It was derby day delight for the Millers, as super-sub Freddie Ladapo etched his name into Rotherham folklore by notching a last-minute winner at Hillsborough – with the side down to ten men – and breathe new life into their Sky Bet Championship survival battle.
The Millers arrested a run of five successive defeats, at the home of their local rivals, when Ladapo struck with almost the last kick of the game, after Michael Smith had gone from hero to zero, by putting Rotherham ahead in the first half, before being sent off following a clash with Julien Borner.
The Owls looked to have earned an undeserved point when Matt Olosunde put through his own net following earlier heroics from Viktor Johansson but justice was done when Millers defied the odds, when Ladapo scored, in the most dramatic of circumstances.
For the short hop to S6, Warne made three changes to his starting line-up, following the narrow weekend defeat to Reading.
Dutch winger Florian Jozefzoon made his first start of 2021 while Dan Barlaser was also recalled to the midfield area while Ben Wiles was once again asked to ply his trade in the left-back slot.
Matt Crooks retained the skipper’s armband, in the continued absence of Michael Ihiekwe (suspension) and Richard Wood (injury) while Smith led the Millers line.
The visitors, who were only able to call upon six substitutes out of the allotted nine, made a slow start to the game and Wednesday skipper Barry Bannan, was an early threat with back-to-back corners, when Viktor Johansson pulled off a fine, reflex save to deny Sam Hutchinson with the first set-piece before Callum Paterson fired narrowly wide, from the next one.
However, the Millers gradually got a foothold in the clash, and they broke their recent goalscoring duck in superb style, when Lewis Wing showed fleet of foot to switch play to the right flank and Jozefzoon worked a yard of space on his marker to deliver a delicious cross into the danger area and Michael Smith, in trademark style, ghosted away from the nearest defender, to plant a downward header, which beat the outstretched hand of Joe Wildsmith, to find the far corner of the net.
The home side were visibly rattled by the setback until Bannan blasted over from a promising position before Hutchinson was lucky to escape any sanction for a hefty challenge on Wiles, which left the Rawmarsh-born youngster needing lengthy treatment, before his return to the fray.
Just past the half hour mark, the Millers had a scare when a long diagonal from Borner was taken in his stride by Paterson, who had got on the wrong side of Wiles, but despite Johansson temporarily losing his footing in the box, the Scottish striker fluffed his lines with a wayward finish.
At the other end, Olosunde’s direct run from deep was brought to a halt on the edge of the box before Jozefzoon, as per the goal, put in another tantalising centre which was headed over his own bar by Hutchinson.
Moments later, Wildsmith was forced to punch Angus MacDonald’s clipped cross away from goal before Rotherham came within a coat of paint of doubling their lead when a fortunate ricochet saw Wing cleverly evaded the attentions of Matt Penney, before striking across goal from just outside the box, but despite his low effort beating Wildsmith’s desperate dive, the ball agonisingly smashed against the foot of the post, before falling to safety.
The Millers were looking the most likely and they threatened the Wednesday goal again, near the break, when Smith showed good upper body strength to hold off his marker and pave the way for Ryan Giles to race away unchallenged and dart into the box, before firing a left-footed effort from a tight angle, which Wildsmith was forced to parry clear.
Half-time: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Rotherham United 1
After the Millers edged the first half proceedings, the Owls had the first sight of goal in the second period when Paterson tried his luck from distance, but his shot screwed away from the Rotherham goal.
The home side were looking a much-improved outfit, after the break, and Bannan was the architect with a threaded ball which saw Windass get the by-line, before pulling the ball back to Adam Reach, who was unmarked in the box, but he blasted over when he should have done better.
Rotherham were still looking a threat in the attacking areas and Smith almost nipped the pocket of Wildsmith, who dwelt in possession, before he scrambled the ball clear before Giles curled a cross which was met by the head of MacDonald, just yards out, but his point-blank header struck a retreating Owls defender en-route to goal.
Just before the hour mark, Windass wastefully blazed over following good work by Bannan and Reach in the build-up before Giles failed to make the most of a couple of counter-attacks, when he overhit his crosses from the wide areas.
The game took a cruel twist for the Millers – with 24 minutes to go – when Borner had an aerial duel with Smith, and with both players falling to the ground, the Millers frontman reacted to the challenge, as they both got up, with Smith adjudged to have led with his head, after being pulled down by the German defender, initially, and the referee brandished a straight red card to Smith for violent conduct.
With the Millers looking to clear their heads, Windass fired over before Bannan stung the palms of Johansson with a low effort.
Warne’s side had a nerve-wracking spell when sub Elias Kachunga got around the back to fire a cross-cum-shot which Johansson spilled before Paterson looked set to tap home, but the Viking showed good reflexes, to deny him at close range. In the aftermath of the move, Paterson headed home from a left-wing cross but the flag had long been raised.
The Owls were upping the tempo and after Shaw was denied by Johansson, Darren Moore’s side levelled matters with nine minutes to go – in the most fortunate of circumstances.
Liam Shaw put a cross into the box and Matt Penney, who possibly looked in an offside position, was faced by Johansson, who bravely dived at his feet, but the ball unluckily ricocheted off Olosunde, and dribbled into the Millers net.
Despite the setback, the Millers were giving their all for the cause and Crooks hooked over, after Wildsmith made a hash of an attempted clearance before Paterson headed over at the other end.
The Millers looked to have squandered a late chance when Shaw was penalised on the edge of the box, but Wing’s tame free-kick was straight down the throat of Wildsmith.
However, there was further drama to come – and Millers fans, will have been jumping with joy from the back of their sofas, in the last minute of second half stoppage time.
With Wednesday pushing forward in pursuit of a late winner, the ball was cleared and Crooks did superbly well to hack the ball forward and Ladapo found himself in space, to latch onto possession, and he backed his defender into the box with a direct run, before striking a superb right-footed shot, from the edge of the box, which arrowed into the Owls net giving Wildsmith no chance.
The final whistle brought scenes of joy from the Millers coaching staff, as Ladapo, joined the likes of Darren Garner and Richie Barker, the assistant manager, in scoring late winners, at the home of their local rivals – and in the process, the Millers completed the league double over the Owls, for the first time in their history.
Full-time: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Rotherham United 2
Sheffield Wednesday 1
Rotherham United 2
Teams: Sheffield Wednesday- Wildsmith, Palmer (Marriott 86), Lees, Borner, Penney, Hutchinson (Brown 81), Shaw, Bannan (Rhodes 86), Reach (Harris 73), Paterson, Windass (Kachunga 73). Unused- Jackson, Urhoghide, Dunkley, Pelupessy.
Rotherham- Johansson, Olosunde, Harding, A MacDonald, Giles (Clarke 76), Jozefzoon (Ladapo 70), Barlaser (Sadlier 90), Wing, Wiles, Crooks, Smith. Unused- Blackman, S MacDonald, Hirst.
Referee- D Bond