Wiles at the double......
Rotherham United passed the toughest of examinations at the University of Bolton Stadium to record an eye-catching victory over an in-form Bolton Wanderers.
Rawmarsh-born midfielder Ben Wiles was Rotherham’s head boy with a well-taken first-half brace and despite an odd scare of two at the other end, Rotherham came through their test with great distinction, to breathe new life into Sky Bet League One campaign.
Following their draw with Lincoln City in midweek, Millers boss Paul Warne made three changes to his starting line-up for the trip over the Pennines.
Club skipper Richard Wood returned to the heart of the Rotherham rearguard, in a back three alongside Rarmani Edmonds-Green and Joe Mattock, who plied his trade on the left-hand side of the trio.
Wiles was recalled to the midfield five, at the expense of Jamie Lindsay, while Tolaji Bola and Chiedozie Ogbene lined up in the wing-back roles.
Sunderland loanee Will Grigg made his first league start in Millers colours alongside in-form Michael Smith, in a front pairing.
The home side had the better of the early exchanges and both Antoni Sarcevic and Dapo Afolayan had shots blocked in the box before George Johnston headed over from Josh Sheehan’s corner, just seconds later.
Wood found himself in hot water, early in the game, by unceremoniously hauling down Lloyd Isgrove in full flow, to earn a yellow-card.
In their first foray of note, the Millers missed a good opportunity to break the deadlock when Oliver Rathbone’s slide-rule ball put Ogbene in the clear, and the Republic of Ireland winger saw his centre deflect into the path of Wiles, but the midfielder inexplicably failed to hit the target with his weaker left-foot, despite being in an inviting position, in front of goal.
Both teams traded chances when Afolayan’s dangerous centre was cleared by a well-stationed Mattock before Rathbone made something out of nothing, to fire a left-footed effort which forced home ‘keeper Joel Dixon into a smart save, at the other end.
Rathbone then had to show his defensive qualities by preventing Sheehan from shooting goalwards, from the edge of the box, before Ricardo Almeida Santos became the next to threaten the visitors goal with a towering header from a corner, but his effort flew narrowly wide.
Rotherham were arguably second best, in the opening quarter hour, but they took the game by the scruff of the neck, by scoring twice in three minutes, and stun the home faithful in the process.
For the opening goal, Smith held off his marker in the box and Ogbene planted a ball into the danger area, and in almost a carbon copy of his earlier miss, but with a different result, this time, Wiles got the ball from under his feet, before striking a fierce, rising effort, which beat the desperate dive of Dixon to find the roof of the home net.
The Millers midfielder was enjoying a rollercoaster of emotions, but his afternoon got considerably better, just minutes later.
Rotherham forced a corner, following a swift-counter attack and Dan Barlaser caressed a centre into the box and Wiles rose highest to plant a downward header which skimmed off the home surface, to evade the attentions of Dixon and bounce over a Bolton defender on the line, who was marshalling the back post.
The large, vocal Millers travelling contingent were now in full voice, but to their credit, the Lancastrians responded strongly to the double blow, and after Sarcevic was denied, Eoin Doyle looked set to halve the arrears when he bared down on goal following a clever reverse ball which split open the Rotherham defence, but the experienced striker smashed his low effort against the woodwork when it looked easier to score.
Minutes later, Gethin Jones failed make of an opening when he latched onto Afolayan’s smart lay-off, but his tame effort was straight down the throat of Viktor Johansson.
There were chances a plenty at both ends and Rotherham, and that man, Wiles almost came close to a third goal, when Grigg turned architect with a smart run and dinked cross which was inches away from the head of the 22-year-old, who had the goal at his mercy, before the ball in avertedly struck a hapless Johnston, and the ball dribbled just inches wide of the home goal.
Johnston was in the thick of the action, and had the ball in the right net, just shy of half-time, when he leapt smartly from Sheehan’s cross, to power a header home, but any home joy was soon curtailed by a flag from the assistant referee.
Half-time: Bolton Wanderers 0 Rotherham United 2
Despite the flattering nature of the half-time score line, Rotherham may have be too open in parts for Warne’s liking – and Wes Harding was drafted into the right wing-back berth.
Bolton started positively at the start of the second period, and Isgrove drilled a low effort which brought the best out of Johansson before Afolayan volleyed over from the resultant corner.
Mattock was deservedly yellow-carded for bringing down Doyle, just outside the box, and Sheehan almost exacted retribution from the free-kick, but his dipping effort narrowly cleared the visitors’ crossbar.
The Millers appeared to have taken the sting out of Bolton’s early second half charge, and they came within a coat of paint, of a third, and possibly match winning goal.
Grigg showed his class with some measured build-up play, and Wiles turned provider with a smart through ball and Smith had ghosted away from his nearest marker, to drill a low effort which smashed against the foot of the post, before the ball rolled tantalisingly to safety.
Bolton’s frustration boiled over when Afolayan was cautioned for dissent before the Millers had a scare when Johnston headed wide after Sheehan’s deflected effort had fallen into his path.
Harding was cautioned for an accumulation of fouls on a lively Afolayan before Smith blazed over, just moments, after Wood had embarked on an uncharacteristic run down the left flank.
The Millers were looking a tougher nut to crack, at this stage, and sub Kieran Sadlier failed to make the most of a swift-counter attack, following good work from Wiles, although Santos may have handled in the box when grounded, before Bolton scrambled the ball clear.
Warne’s side withstood seven minutes of stoppage time to come out on top in the Roses clash, and leave the travelling hordes in jubilant mood, at the final whistle.
Full-time: Bolton Wanderers 0 Rotherham United 2
Bolton Wanderers 0
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- Bolton- Dixon, Jones, Williams, Almeida Santos, Johnston, Sheehan (Lee 71), Doyle, Sarcevic (Kachunga 76), Afolayan, Isgrove, Gordon. Unused- Gilks, Delfouneso, Aimson, Thomason, Baptiste.
Rotherham- Johansson, Mattock, Barlaser (Lindsay 60), Wood, Wiles, Grigg (Sadlier 77), Ogbene (Harding 46), Bola, Rathbone, Edmonds-Green, Smith. Unused- Vickers, Kayode, Ihiekwe, Odoffin.
Referee- J Bell