Millers' season ends in stalemate......
Rotherham United ended their Sky Bet Championship campaign with a goalless draw with already relegated Wigan Athletic, but it was almost a side show as over 4,200 Millers fans were intent on celebrating their team’s survival in England’s second tier.
Chances were few and far between at a rain sodden DW Stadium but it mattered little as Matt Taylor’s side maintained their Championship status, this term.
The Millers made the trip over the Pennines safe in the knowledge that they would be playing Championship football again following their eye-catching solitary goal victory over Middlesbrough last time out.
Three of the starters in the ‘Boro clash were unavailable due to injury. Chiedozie Ogbene and Shane Ferguson were ruled out of the DW Stadium clash, due to hamstring and groin injuries, respectively.
Talismanic midfielder Ollie Rathbone was also not involved as he continues to manage long-standing groin trouble.
Boss Taylor called upon the services of a number of Academy youngsters as part of his squad.
Midfielder Curtis Durose was rewarded for his fine loan stint at non-league Gainsborough Trinity. Winger Joel Holvey was involved after recently putting pen-to-paper on professional terms while Hamish Douglas – a centre-half – was named on the bench after his squad involvement at Bramall Lane earlier in the season.
The Latics fielded a mixture of youth and experience in the matchday squad. Republic of Ireland international James McClean captained the starting eleven while 11 Academy graduates were named in the 18.
The Millers fans were backed by a large, vociferous travelling contingent and a lot of visiting supporters were sporting fancy dress, adding to a carnival atmosphere in the away end for the season finale.
The visitors had the first attack of note when Tariqe Fosu showed clever footwork to present Domingos Quina with the chance to swung over a centre which evaded lone striker Jordan Hugill.
Swedish stopper Viktor Johansson firstly showed good handling to pluck Tom Pearce’s hanging cross out of the sky before cleverly ushering the ball out of play under pressure from Thelo Aasgaard.
Minutes later, Quina – returned the earlier favour – to slide in Fosu, who guided majestically on the DW Stadium turf to ghost past a number of Latics challenges to work a shooting position and the Brentford loanee duly obliged by firing a goalbound drive which forced Sam Tickle on his league debut into a smart, parried save.
Quina was looking an early source of danger for the Millers and the Portuguese playmaker fizzed a dangerous cross which Charlie Hughes was forced to hack over his own crossbar before Hakeem Odoffin could not repeat his ‘Boro heroics, from the resultant free-kick, when he dinked a shot over.
Just after the quarter hour, Cohen Bramall dug out a cross but neither Odoffin or Quina could get a telling shot away.
Wigan had a sniff of goal when McClean – with his trustee left-foot - delivered a lovely cross which was met by the outstretched leg of Aasgaard, but the Norwegian’s effort lacked power and Johansson had a comfortable catch.
Just before the half hour mark, the Millers had appeals for a spot kick when a fine flowing move involving several visiting players paved the way for Jamie Lindsay to burst into the box but as the Scottish midfielder looked set to strike, Christ Tiehi appeared to take his leg with a tackle from behind, but despite Rotherham penalty protests, no further action was taken by the referee.
Minutes later, Odoffin raced into the six-yard box as he looked to meet Bramall’s left-flank centre but Omar Rekik cleared the danger for the hosts.
The Millers had their best chance of the half when Fosu got the better of Tiehi, before delivering a teasing cross which Hugill did his best to meet, just yards out, but the Millers frontman – despite being at full speed and full stretch – collided with the post, as the cross flew to safety.
Hugill was suddenly in the thick of the action but Steven Caulker took the sting out of his left-footed shot – in Rotherham’s next attack and the last of the half – and Tickle was able to gather with ease.
Half=time: Wigan Athletic 0 Rotherham United 0
Both sides traded chances at the start of the second half when Aasgaard’s snap shot was blocked by Cameron Humphreys en-route to goal before Hugill dragged a low shot well wide following Odoffin’s lay-off.
The Millers fans – with their team now attacking their end – were going through the full repertoire of songs – and Taylor’s side duly upped the tempo when Leo Hjelde’s deep centre had Tickle backtracking nervously towards his own goal, before the young home stopper parried the ball to safety.
Hjelde became the first to see yellow when he cynically hauled back Callum Lang and Wes Harding soon joined him in the book for bringing down Rekik.
In between the cautions, Quina and Fosu injected pace into a Rotherham move but Bramall failed to skip away from Hughes, who temporarily halted his progress, before the Millers full-back drilled a cross into the grateful hands of Tickle.
The Millers fans were almost out of their seats when firstly Quina was felled by Tiehi, and the Watford loanee dusted himself to curl the resultant free-kick over the Wigan wall but Tickle, by hook or by crook, kept the ball out, before the same player from the following corner fired into the side netting.
Wigan had their best spell of the game when Lang swung over a cross which an unmarked Aasgaard headed straight at Johansson, when he maybe should have done better.
McClean had two bites of the cherry when his initial shot was blocked at close quarters by Bramall before he blazed over with his weaker right-foot.
Odoffin then gave away a free-kick and it almost proved costly when Lang planted a ball into the danger area and despite evading Jack Whatmough, Rekik looked to bundle the ball home from close range at the far post but Johansson stood up tall to keep the ball out.
Minutes later, Aasgaard tested Johansson with a curling drive from distance before Tiehi volleyed narrowly over from the breakdown of a Wigan corner.
The Latics were looking the most likely and Rotherham were caught napping with a short free-kick and Lang tried his luck with a low shot which skimmed off the slick DW Stadium surface but Johansson was his equal with a fine save.
Holvey was thrust into his first-team action for his competitive debut near the end, but it was Wigan, who continued to press, and Johansson was at full-stretch to keep out Hughes’ arching drive from long range.
The final whistle paved the way for the Millers’ fans to salute Taylor, and his men, one last time – with the Millers finishing the season in 19th position, six points clear of safety.
Full-time: Wigan Athletic 0 Rotherham United 0
Wigan Athletic 0
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Wigan- Tickle, McClean, Hughes, Caulker (Sze 60), Rekik (Chentouf 88), Pearce, Whatmough, Tiehi (Smith 88), Aasgaard, Lang, Scully (Sharif 69). Unused- Watson, McHugh, Adeeko.
Rotherham- Johansson, Hjelde (Holvey 81), Wood, Humphreys, Fosu, Lindsay, Bramall, Harding, Quina (Kelly 75), Odoffin, Hugill (Kioso 88). Unused- Hemfrey, Durose, Eaves, Douglas.
Referee- T Robinson