There is no doubt that Tuesday night’s St Andrew’s affair had top billing, well, it didn’t disappoint. In the face of extreme weather, including rain, sleet and snow against a fired-up Coventry City side and in front of an expectant home faithful, the Millers were always likely to face a severe test of their automatic promotion credentials in England’s second city.
It could be argued that all the ingredients were in place for the Sky Blues to create a perfect storm, by dethroning Paul Warne’s side from top spot but Rotherham, led by skipper Richard Wood refused to read the script.
The Millers went toe-to-toe with Mark Robins’ in-form team for large parts of the game – with little to separate the sides in terms of possession stats and shots on target, during a captivating tussle between two of the divisional heavyweights.
Speaking to the media afterwards, Wood, who is never found wanting in the most testing of footballing environments, admitted that the precious point gained could prove vital in the final reckoning, while stressing that he relished the opportunity at leading his Rotherham side into battle at one of his former clubs.
“It was my sort of conditions.” Wood joked.
“It can snow, sleet and rain but there was no wind which I was happy with. It was fine. The pitch was OK. There were no complaints on that side.
“You’ve got to look at the positives and it’s a good point away from home against a good side and we are still top.
“In the first-half, I thought we were excellent. It was a joy to watch to see the lads pressing and going for it. Second half we dropped off but I suppose it’s nice to be disappointed with a point.”
To all intent and purposes, the St Andrew’s clash was the proverbial game of two halves. Warne’s side had the better of the first 45 – and they were duly rewarded when Freddie Ladapo gave them an interval lead by pouncing on Marko Marosi’s handling error to notch his 16th goal of the season, in all competitions.
However, Coventry were a different proposition in the second stanza and after Matty Godden levelled matters with a fine header, Rotherham’s will was tested to the limit. The visitors shrugged off the blow of losing key playmaker, Dan Barlaser, following a nasty ankle knock to earn a precious share of the spoils. The result ensured that the status quo was maintained at the summit of the Sky Bet League One standings – with Coventry perched just below the Millers on goal difference, but with a game in hand.
Despite the battling display, Wood was quick to acknowledge that his side weren't at their best, by suggesting that today’s match debrief, will give them food for thought, ahead of their hosting of Milton Keynes Dons, on Saturday afternoon.
“We were disappointed afterwards because we could have played better.” Wood conceded.
“Coventry obviously had a good half-time team talk and they came out a lot better than us and we were not at it in the second half. They got the goal and we couldn’t play our way back into it which is the disappointing side of it. It was a chance to get three points especially after the first half performance.
“Credit to them. They came out in the second half and gave it a good go. When we look at the clips and do the debrief meeting, there will be quite a few things to improve and work on.
“Despite that, it’s a great run we are on, with only one defeat in 14 and we’ve got to keep going.
“We’ve just got to focus on ourselves and if we get a win against MK Dons on Saturday, then it will definitely be a good point.”
With just 11 games to go, Rotherham look handily placed for an instant return to the Championship. Wood, who etched his name into Rotherham folklore thanks to his Wembley heroics in their last League One campaign, has once again been a key component in his side’s rise to the summit, by forging a solid central defensive partnership with Michael Ihiekwe in the second half of the campaign. With the carrot of another promotion on his CV, Wood, who recently put pen-to-paper on an extended deal at the AESSEAL New York Stadium until the summer of 2021, believes that the squad’s strength-in-depth could be a deciding factor, as they look to go the course and distance in their quest to fulfil their Championship dream.
“I’m enjoying it.” Wood enthused.
“Since been out injured, just before Christmas, I’ve loved every minute of it and I just want to play every week. I’m getting stuck in and want to help the lads play the right way and play exciting/forward football. I’m encouraging all the time.
“We have a good team. It’s a squad game and it’s next man up in a number of positions. That is what we need if we are to go up.”