REPORT | Rotherham 0 v 2 Sheffield Wednesday
STEVEN Fletcher’s first half double breathed new life into Sheffield Wednesday’s Championship play-off push at the expense of the Millers.
Fletcher, who notched the winner in the reverse fixture at Hillsborough earlier in the season, came back to haunt Rotherham once again as he decisively struck twice in the opening period.
Following their narrow defeat at the hands of Fulham at the weekend, Millers interim manager Paul Warne made two changes to his starting line-up for the televised visit of their local rivals.
Former Owls players Richard Wood and Joe Mattock returned to the Millers fold following injury and suspension, respectively, as club skipper Lee Frecklington was absent because of injury and Tunisian international Aimen Belaid had to settle for a place on the bench.
The home side were given a pre-match boost as striker Jonson Clarke-Harris was named in the Millers squad after missing the whole campaign because of injury while one-time Millers loanee Jack Hunt lined up for the visitors.
In a frenetic opening, the home side had the first sight of goal when Will Vaulks’ bullet throw into the box was nodded goalwards by Jon Taylor, but his header lacked power as Keiren Westwood comfortably snuffed out the danger.
At the other end, good work by Barry Bannan and Jordan Rhodes presented Ross Wallace with the chance to try his luck from distance but he dragged his shot harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, Norwich loanee Carlton Morris was bundled over by David Jones in an inviting position on the edge of the box but Taylor failed to make it count from the resultant free-kick when his drilled effort struck the Wednesday wall before being diverted to safety.
Just before the quarter hour, the Millers came within a whisker of the opener when a delicate ball into the channel was deftly flicked by Morris into the path of Taylor, who advanced into the box before striking an effort, with his instep, as the ball whistled past the visitors upright.
However, Wednesday broke the deadlock on 19 minutes thanks to Scotland international Fletcher.
There looked little danger as Wednesday probed in and around the Rotherham box but a threaded ball from Wallace saw Fletcher peel away from the ruck of bodies before firing a low effort, which caught Lewis Price out at his near post, to find the bottom corner of the net.
The hosts responded positively to the setback and after Wednesday failed to clear decisively, Taylor pounced on the loose ball to fire a bobbling effort from distance but it failed to trouble Westwood in the visitors’ goal.
Just the half hour mark, Newell was the quickest to react from an errant pass from the visitors before being tripped by Glenn Loovens on the edge of the box and Ward took aim from the resultant free-kick but his precise effort was straight down the throat of Westwood, who was well-stationed on his goal line.
Moments later, Vaulks’ hopeful punt into the box saw Wood climb above Tom Lees to direct a header goalwards but the Rotherham centre-half failed to make a telling connection as Westwood had the opportunity to pluck the ball out of the air with a minimum of fuss.
In the Millers’ next attack, Ward appeared to be heading down a cul-de-sac before digging out a superb centre which saw Morris get on the wrong side of Loovens to head goalwards but the young striker headed straight at Westwood before Mattock’s clipped ball saw Ward get the better of his marker, at the second attempt, but the Millers top-scorer could only fire into the side netting.
However, Wednesday weathered the home flurry to take a firm grip on the game, just minutes before the break.
Following a switch of play, Bannan slid a ball into the path of Hunt, who got to the ball before Newell, to swing a tantalising centre which saw Fletcher get the better of an aerial duel with Fisher, to power a point-blank header which flew into the roof of the home net giving Price no chance.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Just seconds into the second half, Wednesday almost put the game to bed when Jordan Rhodes’ cross was misjudged by Wood, who headed straight to Fletcher, who looked a certain scorer, but the ex-Owls centre-half atoned for his error when he threw his body in the way of Fletcher’s goalbound shot, to deny him the visitors’ frontman a hat-trick.
Moments later, Hunt’s slide-rule pass paved the way for Wallace to fire a left-footed effort which skimmed off the AESSEAL New York Stadium surface as Price fumbled the ball behind before Lees rose highest from Wallace’s resultant corner but Price emerged from the ruck of bodies to claim the catch.
At the other end, Newell’s swinging corner fell invitingly for Wood at the far post, who attempted to stab the ball goalwards before Mattock had a shot blocked by a masse of visiting defenders.
Wood was in the thick of the action and moments later, he was vehement in his appeals that he had been hauled down in the box but the referee waved away Rotherham protests.
Just before the hour mark, Wallace took the fizz out of Mattock’s stinging drive from distance enabling Westwood to gather with ease before Taylor’s top-spinning free-kick into the box evaded all home runners as it flashed harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, Vaulks became the first to see yellow for clipping Rhodes before Bannan’s cross caused indecision in the home box as Rhodes nipped in between two defenders to plant a header which was smothered by Price on his own goal line.
Warne introduced the likes of Clarke-Harris, Anthony Forde and Alex Bray into the fray, in an attempt, to spark the Millers into life but after Vaulks dragged a long-range effort well wide, Carlos Carvalhal’s men comfortably ran down the clock to take the three points back to S6.
Full-time- Rotherham United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Rotherham United 0
Sheffield Wednesday 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Price, Fisher, Ajayi, Wood, Mattock, Taylor (Clarke-Harris 68), Smallwood (Bray 86), Vaulks, Newell, Morris (Forde 81), D Ward. Unused- O’Donnell, Belaid, Purrington, Yates.
Sheffield Wednesday- Westwood, Hunt, Loovens, Lees, Reach, Wallace, Jones, Bannan, Fletcher (Nuhiu 73), Rhodes (Winnall 83), Hooper (Semedo 60). Unused- Wildsmith, McManaman, Palmer, Pudil.
Attendance- 10669 (2573).