko was the first to set his sights on goal and after getting the benefit of the doubt from the linesman, flicked the ball over the head of Sam Ricketts and fired just wide on the half-volley from 20 yards. Moments later, and it was a similar story as Kari Arnason’s throw-in wasn’t dealt with and when the ball fell to Vuckic his effort was just the wrong side of the post.
Those early efforts were soon punished, and with eight and a half minutes on the watch, an inswinging free-kick from James Henry was put into the net by a diving-header from Danny Batth.
There was little time to celebrate however as Vuckic set up Pringle to cross from the left, and his ball was agonisingly nicked away from the onrushing Kieran Agard. From the resulting corner Pringle got two bites of the cherry and with the second one curled low into the near post where Dicko this time was on target, getting across the front of Richard Stearman and levelling things up with only 10 minutes played.
He almost doubled his tally on 15 minutes as he picked up the ball on the right corner of the box and had a dipping shot that beat Ikeme but like his first attempt was just wide of the goal.
The game finally settled down with both sides probing without being able to create anything clear cut until a fine counter-attack which started and ended with the Millers’ full-backs. Adam Collin’s quick distribution found Tavernier who charged half the length of the field before playing in Agard who in turn found Dicko with the latter crossing against the face of goal to an unmarked Mark Bradley, and with the goal gaping and the chance to score against his boyhood club looming couldn’t control his shot and watched it fly over the bar.
As the first third drew to a close, Vuckic, who was proving a real handful dropped deep to collect the ball, but his shot from distance was comfortable for Ikeme; as was another effort by Kari Arnason on 34 minutes.
Ikeme was eventually beaten for a second time two minutes later, as Agard sprung at the far post to meet a deep Pringle cross and place a header perfectly into the top corner leaving the goalkeeper with absolutely no chance and silencing the large travelling support behind the goal in the Morrison south stand.
The Millers’ lead was almost cut out when a diagonal ball caught out the defence and with Sigurdarson bearing down on goal it took a fine challenge by Bradley to maintain the one-goal margin.
A chance for a third goal came in the final regulation minute of the half but from an unlikely source. Vuckic made a probing run into the box before Batth put a tackle in, looping the ball into the air and forcing the backtracking Ikeme to tip over his ball.
In stoppage-time both Agard and Dicko tried their luck from outside the area but with similar consequences as the ball flew high and wide into the travelling supporters.
Millers 2-1 Wolves
The second period started with the same intensity as the first, but not the chances. That was all to change however on 52 minutes. That man Dicko once again the catalyst for a move as he spread the ball out to Pringle on the left-hand side, and the Millers midfielder claimed another assist as his whipped ball was chested home from close range by Dicko who was charging into the area. Minutes before, Sam Ricketts became the first man to go in the book of Michael Oliver after bringing down the Millers’ number 26.
Oliver then found himself in the action when he threw a lifeline to the visitors. A cross from the left appeared to be overhit, but the official pointed to the penalty spot after spotting a suspected handball. Sako stepped up to take it and despite Collin getting a touch, he could only palm the powerful spot-kick into the roof of the net.
The appeared complete just after the hour mark when on the counter-attack, Henry, who had set-up the first goal found himself bursting through the Millers’ defence, brushing off captain Craig Morgan and keeping his composure to fire beneath Collin and level the scores once again.
Leigh Griffiths was introduced by Kenny Jackett, and was gifted a golden opportunity to edge the men in gold back in front as he latched onto a ball over the top, had time to check there was no red shirt in sight, and then with his second touch knocked the ball straight through to the goalkeeper, much to the delight and relief of the Millers in attendance.
With the goalmouth action drying up, Tavernier’s long range shot into the crowd being a highlight, the Millers faithful that made up the 11,092 inside New York Stadium did have chance to applaud as Michael O’Connor made his return from injury, replacing Claude Davis from the bench.
Both sides probed as the game entered the final 10 minutes but aside from a weak Dicko shot into the side netting, the points always looked like being shared in this emotionally-draining final game before Christmas.
Millers 3-3 Wolves
Collin, Bradley, Davis (O’Connor 77), Morgan, Tavernier, Agard, Arnason, Frecklington, Pringle, Vuckic (Revell74), Dicko.
Unused: Shearer, Brindley, Skarz, Worrall, Tidser.
Wolves: Ikeme, Edwards, Stearman, Batth, Henry (Jacobs 90), Sako, Siurdarson (Griffiths 61), Ricketts, Price (Davis 66), Golbourne, Doyle.
Unused: Hennessey, Evans, McAllindon, Ebanks-Landell, Jacobs.
Attendance: 11,092 (2,220 away)