Vaughan strikes late to deny Millers...
SUB James Vaughan’s late strike denied Rotherham United their first away point of the season as Wigan earned a narrow victory in the Roses clash, despite a late rally from Paul Warne’s side.
The Millers went into the interval all-square despite being second best for the majority of the first-half and they looked well on their way to earning a share of the spoils until Vaughan pounced from close range.
For the trip over the Pennines, Warne reverted to a 4-5-1 formation with Michael Smith asked to lead the Rotherham line.
Club skipper Richard Wood returned to the heart of the Millers rearguard with Joe Mattock shaking off a dead leg to take his place at left-back.
Semi Ajayi, who will be joining up with the Nigeria squad for the international break, was asked to play a holding role, in front of the back four – with Ryan Williams and Jon Taylor expected to provide the ammunition from the flanks.
On the bench, Richie Towell was thrown immediately into the fray just 24 hours after putting pen-to-paper on a return to the club on a season-long loan from Brighton.
The home side had the sight of goal when Lee Evans hoicked a cross-cum-shot which was plucked out of the air by Marek Rodak, at his near post, before Taylor became the first to see yellow for a clumsy tackle on Antonee Robinson.
Moments later, Evans floated a tantalising free-kick into the danger area and Chey Dunkley emerged from the masse of bodies to plant a downward header which Rodak initially spilled, but gathered at the second attempt before Robinson got the better of Zak Vyner to burst into the box but Rotherham managed to scramble the ball away from danger – with a number of home attackers lurking for a tap-in.
In Rotherham’s first foray of note, Williams skipped down the touchline before cutting inside to fizz a near-post cross which saw Smith nip in front of the attentions of Dunkley to deftly flick the ball towards goal but home ‘keeper Christian Walton got his body behind his effort.
The Millers were forced into a defensive reshuffle when Robinson got behind the back to fire a dangerous centre which Sean Raggett managed to toe-poke behind on the stretch, but, at a cost, as the Norwich loanee required lengthy medical treatment before withdrawing from the proceedings – with Clark Robertson his replacement.
The home side were looking the most likely and good initial work from Josh Windass paved the way for Nick Powell to plant an inviting centre into the box which Callum Connolly looked certain to turn home, from close range, but Mattock superbly came out of nowhere with a timely block, near his goal line, to preserve parity.
Just before the half-hour mark, Ajayi was harshly adjudged to have bundled over Connolly in an inviting position on the edge of the box and Windass almost crowned his debut in fine style with a superb curling free-kick, which smashed against the stanchion behind the goal – with the majority of the crowd expecting the net to bulge, as a motionless Rodak could only watch the ball sail narrowly wide of the target.
Minutes later, Wigan probed the Millers box with the visitors’ intent on containment before Powell took aim from distance with a speculative shot which Windass looked to direct towards goal, but the ex-Rangers playmaker was unable to make a clean connection, as his effort flew harmlessly wide of the target.
In the next phase of play, Williams became the next to incur the wrath of the referee by hauling down Reece James in full flow to earn a yellow card before the visiting faithful had their hearts in their mouths when James skipped to the by-line to float a tantalising cross which looked inch-perfect for Powell, to nod home at the far post, but Taylor, possibly illegally, ushered him out of the way – with the goal at his mercy, as the referee waved away strong home protests for a spot kick.
Minutes later, Taylor robbed Cedric Kipre of possession before racing into the box but the ball got tangled in his feet before he could get his shot away before Wood was carded for tripping Will Grigg on halfway.
With half time approaching, Grigg’s smart lay-off with his back to goal presented Windass with the chance to strike, but he dragged his effort wide of the target, from the edge of the box before Will Vaulks’ ball over the top gave Smith the chance to tee up Ryan Manning, who unleashed a fierce effort from distance, which initially seemed to wrong foot Walton but the home stopper recovered to smother his daisycutter.
In the last action of the half, Evans hung a cross into the box which was headed back across goal and Rodak was on his toes to smartly parry the ball to safety – with Grigg poised for a tap-in, at the back post.
Half-time- Wigan Athletic 0 Rotherham United 0
In a fast start to the second half, Manning, who had been fouled, curled a free-kick into the box which skimmed off the head of Wood, before hitting Mattock en-route to goal but Walton moved smartly to his right to smother the danger before Grigg found himself one-on-one with Robertson to fire a fierce effort which had Rodak nervously scurrying across goal, as it fizzed narrowly wide of the upright.
In a quick Rotherham counter, Taylor showed Sam Morsy a quick pair of heels to race down the right flank before clipping a centre which looked inviting for the advancing run of Smith but Walton was quick off his line to collect the ball in front of the Millers striker.
Minutes later, Morsy became the first home player to be cautioned for hauling down Manning on half way before the Millers were indebted to Rodak for a triple save for denying sub Callum McManaman with a reactive save before bravely throwing himself in front of Connolly’s follow-up, just yards out.
From the resultant corner, the Slovakian stopper was at full stretch to keep Morsy’s effort at bay before Windass tried his luck with a dipping effort which flew narrowly over the Millers bar.
In the Millers best spell of the game, sub Kyle Vassell almost bulldozed his way through the Wigan defence but Kipre stuck out a timely foot to clear the danger before Vaulks’ snap shot was blocked by a retreating Evans, following good work initially by Vassell, Smith and Williams.
Moments later, Walton failed to deal with Manning’s inswinging corner with a weak punch but Vaulks failed to punish his error when his rising effort, found the proverbial Row Z of the stand before Vassell latched onto a loose ball to strike a rasping effort from distance which took a slight deflection off a home defender, as it whistled narrowly over.
However, Wigan took the lead with 16 minutes to go when McManaman worked a yard of space on Vyner to drill an effort from just inside the box which Rodak could only parry into the path of Vaughan, who managed to scuff the ball into the unguarded net from close range.
The Millers responded positively to the setback and Vassell’s centre was only half-cleared into the path of Williams, who weighed up his options on the edge of the box before firing a measured effort which was arrowing into the far corner of the net until Walton’s late intervention with a full-length save.
In the final quarter, Rotherham had their last throw of the dice when sub Jamie Proctor was introduced, at the expense of Wood – with Ajayi reverting back to his centre-half role and it almost paid dividends when Vassell’s cross-cum-shot almost saw Kipre, in attempting to clear, scuff the ball narrowly over his own bar before Ajayi rose highest to meet Manning’s resultant corner, but he could not control his header, as it cleared the Wigan crossbar.
Moments later, Kipre saw yellow for tripping Manning before Williams got around the back to play a delicious centre but neither Smith and Vaulks could get their shot away before the ball ended up back in the path of the Australian, who looked to turn the ball home but his snap effort was blocked.
The Millers were cranking up the pressure and Vassell, who was proving a thorn in Wigan’s side since his introduction, won a free-kick which Manning swung into the box but Williams failed to punish a weak home clearance, when his wayward left-footed effort found the visiting faithful behind the goal.
In the dying minutes, Robertson rose highest to meet Manning’s hanging centre following Vaulks’ quick-throw but his towering header cleared the home crossbar before Kipre put his body on the line to block Vassell’s stinging shot en-route to goal.
Full-time- Wigan Athletic 1 Rotherham United 0
Wigan Athletic 1
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Wigan- Walton, Robinson, Morsy, Grigg (Vaughan 60), Windass (Garner 90), James, Kipre, Dunkley, Powell (McManaman 60), Connolly, Evans. Unused- Jones, Bryne, Bruce, Roberts.
Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood (Proctor 78), Taylor (Vassell 59), Manning, Williams, Smith, Raggett (Robertson 20). Unused- Bilboe, Palmer, Towell, Newell.
Referee- S Duncan
Attendance- 9584 (677)