Late equaliser denies Millers
ROTHERHAM United were denied a much-needed victory in their fight for Championship survival when Dominic Iorfa struck with the last kick of the game to earn Sheffield Wednesday, an undeserved share of the spoils, following a four-goal derby day thriller at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
In a red-hot atmosphere, the Millers were unfortunate not to be ahead before Fernando Forestieri fired home – although Taylor volleyed an equaliser for the hosts almost immediately.
Warne’s side were looking the most likely winners and they looked set for victory when Towell slotted home before Iorfa broke Millers’ hearts, deep in second-half stoppage time, when he hooked home from close range.
Following their stirring second-half comeback against Hull City in midweek, Warne made three changes to his starting line for the visit of the Owls.
Experienced full-back Billy Jones was recalled to the right-back slot while Taylor and Anthony Forde were rewarded for their impressive substitute cameos at the KCOM Stadium, with starting berths.
The visitors settled into the derby clash the better and Barry Bannan’s floated ball saw George Boyd race clear and the winger’s pull-back paved the way for Forestieri to strike goalwards but Will Vaulks bravely blocked his shot en-route to goal before Jones was forced to divert Adam Reach’s dangerous cross to safety, in the next phase of play.
Moments later, Michael Hector’s long diagonal ball saw Boyd spring the offside trap before delivering a hanging centre which was met by the head of Reach, but his powerful header blazed over the Rotherham bar.
In Rotherham’s first attack of note, Michael Smith got the ball under his spell to set up the play and Vaulks skimmed a pass to the right flank whereby Taylor got a yard of space on Morgan Fox to whip a curling cross which evaded Smith but found the on-rushing Forde, who looked to guide his header goalwards, but it flashed narrowly wide of the Wednesday goal.
Moments later, Rotherham superbly switched the play to great effect and Towell’s first time pass saw Semi Ayayi skip away to deliver an inviting centre which Smith looked to turn home, at the near post, but under pressure from Jordan Thorniley, the Millers frontman could only scuff his effort past the upright.
In the next home foray, the Millers had faint appeals for a spot kick when Ajayi tumbled under a challenge in the box as he looked to latch onto a ball over the top but the referee waved away home protests.
In a whirlwind sixty seconds, Rotherham missed back-to-back chances to take the lead when firstly Hector dwelt in possession as last man and Forde anticipating the danger picked his pocket to race through on goal but Keiren Westwood won the battle of wills, in the one-on-one situation, to block his low effort with his legs before the Millers continued to press and a superb one-two involving Smith and Ihiekwe in the box presented the former with an opportunity to strike, in front of goal, but his side-footed effort failed to trouble the Wednesday goal.
Just before the half-hour mark, Joe Mattock became the first player to see yellow for a late tackle on Forestieri and the former Rotherham full-back was in the thick of the action, moments later, as the Wednesday rearguard failed to clear the danger following Towell’s centre but Mattock, with his weaker right-foot, could only balloon his shot over, from just inside the box.
Despite the Rotherham pressure, Wednesday came within a coat of paint of the opener when a long ball over the top was not dealt with by Mattock, whose weak back header gave Reach, the chance to prod the ball past the advancing Marek Rodak, but to the relief of the Rotherham faithful, the ball dribbled against the post, before going behind.
However, Rotherham failed to heed the warning as Wednesday broke the deadlock, ten minutes before the break.
Mattock failed to deal with a long punt forward, appearing to be hampered by the sun, and in the aftermath, Boyd and Reach got the better of Mattock and Forde, who was unable to cut out Boyd’s pass and Reach skipped to the by-line before playing a delicious centre into the path of Forestieri, who kept his nerve to fire into the heart of the Rotherham goal giving Rodak no chance.
However, Rotherham got themselves back on level terms, almost immediately, when Smith failed to give up on a long ball, which appeared to hold up in the wind, and the former Portsmouth striker, hung up a delicate centre which was inch-perfect for Taylor, who nipped in between two defenders, to fire a volley into the top corner of the visitors’ goal.
With emotions rising at the AESSEAL New York Stadium, Ajayi was yellow carded for a foul on Forestieri on halfway before Smith and Hector clashed following an aerial duel, but no action was taken against both players.
Half-time- Rotherham United 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1
Following a slow start to the second half by both teams, the tempo was lifted once again when Jones was cautioned for a late clip on Sam Hutchinson before Hutchinson was somewhat fortunate to escape sanction for a hefty challenge on Vaulks, minutes later.
On the hour mark, the game reached boiling point when Wednesday countered quickly and Forestieri got a foot on the ball before being upended by Ihiekwe on the halfway line. Despite Wednesday claiming the Millers centre-half was last man, the referee pulled out the yellow-card, despite vehement visiting protests.
With footballing moments few and far between, Boyd worked a crossing position at the expense of Jones and sub Steven Fletcher towered above his marker to direct a header goalwards, but the ball narrowly cleared the Rotherham crossbar.
Minutes later, Vaulks sprang a Rotherham counter attack to advance to the edge of the Wednesday box until releasing Towell, who raced from deep, to join him to his left, but the Irishman was twice denied the opportunity to get his shot away.
The Millers were regaining their foothold in the clash and Newell’s corner saw Ajayi rise highest to plant a towering header which beat Westwood but Reach was well-stationed to head clear from his own line before a bout of ping-pong in the Wednesday box ended when Ihiekwe fired wide.
With the game on a knife-edge, Taylor showed his marker a clean pair of heels to race down the touchline before his bobbled cross fell invitingly for Towell, who looked certain to score, but Reach came out of nowhere, to take the ball off his in-step before hacking the ball to safety.
With quarter an hour to go, Rotherham took a grip on the game by taking a deserved lead when Hector failed to deal with a long punt forward and sub Joe Newell picked up the pieces to plant the ball back into the danger area and despite Smith failing to get the ball under control, Towell was on-hand to strike goalwards, and the ball found the Wednesday net via the inside of the post.
The Millers had an opportunity to seal the deal when sub Ryan Williams injected pace into a home move before sitting up a cross, which looked inch-perfect for Smith, but the Millers striker glanced his header wide of the target, from eight yards, before Williams got in the act when he fired over, from a promising position.
Near the end, Wednesday frustration looked to be boiling over when Forestieri scythed down Vaulks near the touchline, which saw the Italian receive a yellow-card before Vaulks dragged a low shot wide.
However, there was one cruel twist left in the game, and after Rotherham failed to deal with a long punt in the box, the Millers defence squandered a couple of opportunities to clear the danger and they were duly punished when Iorfa anticipated the knockdown, to hook the ball past Rodak from close range, and find the heart of the Rotherham goal.
Referee Darren England was forced to pull out a red card following the celebrations to Forestieri, who saw a second yellow for his part in the aftermath of the Owls' goal, although his dismissal wouldn't impact the outcome as the whistle went instantly after the restart.
Full-time- Rotherham United 2 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Rotherham United 2
Sheffield Wednesday 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Forde (Newell 63), Taylor (Williams 78), Towell, Robertson, Ihiekwe, Smith, Jones. Unused- Price, Wood, Crooks, Yates, Wiles.
Sheffield Wednesday- Westwood, Palmer, Fox, Bannan, Thorniley (Iorfa 88), Joao (Fletcher 57), Reach, Boyd (Aarons 75), Hutchinson, Hector, Forestieri. Unused- Dawson, Pelupessy, Nuhiu, Lazaar.
Referee- D England
Attendance- 11736 (2625)