Wood grabs Millers winner
SKIPPER Richard Wood was the Rotherham United hero as his first-half strike earned Paul Warne’s men their sixth win on the spin, at the expense of table-topping Shrewsbury Town to preserve their League One automatic promotion hopes.
In an enthralling encounter at the New Meadow, Wood’s close range finish proved the difference between the sides to send the thousand strong Millers fans home - in jubilant mood.
Following their impressive victory over Oxford United, the Millers made only one enforced change to their starting line-up with Michael Ihiekwe asked to deputise, in the left-back berth – with regular starter Joe Mattock ruled out after sustaining a hamstring injury in midweek.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and Shaun Whalley broke clear in the early seconds but his dangerous centre fizzed across the box, evading the home runners before Ben Godfrey was lucky to escape sanction for a hefty tackle on Will Vaulks on halfway.
In their first attack of note, the Millers squandered a golden opportunity to open the scoring when Anthony Forde’s clip forward was deftly flicked by Semi Ajayi into the path of Michael Smith, who showed the home rearguard a clean pair of heels, but the Millers frontman dragged his shot narrowly wide of the target.
Moments later, one time Millers loanee Carlton Morris nipped in front of his marker to meet Whalley’s corner but the home striker could not control his header, as it flew over the bar before Smith latched onto a hopeful punt over the top, at the other end, but home ‘keeper Dean Henderson showed fleet of foot to block his effort with his legs.
Minutes later, Richie Towell’s clip down the channel was pounced upon by David Ball, who was encircled by three home defenders, but the ex-Fleetwood striker showed great feet to work a shooting position to curl an effort which was arrowing into the far corner of the net until Henderson’s parried intervention and the ball rolled tantalisingly into the path of Ajayi, who fluffed his lines with a miscued effort – with the goal at his mercy.
In the next phase of play, Ihiekwe had a glimpse of goal but he failed to make a clean connection before Forde fired a half-volley from distance harmlessly over the home bar.
With Rotherham on top, Joe Newell fired through a ruck of bodies forcing Henderson into a reflex save before Ihiekwe struck an effort, with his weaker right-foot, which was deflected narrowly wide of the target.
The home side appeared to have weathered the visitors’ storm when firstly Joe Nolan’s ball over the top saw Whalley get the better of Wood, in a tussle, to bare down on the Rotherham goal but the advancing Marek Rodak won the battle of wills between the duo, as he stood up tall to smother his goalbound effort before Rodak was called into action once again when James Bolton latched onto a goalmouth scramble to toe-poke towards goal but the Slovakian stopper snuffed out the danger.
The home side were indebted to a backtracking Nathan Thomas to prevent Towell from shooting goalwards following good work by Smith and Ball before Rotherham came within a whisker of the opening when Newell’s inswinging corner was met by the head of Ajayi, just yards out, but the Nigerian centre-half could not direct his header goalwards, as it fizzed agonisingly wide of the target – with Henderson rooted to the spot.
With half-time approaching, Newell blasted over from a promising position before Rotherham deservedly broke the deadlock, just a minute before the break, when Shrewsbury half-cleared a Millers corner and Forde lofted the ball into the box and with Henderson failing to take charge, Ihiekwe bundled the ball into the path of Wood, who tapped home into the unguarded net.
Half-time- Shrewsbury Town 0 Rotherham United 1
The Millers started the second half as they finished the first when Josh Emmanuel raced from the flank before being adjudged to be hauled back by Omar Beckles near the touchline but Henderson plucked Newell’s floated free-kick out of the sky with a minimum of fuss.
At the other end, Rotherham failed to clear their lines and Abu Ogogo got the better of Towell to sting the palms of Rodak with an effort from just outside the box before the visitors stopper showed great awareness to smother the danger at his near post following Thomas’ cross.
There was a moment of controversy when Ajayi looked to usher the ball out of touch before bundling Morris out of play to concede a needless free-kick but Vaulks dug out his teammate with a clearance from Thomas’ resultant centre.
Moments later, the Millers were indebted to Rodak for preserving their slender lead when an innocuous ball into the box was superbly dummied by Beckles giving Thomas the opportunity to strike goalwards but Rodak bravely threw his body in the way of his shot to keep the ball out.
Minutes later, Beckles found himself in the book for a reckless tackle on Ball before Vaulks tried his luck from distance with a speculative effort but it failed to trouble Henderson in the home goal.
Moments later, sub Caolan Lavery’s inside pass paved the way for Newell to ghost into the box before playing a slide-rule ball into the path of Smith, who looked to turn the ball goalwards but the Millers frontman could not get his foot around the ball, as it flashed wide.
With the game in the balance, Newell was cautioned for time wasting before Rodak bravely punched clear under pressure from a host of home players. Whalley then blasted over from an inviting position, just inside the box.
In the dying seconds, Towell became the latest to see yellow for a lunge on Aristote Nsiala before Lenell John-Lewis squandered Shrewsbury’s late chance of note when he blazed over.
Full-time- Shrewsbury Town 0 Rotherham United 1
Shrewsbury Town 0
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Shrewsbury- Henderson, Godfrey, Sadler, Beckles, Whalley, Ogogo, C Morris (John-Lewis 74), Thomas (Rodman 85), Bolton, Nolan (Payne 68), Nsiala. Unused- MacGillivray, Lowe, B Morris, Hendrie.
Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood, Forde (Williams 63), Ball (Lavery 75), Towell, Ihiekwe, Newell (Palmer 90), Smith. Unused- Taylor, Price, Yates, Cummings.
Referee- Carl Boyeson
Attendance- 7012 (1136)