REPORT | Rotherham 3 v 2 Wigan Athletic
ROTHERHAM UNITED breathed new life into their Championship campaign as they withstood a second-half fightback from fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic to claim back-to-back home victories.
The Millers took the game by the scruff of the neck when Aimen Belaid gave them an early breakthrough before Danny Ward’s strike, just past the half-hour mark, ricocheted off Richard Wood to double the home side’s advantage.
Dan Burn’s own goal on the stroke of half time gave Warren Joyce’s side a mountain to climb at the interval but Yanic Wildschut gave the Red Rose outfit a glimmer of hope before Jordi Gomez’s strike with 11 minutes to go set up a tense finale.
Despite a late rally from the visitors, the Millers held on to earn their third victory of the season and reduce the deficit to their visitors to just five points in the process.
Following their last-gasp defeat at the hands of local rivals Sheffield Wednesday last time out, Millers caretaker manager Paul Warne made just one change to his starting line-up for the hosting of the Latics.
Chelsea playmaker Izzy Brown returned to the fold following a hamstring injury as Nigerian international Peter Odemwingie had to settle for a substitutes berth.
The Millers were given a pre-match boost as Scottish centre-half Kirk Broadfoot was named on the bench - his first involvement since the opening day of the season, following back surgery.
There was a familiar face amongst the Lancastrian ranks as one-time Millers hot-shot Adam Le Fondre was among the visitors’ substitutes although former Rotherham captain Craig Morgan missed out on an AESSEAL New York Stadium return because of injury.
In the early seconds, Max Power was fortunate to escape action for a hefty tackle on Brown and from the resultant free-kick, Newell swung a tantalising centre which Wigan failed to clear and Adeyemi fired a snap shot which was bravely blocked by Craig Davies en-route to goal.
In the next phase of play, Wigan countered with purpose and Wildschut ghosted past the attentions of Belaid with a minimum of fuss but Joe Mattock produced a superbly timed tackle in the box to prevent him shooting goalwards.
In a fast paced opening, the Millers made the all-important breakthrough on eight minutes following some fine flowing football in the build up.
Superb work involving Lee Frecklington and Anthony Forde paved the way for Darnell Fisher race past the attentions of Stephen Warnock to deliver an inviting centre which saw Danny Ward, under pressure from Burn, look to turn the ball towards goal but it was deflected behind.
However, Newell floated the resultant corner into the danger area and with the ball only-half cleared, Frecklington took aim with a volley and although his effort fizzed away from goal, the ball fell invitingly for Belaid, who kept his nerve to sweep the ball into the heart of the Latics goal from close range.
The visitors responded positively to the setback and Wildschut cut inside with menace to blaze an effort over the home bar before Brown made something out of nothing to give Newell, a glimpse of goal but a timely leg prevented him shooting goalwards, with the home fans vainly appealing for a spot kick.
Moments later, Ward ran into the channel before delivering a fierce centre which Forde looked to bundle towards goal at the far post but Warnock managed to fortuitously scramble the ball clear before Wood rose highest from Newell’s resultant corner but his downward header was scuffed clear by the ruck of Wigan bodies in the six-yard box.
Joe Mattock became the first to see yellow for deliberate handball and Ward joined him in the book, minutes later, as he looked to charge down Jake Buxton’s clearance but caught the ex-Derby defender in his follow through.
The Millers came within a whisker of doubling their advantage when Buxton’s mis-hit clearance from Newell’s cross fell invitingly for Adeyemi, who controlled smartly, before curling a right-footed effort from just outside the box which had Jussi Jaaskelainen nervously scurrying across goal as it shaved the outside of the visitors’ upright.
Just before the half hour mark, Jordi Gomez drilled an effort straight down the throat of Lewis Price before Craig Davies became the latest to see yellow for catching Fisher late as he looked to clear.
Minutes later, the Millers were the beneficiaries of a huge slice of luck when the Latics failed to clear the ball decisively and Mattock, obeyed the calls of the AEESEAL New York Stadium faithful, when he elected to shoot from long-range but his peashooter was blocked in the path of Ward, who stabbed towards goal from the edge of the box and his effort seemingly took a nick of Wood, and with Jaaskelainen rooted to the spot, the ball flew past the Finn to double the home side’s lead.
Minutes later, Belaid was caught napping as he looked to usher the ball towards touch with Michael Jacobs stripping him of possession near the touchline before the Tunisian upended the Wigan midfielder, just outside the box, and the home defender could have no complaints as the referee brandished a yellow card, before Gomez’s resultant free-kick flew across the box with little alarm for the Millers.
The Millers came within a coat of paint of adding a third when Adeyemi charged onto a loose ball to win possession before unleashing a rasping effort from distance which smashed against the visitors crossbar before ballooning to safety.
With half-time approaching, Forde cut inside from the right flank to try his luck with a left-footed effort, which flew narrowly wide of the target before Brown and Ward combined smartly to give Frecklington a sight of goal but the talismanic home midfielder lost his footing in the act of shooting as Jaaskelainen collected his weak effort.
Fisher became the next to be cautioned for a late foul on Wildschut before Rotherham added a third in the last act of the half before fine one-touch play from Adeyemi and Brown paved the way for Ward to advance into the box before firing a fierce left-footed effort which stung the palms of Jaaskelainen, who did brilliantly to keep his effort out, but the ball unfortunately struck the retreating Burn, as it dribbled into the Latics net.
Half-time- Rotherham United 3 Wigan Athletic 0
The home side started the second half as they finished the first when Newell began and finished a move as he exchanged passes with Mattock to ghost into the box to fire an effort which Burn headed over his own bar.
Minutes later, Wigan gave themselves a lifeline when Burn led a charge from deep his own half and with Rotherham unable to clear the danger, in the next phase of play, Wildschut injected pace into the move and after a one-two with Gomez, the Dutchman curled a superb effort from the edge of the box which beat the outstretched hand of Price before nestling in the bottom corner of the net.
The goal seemed to spark the Lancastrians to life and sub Le Fondre’s clip over the top presented Andy Kellett with the chance to strike but his snap effort was bravely blocked by Mattock.
Moments later, Price flapped at Gomez’s inswinging corner and in the resultant melee, Frecklington was somewhat fortunate to have not given away an inviting free-kick on the edge of the box as Jacobs tumbled under his challenge, but the referee waved away Wigan protests.
In rare Millers forays, Fisher’s hacked clearance was flicked on by Ward into the advancing run of Newell, who cut inside to fire an effort which stung palms of Jaaskelainen before Burn had to be on his toes to prevent Ward’s cross finding Newell, with the goal at his mercy, with a timely clearance in his own six-yard box.
With eleven minutes to go, the home fans were on the edge of their seats as Wigan reduced the arrears further when Le Fondre’s pass saw Kellett cut inside with purpose before presenting Gomez with the chance to strike and the Spaniard made no mistake as he drilled a low effort which fizzed past the despairing dive of Price.
The home fans had their hearts in their mouths as Wildschut’s mazy run left a trail of Millers defenders in his wake as he waltzed into the box and the Millers were indebted to Freckington for a timely clearance as the dangerous Dutchman looked set to strike.
The dangerous Wildschut had the Millers on the backfoot with a powerful run and shot which fizzed across the box before Buxton almost ghosted in unnoticed at the backpost from Gomez’s resultant corner but fortunately for the Millers, he was unable to steer the ball goalwards.
Wildschut was proving a thorn in the Millers side and after he outfoxed a number of home defenders with a clever piece of skill, his run was abruptly halted by Wood on the edge of the box but Power’s free-kick was charged down by determined home defenders.
Moments later, Gomez’s corner was not dealt with decisively by Price and although the ball was tapped home at the far post, the referee quickly ruled out the goal as Jacobs was yellow-carded, presumably for deliberate handball, as he looked to turn the ball goalwards.
With time running out for the visitors, Forde and Ward combined smartly which eventually saw the latter eventually strike into the side netting before the referee brought the game to a close, to the audible relief of the home faithful.
Full-time- Rotherham United 3 Wigan Athletic 2
Rotherham United 3
Wigan Athletic 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Price, Mattock, Wood, Forde, Frecklington, Ward, Fisher, Newell (Vaulks 84), Adeyemi, Belaid, Brown (Odemwingie 67). Unused- Bilboe, Kelly, Broadfoot, Taylor, Blackstock.
Wigan- Jaaskelainen, Buxton, Power, Grigg, Kellett (Bryne 80), Gomez, Jacobs, Davies (Le Fondre 56), Warnock, Wildschut, Burn. Unused- Lavercombe, Flores, Woolery, Burke, Stubbs.
Referee- D Coote
Attendance- 10158 (1241).