150 for Paul Warne, 11 heroes, two goals for Matt Crooks and one colossus called Michael Smith .. the story of Ipswich Town 0 Rotherham United 2

150 for Paul Warne, 11 heroes, two goals for Matt Crooks and one colossus called Michael Smith .. the story of Ipswich Town 0 Rotherham United 2

By Paul Davis | 23/10/2019

150 for Paul Warne, 11 heroes, two goals for Matt Crooks and one colossus called Michael Smith .. the story of Ipswich Town 0 Rotherham United 2
The Millers take the lead against Ipswich. Picture by Jim Braildford

A NORWICH City fan winning at Ipswich Town ... this must have been how Paul Warne had dreamed his 150th match as manager of Rotherham United would go.

The Norfolk-born boss had around 20 Canaries-supporting family and friends at Portman Road where his Millers side took the fight to the League One pace-setters to inflict a first home defeat of the season on the Tractor Boys.

It was a fitting way for Warne to mark his milestone: an all-running, dogged, determined 100-per-center as a player, he watched his team of heroes produce a rousing performance in his own image.

It rained heavily in East Anglia and it rained Matt Crooks goals. One in each half on Wednesday from the midfielder lifted Rotherham to ninth in the table - only a point away from the play-off places and with a game in hand on some of the sides above them.

Warne's men have played top teams in their last four games and emerged triumphant three times. The Millers are on the move.

"It wasn't a bad way to bring up the 150," the boss grinned. "I can't ever remember a better away win in those 150 games.

"Having said that, I struggle to remember last week so there might have been one!

"I thought we were the more effective team, the more dangerous team. After losing against Oxford United last Saturday, this was a good test of character. All of the lads were brilliant.

"Football is like unscripted theatre. You can turn up and watch the worst game ever and leave hating all your team and thinking they're rubbish. Then you can come another night and they perform to their absolute best and you can leave as proud as punch.

"It's not like we beat a team that had been strung together and were down to ten men. It was a great performance against a really good team. We performed with real heart."

Goalkeeper Daniel Iversen saved the Millers after only three minutes, reacting superbly to keep out a fierce shot by Emyr Huws, but that was all he had to in a first half bossed by the visitors.

The main action was at the other end and Rotherham swept into the lead on 11 minutes when Crooks' hard, low shot from the edge of the penalty area was too much and too fast for Tomas Holy.

Soon after, Matt Olosunde came close to doubling the advantage, half-volleying just over at the back post as he was picked out by Joe Mattock's deep cross.

The effort was relentless from the Millers whose chasing, pressing and attacking shook and shocked Town.

Mattock produced another quality ball on the stroke of half-time and Michael Smith, stretching at the back post, headed over.

Warne's predecessor, Kenny Jackett won the solitary point of his 39-day Millers tenure in a 2-2 draw at Portman Road in October 2016.

This time in East Anglia, Rotherham were well on their way to all three with the second half only three minutes old when Crooks latched on to Wiles' pass and calmly beat Holy for the second time.

"We nullified Ipswich's threat and it was good to get a clean sheet," Warne said. "It didn't look like we were going to concede. Our delivery into the box was excellent today."

The manager used his Norwich-supporting father, Russell, who dies earlier this year, as inspiration for Rotherham's success against the Canaries' great rivals.

"Before we left the dressing room tonight, I asked everyone to write down who they were doing it for," Warne said. "I wrote my father's name down.

"I said to the lads afterwards: 'I know you're tired but this feeling is worth the pain, isn't it?' Winning football matches is beautiful.

"I don't really want to single out any player but Smithy was pretty colossal. He absolutely had them on toast. There were other outstanding performances but he is probably my favourite this evening."

The Millers played full-backs Matt Olosunde and Trevor Clarke, making his first league start for the club, as wingers and the decision paid off as both made major contributions.

"I went with Matt and Trev on the wings because I didn't think we'd been at our fluent best against Oxford," Warne said. "Away from home, out of possession, we had to be tight and organised.

"Matt has played on the wing for America. He always goes past people and he's got energy. Trev can play in an any position because he's just 'game'."

It was nearly 3-0 seven minutes after Crooks' second strike. Only a stunning save from Holy kept out Smith's header as Mattock delivered yet another quality cross from the left.

The striker, outwrestling the Town defence for the umpteenth occasion, shot wide on the hour mark as the Millers refuse to let their unremitting work rate drop.

Town tried to force their way back into the contest but met a wall of Millers resistance. Iversen did well to take the ball off the feet of Luke Garbutt and that was as close as the home side came to a comeback.

Rotherham regained the initiative and substitute Chiedozie Ogbene poked wide for as Smith crossed from the right before Michael Ihiekwe headed a 78th-minute corner against the post.

"I'd like to thank the 229 fans who supported us," Warne said. "Coming this far on a Wednesday night is some effort. I think about half of them were my family!"

He was also concerned about another family - the one attending the funeral in Maltby earlier in the day of 16-year-old Millers follower Charlie Hunter who passed away this month.

"To the poor people who lost Charlie ... I thought about them and her today," he said. "I wanted to send a video message from me and the lads but nothing seemed apt. Life is precious. It's a joy to manage this group."

Ipswich had begun the game as the division's leaders but had no answer to Rotherham's fire and resolve.

Musician Ed Sheeran is from these parts and is a big Town fan. There were posters advertising the Sheeran Trail outside Portman Road while some of his songs were played before kick-off.

The Millers players must have been listening because, on a glorious, memorable night, they were The A Team.

Ipswich (4-4-2): Tomas Holy; Kane Vincent-Young, Luke Chambers, James Wilson, Luke Garbutt; Danny Rowe (Gwion Edwards 68), Cole Skuse, Jon Nolan, Emyr Huws (Anthony Georgiou 59); Will Keane (James Norwood 68), Kayden Jackson. Subs not used: Will Norris, Alan Judge, Flynn Downes, Luke Woolfenden.

Rotherham (4-4-1-1): Dan Iversen; Billy Jones, Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Joe Mattock; Matt Olosunde (Carlton Morris 84), Ben Wiles, Jamie Lindsay, Trevor Clarke (Chiedozie Ogbene 69); Matt Crooks (Dan Barlaser 79); Michael Smith. Subs not used: Lewis Price, Julien Lamy, Jake Hastie, Freddie Ladapo.

Goals: Crooks 11, 48 (Rotherham).

Referee: John Busby (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 20,550 (229).