THE game hadn't even kicked off and already the mistakes were mounting up.
This was a sombre occasion, a February day when the Rotherham United faithful drew together against the winter cold to say goodbye to one of the biggest, best-loved characters in the club's history.
The announcer at AESSEAL New York Stadium had yet to finish speaking in the build-up to a minute's applause for Millers record-appearance-maker Danny Williams when referee Oliver Langford blew for it to begin.
Then the tribute to the former player and manager, who died at the age of 94 last week, seemed short of 60 seconds when Langford blew for it to end.
After that, the official just kept on blowing.
He was awful for both sides, allowing the contest no ebb or flow, but Rotherham bore the brunt of his ineptitude as two second-half shouts for penalties - one loud, one beyond deafening - went unanswered.
Paul Warne, who rarely mentions referees in his post-match press conferences, was obviously uncomfortable talking about Langford's performance.
Drawing in his breath with a grimace, the Millers manager said: "I hate criticising the official. It felt a little bit like a basketball game, like a no-contact game. I think both management teams were disappointed with certain things."
Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook, fair and funny throughout his summary of the Championship clash, thought the home side deserved to "nick it", but a draw was about right and the fourth-from-bottom Millers missed a big chance to gain ground on the teams around them in the scrap for survival.
"Looking at the fixtures today - and I’ve shown the lads this through the week - this was a perfect opportunity for us," Warne acknowledged.
"If we’d won, we could have got closer to Millwall, could have got a bit further away from Reading and could have pulled Wigan back into it."
The applause for Williams, by the way, was rousing and heartwarming from both sets of fans.
That man will live forever in Millers memories.
Another had an afternoon everyone wishes they could forget.
And Smith must score ...
With the score at 1-1 and with the interval approaching, Anthony Forde crossed deep to the back post and Richard Wood produced the perfect header back across goal.
Michael Smith, who has been magnificent for most of the season, volleyed from six yards out and only he will know how the the ball ended up in Row F and not the net.
"It’s a different game if we go in at half-time 2-1 up," Warne lamented. "People don’t go out to miss chances. There is no criticism of individuals. Collectively, we need to take chances to win football games."
Rotherham's direct approach caused the Latics problems in their own penalty area and Warne's men deserved their 28th-minute lead when Will Vaulks' pinpoint cross with his 'wrong' left foot was despatched with an equally-pinpoint headed finish from Clark Robertson.
Wigan were level within four minutes as Josh Windass, a class act all game, whipped an emphatic shot across and past Marek Rodak from a less-than-easy angle.
Warne believed it was written somewhere that his side would go on and clinch victory.
Paul Warne with Danny Williams' wife and son during the minute's applause
"I’m a bit of a fatalist," he said. "There was the Danny Williams tribute. I spoke to his wife and his son before the game. I just thought it would be fitting for the lads to win in memory of him."
But Smith's header soon after his miss of the game brought a flying save from Jamie Jones and the striker's 63rd-minute header cleared off the line by Kal Naismith.
Then Langford shook his head when Robertson fell under Leon Clarke's challenge seven minutes later and when Wood was floored by the 81st-minute shirt-tugging clutches of Chey Dunkley who dragged the Rotherham centre-half to the ground as the pair of them battled aerially at a set-piece.
After Wigan had finished the game the stronger of the two sides, Warne was still picking his words carefully: "The ref has to give what he sees. I wouldn’t say I was really happy with his performance.
"Our keeper didn’t have a great deal to do. Our first-half performance was enough to win the game but it wasn’t to be."
SPOT OF BOTHER
Two big men hit the deck, two big men who don't hit the deck for nothing.
The irony was grim that the official who blew too much didn't blow at all when maybe he needed to most.
Actually, he did blow in the more clear-cut case of the spot-kicks that never were, deciding that the infringement was Wood's and not Dunkley's.
Warne, having enjoyed the advantage of seeing video clips of both incidents, said: "The Robbo one, Clarkey just catches his achilles with his boot and then, intentionally or not, cracks him in the face. That’s why Robbo went down. Centre-halves don’t normally dive.
"Woody is definitely not a diver, as anyone in this room knows. Woody has had his shirt pulled. I don’t know how the referee can give the decision against Woody. For what? Putting his shirt in an opponent’s hand?
Richard Wood has his shirt tugged before being pulled to the ground
"If the ref doesn’t think it’s a foul, fair enough. But it can’t be a foul the other way."
So, another game, another weekend, passed with Rotherham still above the drop zone.
"I give credit to Wigan for the way they played in the last 15 minutes," said Warne. "Windass was causing problems running in behind.
"I fancied us from a throw-in or a corner. I’ll take a point. We’re out of the bottom three in February and the lads are doing great things. But we need to turn draws into wins."
Warne had a date at Sheffield Steeldogs ice hockey on Saturday night. Before that, he had one other pressing appointment.
"Hopefully he will be courteous and honest and let me know. I could have it wrong, but I’ve had the benefit of watching it back," the boss said.
With that, he headed for the referee's room.
Rotherham (4-1-4-1): Marek Rodak; Billy Jones, Richard Wood, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Semi Ajayi; Jon Taylor, Will Vaulks, Matt Crooks, Anthony Forde; Michael Smith. Unused: Lewis Price, Zak Vyner, Michael Ihiekwe, Ben Wiles, Jerry Yates.
Subs: Joe Newell (for Jon Taylor, 69 minutes), Richie Towell (for Crooks, 79).
Wigan (4-2-3-1): Jamie Jones; Nathan Byrne, Chey Dunkley, Danny Fox, Kal Naismith; Reece James, Beni Baningime; Anthony Pilkington, Josh Windass, Michael Jacobs; Leon Clarke. Unused: Christian Walton, Callum McManaman, Nick Powell, Jonas Olsson, Joe Garner.
Subs: Cedric Kipre (for Fox, 25), Gavin Massey (for Jacobs, 90+2).
Goals: Robertson 28 (Rotherham); Windass 32 (Wigan).
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands).
Attendance: 9,611 (1,243).
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