REPORT | Wigan Athletic 3 v 2 Rotherham
PAUL Warne’s first game as permanent Millers boss saw his side denied just their second away point of their Championship campaign, in second-half stoppage time, as sub Nick Powell struck the winner for relegation threatened Wigan Athletic.
However, it was a case of what might have been for the Millers, as they took the lead twice at the DW Stadium thanks to goals from Danny Ward and Anthony Forde before being pegged back by the hosts, within minutes on both occasions.
With the game in the balance, the decisive moment came in the dying seconds when Powell and Lewis Price clashed off the ball and after the referee issued yellow-cards to both players, Wigan were awarded a free-kick on the edge on the box and Powell exacted his own form of retribution by rifling home the resultant set-piece.
Following their midweek defeat at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday, the Millers made just one change to the starting-line for the trip over the Pennines as Forde was recalled at the expense of Jon Taylor, who had to settle for a substitutes berth while former Millers captain Craig Morgan lined up at the heart of the Latics defence.
The Millers had a scare in the early minutes when Michael Jacobs cut inside with menace as he nutmegged Will Vaulks before losing his footing under the challenge of Joe Newell in the box but the referee waved away faint home appeals for a spot kick.
The visitors missed a gilt-edged chance to break the deadlock when Jamie Hanson’s drilled pass back was not dealt with decisively by Jakob Haugaard, whose clearance was charged down with Ward, who looked to turn the loose ball into the unguarded net but off-balance, the Millers top-scorer could only scuff the ball harmlessly wide.
Moments later, Vaulks took aim from distance but he could not control his shot as it failed to trouble the target before Wood was caught napping as he stripped of possession before Max Power curled an effort, from just outside the box, which had Price nervously scurrying across goal as it whistled past the upright.
Just before the quarter hour, Forde made light work of ghosting past Stephen Warnock to advance down the right flank before pulling the ball back into the path of Newell, who failed to make a clean connection as his tame shot was straight down the throat of Haugaard.
Minutes later, Carlton Morris was hauled over by Power and from the resultant free-kick, Forde’s hanging centre was punched clear by Haugaard before Vaulks’ bullet throw was not cleared by the home defence and Wood nodded goalwards but the Wigan ‘keeper was well-stationed to snuff out the danger.
However, the Latics failed to heed the warning as the Millers made the breakthrough, in their next attack, when Newell’s slide-rule pass was inch-perfect for the marauding run of Darnell Fisher, who burst into the box and the ex-Celtic full-back kept his nerve to pull the ball back into the path of Ward, who calmly stroked the ball into the heart of the home goal.
The Millers were buoyed by the opener and Newell’s free-kick was aimed at Wood, who bundled the ball into the path of Morris but the Millers striker could only scoop the ball straight at Haugaard from an acute angle.
However, Rotherham’s joy proved short-lived as the Latics were back on level terms within five minutes when Gilbey broke clear down the right before clipping the ball to Ryan Colclough, who chested down into the path of Obertan and the Frenchman made no mistake as he fired into the corner of the net giving Price no chance.
Moments later, Vaulks had to be on his toes to prevent Jacobs from shooting goalwards before Semi Ajayi was well-positioned to head clear following Gilbey’s dangerous free-kick, in the last noteworthy action of the half.
Half-time:- Wigan Athletic 1 Rotherham United 1
Following a low-key start to the second half, Price raced off his line to smartly gather Hanson’s floated corner before Rotherham regained the lead just past the hour mark.
There looked little danger when Newell cut inside from the flank before playing a ball into the path of Forde, who got the ball from under his feet before taking aim, with his weaker foot, and the ex-Walsall winger flashed an effort, from just outside the box, which seemed to deceive Haugaard, who got a hand to it as it found the heart of the Latics goal.
Despite his error, Haugaard came to Wigan’s rescue, moments later, when Vaulks’ pass saw Richie Smallwood clip a centre which found the head of Morris, who guided his header towards the far corner of the net before the home ‘keeper’s late intervention with an acrobatic save.
The save proved crucial as Wigan immediately levelled matters for a second time as Obertan’s sweeping ball from the left saw Gilbey get the wrong side of Mattock to bare down on goal and despite the Rotherham full-back’s attempts to get a last-ditch block, Gilbey was able to clip the ball over Price and into the Millers net.
The home side had a spring in the step and Obertan worked a yard of space on Mattock to pave the way for Gilbey to fire goalwards but Price produced a fine save to palm his rising effort to safety.
Minutes later, the Millers squandered an opportunity to take the lead for a third time when Fisher’s innocuous ball was misjudged by Dan Burn and Ward controlled smartly to advance into the box but despite having just Haugaard to beat, the ex-Huddersfield striker fired straight at the Danish stopper, who kept the ball out with his feet.
With time running out, Fisher became the first to see yellow for a high tackle on sub Nick Powell and the ex-Manchester United striker almost made the visitors pay from Hanson’s resultant free-kick when he nodded goalwards but the Millers had Price to thank for tipping the ball over the bar.
In the latter stages of the game, the Millers rode their luck when Powell fired over from point-blank range following Hanson’s cross before Fisher hacked clear from his own line following Sam Morsy’s dribbled effort.
There was controversy near the end when Price and Powell clashed off the ball, which led to yellow-cards for both players, and with a free-kick awarded to Wigan just outside the box, Powell turned the game in the Lancastrians favour when he fired the resultant free-kick through the ruck of bodies and into the roof of the Millers net.
Full-time- Wigan Athletic 3 Rotherham United 2
Wigan Athletic 3
Rotherham United 2
Teams- Wigan- Haugaard, Power (Morsy 52), Gilbey (Powell 74), Obertan (Bryne 85), MacDonald, Jacobs, Morgan, Warnock, Hanson, Colclough, Burn. Unused- Gilks, Buxton, Connolly, Mandron.
Rotherham- Price, Mattock, Vaulks, Wood (Belaid 72), Forde (Clarke-Harris 85), D Ward, Morris, Ajayi, Fisher, Newell (Taylor 79), Smallwood. Unused- O’Donnell, Clarke-Harris, Bray, Purrington, Yates.
Referee- S Duncan
Attendance- 10085 (412).