Smith bags late Millers winner...
SUPER-sub Michael Smith produced a Christmas cracker, by notching a last-gasp winner to give Rotherham United a well-deserved victory over Shrewsbury Town.
Following a low key first half at Montgomery Waters Meadow, Joe Mattock’s first goal of the season put the Millers ahead on the hour mark but any joy was short-lived as Aaron Pierre levelled matters, soon after.
Both sides looked likely to have settle for a share of the spoils but Smith popped up with a superb header, in the last act of the game, from Adam Thompson’s cross to give the thousand-strong Millers following, a belated Christmas present.
Following their hard fought draw with Fleetwood Town with a depleted squad, last time out, Warne welcomed back some of his first-team regulars for the visit to Shropshire.
Warne was able to call on the services of central-defensive partnership Clark Robertson and Michael Ihiekwe, who returned following illness and injury, respectively, with Adam Thompson moved to the right back slot and Mattock patrolling the other flank.
Matt Olosunde was asked to play further forward on the right with Chiedozie Ogbene expected to provide the ammunition from the left. Matt Crooks reverted back to his familiar midfield role alongside Dan Barlaser while former Shrews duo Freddie Ladapo and Carlton Morris led the Rotherham line in a 4-4-2 formation.
The Millers started the brighter and they had the first sight of goal when Mattock’ cross was flicked by Morris into the path of Ladapo, who worked a shooting position, but his tame effort, from the edge of the box, was blocked by Pierre en-route to goal.
Moments later, Ladapo almost latched onto Crooks’ through-ball, but he was unable to get the ball under his spell before Whalley was felled by Mattock, in an inviting position, following good work by home skipper Dave Edwards, but Robertson was on hand to clear the danger, from the resultant free-kick.
Moments later, Morris tried his luck from a tight angle but his effort was defected over by Ethan Ebanks-Landell before the Norwich loanee almost came back to haunt his former club, just seconds later, when Barlaser floated a corner which was met by the head of Ihiekwe and Morris turned on a sixpence to fire goalwards, from point-blank range, but a combination of the woodwork and home ‘keeper Max O’Leary kept the ball out.
The Millers were looking the most likely and Olosunde clipped a cross which saw Crooks rise highest but he couldn’t steer his effort towards goal before the former Northampton midfielder was on the end of a fine-flowing move from the Millers but a retreating Shrews defender snuffed out his cross with Morris lurking for a tap-in.
Just past the half-hour mark, Barlaser hung up a free-kick but Morris’ header towards goal lacked power and O’Leary was able to collect with ease before the Millers duo combined, once again, near half-time, but on this occasion, Morris failed to trouble the home goal with his instinctive header.
Half-time- Shrewsbury Town 0 Rotherham United 0
In front of a large travelling contingent, the Millers almost made the perfect start to the half when Barlaser caressed a corner into the air and despite Crooks failing to make a clean connection with his head, the ball fell loose for the tall midfielder, who stabbed an effort towards goal but O’Leary was his equal with a fine save.
Seconds later, Crooks turned architect when Morris delivered an inviting centre which he cushioned into the path of Ladapo, but the ball dribbled agonisingly behind the ex-Plymouth striker with the goal at his mercy before Ladapo was flattened in the box following a melee – but the referee waved away Millers appeals for a spot kick.
Minutes later, Shaun Whalley became the first to see yellow for a clumsy challenge on Olosunde near the touchline before Rotherham deservedly took the lead, just shy of the hour mark, from an unlikely source.
Barlaser hung up another corner and Ihiekwe outjumped his marker at the far post to head the ball back into the danger area and Mattock emerged from the ruck of bodies in the box to nod into the roof of the Shrews net from close range.
Mattock wheeled away in celebration, in front of the hordes of away fans, as he notched just his fourth goal in Millers colours.
The home side responded positively to the setback and Thompson produced a superb tackle to prevent Edwards from shooting goalwards but it was only a temporary reprieve for the visitors, as the home side levelled with 24 minutes to go.
Thompson was penalised for a foul on halfway and with the Millers playing a high line, Whalley clipped the resultant free-kick over the top and Scott Golbourne was the quickest to react to hook a cross to the far post and Pierre was well placed to head the ball across goal – and neither Iversen or the backtracking Ihiekwe was in a position to prevent the ball from finding the far corner of the net.
With the game in the balance, Love became the next to be cautioned following a tussle with Ogbene before Edwards ghosted into the box to meet Love’s cross but the Welsh international midfielder failed to make a clean connection – with a mistimed header – although any goal would have been ruled out for offside.
Love was fortunate to escape further sanction for hauling down Ladapo in full flow before the Millers were indebted to Iversen for maintaining parity when Olosunde’s slip was pounced upon by sub Daniel Udoh, who launched a quick home counter and fellow replacement, Ryan Giles was the grateful recipient to fire a stinging drive which forced into the Danish stopper into a superb, reflex save.
In the dying minutes, Shrewsbury firstly fluffed an opportunity to get the winner when Omar Beckles volleyed into the home faithful behind the goal, when it looked easier to score before Rotherham came close to regaining the lead when Mattock swung over a low centre and Ladapo looked well set to turn the ball home after nipping in front of his marker, but his toe-poked effort flew the wrong side of the post.
Minutes later, Shrewsbury failed to clear the danger and Smith’s drilled effort took a slight deflection off Beckles, as it smashed into the side netting.
However, Rotherham continued to push men forward in pursuit of the winner and they were handsomely rewarded – in effectively the last kick of the match – when Thompson kept his nerve to clip a ball into the heart of the Shrewsbury box, and Smith produced a superb header across the face of goal and O’Leary, despite getting a hand to it, could not keep the ball out to send the thousand-strong Millers support into ecstasy.
Full-time- Shrewsbury Town 1 Rotherham United 2
Shrewsbury Town 1
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- Shrewsbury- O’Leary, Pierre, Golbourne, Edwards (Giles 79), Beckles, Whalley, Okenabirhie (Udoh 68), Walker, Love (Willams 86), Ebanks-Landell, Laurent. Unused- Murphy, Fane, Goss, Cummings.
Rotherham- Iversen, Mattock (Wood 90), Thompson, Ladapo, Barlaser, Morris (Smith 85), Robertson, Crooks, Ogbene (Vassell 82), Ihiekwe, Olosunde. Unused- Price, Lindsay, Clarke, Hastie.
Referee- M Edwards
Attendance- 7555 (987)