DESPITE an even first half, Sheffield Wednesday took the South Yorkshire derby day honours as they earned a 2-1 victory over the Millers thanks to second-half strikes from Lucas Joao and Fernando Forestieri with Tom Thorpe replying for the hosts deep in stoppage time.
There was little to choose between the sides in the first 45 minutes but the Owls were quick out of the blocks in the second period and they took the game by the scruff of the neck following back-to-back strikes by their foreign duo.
Despite a late rally from the Millers which saw Thorpe notch his first goal for the club from close range, the home side were beaten by the clock as the Owls held on to record victory.
Following their eye-catching draw with high-flying Reading in midweek, Millers’ supremo Neil Redfearn kept faith with his starting line-up for the visit of their near neighbours with ex-Owls Lewis Buxton and Chris Maguire featuring in the matchday squad.
Norwich loanee Harry Toffolo kept his place in the left-back slot following a fantastic home debut against the Royals while there was a familiar face in the visitors line-up as Jack Hunt was named in the Owls starting eleven following his loan spell at the AESSEAL New Yorks Stadium last season.
The Millers were quickly on the offensive and Tony Andreu showed fleet of foot to power from the heart of midfield to give Matt Derbyshire a glimpse of goal but a retreating Owls defender snuffed out the danger before Ross Wallace tried his luck from distance at the other end but Lee Camp was well-stationed to gather with ease.
Moments later, Buxton got the better of a tussle on the right flank to drill a centre which saw Derbyshire nip infront of his marker to glance a header which fizzed across goal but Keiren Westwood showed quick footwork to collect smartly.
In the Millers’ next attack, Westwood was called into action once again when Jonson Clarke-Harris took advantage of Derbyshire’s knockdown to fire a speculative effort from long range which the Wednesday ‘keeper gathered at the second attempt.
Minutes later, Wallace cut inside with menace to fire an ambitious effort from distance which blazed into the home faithful behind the goal before Clarke-Harris made something out of nothing to spring the home side onto the attack but Derbyshire was unable to plant his cross into the danger area.
Just before the half-hour mark, Farrend Rawson struck out a timely leg to prevent Kieran Lee breaking clear following a clever ball over the Rotherham rearguard before Toffolo caught the Owls napping with a quick throw paving the way for Andreu to try an acrobatic effort which almost sneaked in at the near post as Westwood’s fumble took the ball behind.
The home side almost made the visitors’ pay from the resultant corner when Andreu floated a delicate centre to the far post which saw Danny Collins rise highest to plant the ball back into the danger area but Derbyshire was unable to direct the ball goalwards as the Owls luckily scrambled the ball away from danger.
In a whirlwind sixty seconds, Grant Ward got the better of Daniel Pudil to fizz a cross which fell invitingly for Paul Green at the far stick, who looked to strike goalwards but Lee was on his toes to clear the danger before Wednesday launched a quick counter which saw the Millers’ short of defensive cover and Forestieri released Barry Bannan, who hooked the ball into the air, before waiting for the ball to come down to power a header which narrowly cleared the home crossbar.
The Owls were finishing the half stronger and Lee fired over the ball over from the edge of the box after Joao had outpaced Collins following an incisive ball forward before Forestieri almost took advantage of a Camp error but the Italian failed to trouble the home goal from an acute angle as the home stopper redeemed himself with a smart catch as he backtracked towards his own goal.
With half-time approaching, Hunt became the first to see yellow for a cynical trip on Derbyshire, who looked to launch a Rotherham counter attack before the referee brought a fairly even first half to a close.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0
However, the Millers were caught cold at the start of the second half as Wednesday struck twice in a matter of minutes.
There looked little danger until Bannan injected pace into the move and Thorpe sold himself in the box to allow Forestieri to ghost into an inviting position before drilling a low effort which was saved by the feet of Camp, but the ball rolled tantalisingly into the path of Joao, who had the simple task of tapping into the empty net.
The visitors were sensing the opportunity and Hunt’s threaded pass gave Forestieri an opportunity to strike but Collins was on-hand to block his effort but the respite was only temporary as from the resultant corner from Wallace, Pudil rose highest to plant a downward header which was initially saved by Camp but the ball popped into the path of Forestieri, who tapped home from close range.
Following the goal, Clarke-Harris was yellow-carded and the Millers were almost the victims of their own downfall as Green’s wayward pass released Bannan down the left flank and the ex-Villa midfielder planted an inviting centre which saw Joao look poised to make it three but under pressure, he fluffed his lines as his effort skied over the bar.
The Millers were struggling to find their first-half rhythm until Buxton floated a centre which saw Derbyshire nip in-between defenders to plant a header which failed to trouble the visitors goal before Clarke-Harris was fouled in a central position enabling sub Maguire to curl the resultant free-kick over the Wednesday wall but Westwood dived smartly to his right to snuff out the danger.
Moments later, Rawson towered highest to meet Maguire’s inswinging free-kick and although his effort shaved the upright, any goal would have been chalked off for offside.
Bannan was fortunate to escape with a yellow card for hauling down Maguire in full flow following a nasty tackle and the Millers almost exacted retribution in the next phase of play when Collins’ knockdown header saw Clarke-Harris strike goalwards but his effort was blocked by two Wednesday defenders.
Sam Hutchinson became the latest to see yellow after being penalised for simulation after Maguire seemed to pull out of a tackle before Forestieri’s eye-of-a-needle pass gave Bannan a shooting opportunity but he blazed over the bar from close range when he should have done better.
At the other end, sub Jordan Bowery was quickest to react from the bits and pieces from Maguire’s free-kick but his effort bobbled harmlessly wide of the target before Rotherham had faint appeals for a spot kick as the ball struck Tom Lees in an awkward position but the referee waved away home protests.
Derbyshire was the next in the book for a trip on Forestieri which summed up home frustration and Pudil harshly joined him minutes later for a tug on a Rotherham raider before Bannan almost put the gloss on the Wednesday performance when he dragged an effort wide of the target despite bearing down on goal.
In the last action of the clash, Clarke-Harris skipped to the byline before his cross-cum-shot forced Westwood into a smart save before Rotherham reduced the arrears deep in stoppage time with almost the last kick of the game when Maguire’s swung a delightful centre to the far stick which saw Thorpe emerge from a ruck of bodies to poke the ball home from close range.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Camp, Buxton, Collins, Green (Bowery 62), G Ward, Clarke-Harris, Rawson, Thorpe, Andreu (Maguire 49), Derbyshire, Toffolo. Unused- Collin, Broadfoot, White, Richardson, Smallwood.
Wednesday:- Westwood, Hutchinson (Semedo 90), Loovens, Lees, Joao (Nuhiu 74), Lee, Hunt, Wallace, Pudil, Bannan, Forestieri (Bus 90). Unused- Wildsmith, McGugan, Helan, Sasso.
Referee:- M Jones
Attendance:- 11658 (2587).