22 chances, the big miss and the late penalty ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Crewe Alexandra 1

22 chances, the big miss and the late penalty ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Crewe Alexandra 1

By Paul Davis | 26/09/2021

22 chances, the big miss and the late penalty ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Crewe Alexandra 1
Freddie Ladapo against Crewe. Pictures by Kerrie Beddows

THE contrasting faces of two old friends told the story.

Paul Warne and David Artell, Rotherham United teammates of the past, were rival bosses at AESSEAL New York Stadium and shook hands at the final whistle.

Crewe Alexandra manager Artell was all smiles and relief while the countenance of his Millers counterpart was grim, tense and as dark as the tracksuit he was wearing.

There had been 22 goal attempts for the home side, just three for the visitors. Yet the League One clash had ended 1-1 after a late penalty equaliser for The Alex and a red card for Rotherham spot-kick culprit Wes Harding.

"We just needed that second goal," Warne reflected four times in his post-match press conference.

"I'll have some whizz-kid on the way home tell me we need to do shooting practice on Monday. I won't beat myself thinking: 'We should have done this, we should have done that.'

"I thought we got everything spot on apart from not scoring again. We were just that one little bit of class away from a good win."

By the end of Saturday's proceedings, the Millers had climbed a place to fifth in the table. The result was a disappointment rather than a disaster but the team's failure to take enough of the multiple opportunities they are creating is hurting them and could take on added significance later in the campaign when the promotion picture becomes clearer.

This wasn't the first time in the early stages of the season they've needed calculators to keep up with their number of chances only to not come away with victory ... Fleetwood Town, Lincoln City, now Crewe.

Ollie Rathbone capped another man-of-the-match display with his first goal for the club and it should have been part of a winning cause.

The midfielder thought back to Fleetwood, to Lincoln. "Deja vu," he said.

THE MATCH

The North Stand rose in 88th-minute anticipation as Chiedozie Ogbene picked out substitute Freddie Ladapo unmarked at the back post and just six yards from the net. Surely, that second goal was finally here.

Ladapo met the ball on the half-volley and a disbelieving kop had to throw the ball back on to the pitch rather than celebrate a match-clinching strike.

A minute later, Crewe were level.

"It's highlighted because it is a very good chance and you do expect Freddie to score," Warne said. "But he wasn't the only one who missed a chance. We had a plethora of them.

"I'm a bit disappointed with our set-pieces. The delivery was unbelievable but the ball just did not drop to us on any first or second contacts. The fans leave feeling frustrated and all of us in the dressing room feel the same."

In the first half, Will Grigg twice fired wide from inviting positions and saw his header from a pinpoint Joe Mattock cross saved.

Ogbene blazed over when Ben Wiles' blistering left-flank dart and delivery had made it easier to score than miss, Michael Smith miscued in front of goal, Rathbone was just off target after a scampering run and Tolaji Bola headed too high to trouble goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen.

With Shane Ferguson on for Bola and firing in cross after cross and Harding replacing the injured Mattock, the traffic remained one way after the break.

Dan Barlaser's shot was saved and Smith headed wide before Rathbone, all awareness and acceleration, charged down Donervon Daniels' clearance, sped towards Jaaskelainen and swept the ball beyond the keeper's dive.

"I'm really pleased for Ollie. His work ethic is really good," Warne said. "We had many chances to get the second goal which I think might have opened the gate for even more."

Ollie Rathbone celebrates after opening his Millers account

The Millers manager and Artell go back to 2001 and that memorable promotion to the second tier under Ronnie Moore and he was preparing to catch up with his adversary as soon as his media duties were completed.

"We'll sit and have a drink together," he said. "It would have been a lot nicer had we won."

The calculator needed new batteries as Ramarni Edmonds-Green flashed a header wide, Wiles was inches over from outside the area and Ferguson's low shot was kept out by Jaaskelainen

However, 37-year-old sub Chris Porter had given Crewe's attack an edge it had previously lacked and, having forced a good save from Viktor Johansson in the 80th minute, he was on hand as the clock ticked down to ruin Rotherham's afternoon.

"I thought our play was really good. I wouldn't change how we played," Warne said. "While it stays at 1-0, though, you give the opposition the chance to throw the kitchen sink at you in the last ten minutes.

"We didn't get much wrong other than not scoring that second goal. Football isn't always fair. I can't ask for a lot more from the lads.

"We shouldn't have given a penalty away and we should have taken another of our chances at the other end. Then the lads would have gone back to the dressing room feeling amazing about themselves. As it is, they're devastated."

THE SPOT-KICK

Porter wheeled his ageing frame into the area in his bid to meet a cross and worked himself goalside of Harding.

The cross went nowhere but Harding had got hold of Porter's collar and now the referee got hold of his whistle and correctly blew for an infringement.

"I'm not disputing the penalty in any way," Warne said. "Wes definitely could have handled the situation better."

Harding has excelled for Rotherham as a right-back and right wing-back but has been at fault for three opposition goals while playing on the left of a three-man backline.

Porter sent Johansson the wrong way from the spot, Harding walked for a second yellow card and somehow Rotherham hadn't won.

"I need to reiterate the point that there is no such thing as an easy game," Warne said. "Every team come here and do everything they can to fight, to scrap, to slow the game down, to stay in the game."

With that, he was off to share his office and offer his hospitality to his opposite number.

Artell raised a glass to the great escape, Warne sipped from his on a day that felt like a defeat.

Rotherham (3-5-2): Viktor Johansson; Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Richard Wood, Joe Mattock (Wes Harding H-T); Chiedozie Ogbene, Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser, Ollie Rathbone, Tolaji Bola (Shane Ferguon H-T); Will Grigg (Freddie Ladapo 71), Michael Smith. Subs not used: Josh Vickers, Michael Ihiekwe, Jamie Lindsay, Kieran Sadlier.

Crewe (3-5-2): Will Jaaskelainen; Billy Sass-Davies, Donervon Daniels, Luke Offord; Kayne Ramsay, Luke Murphy, Scott Robertson, Callum Ainley (Josh Lundstram 45+2), Rio Adebisi; Scott Kashket (Chris Porter 57), Mikael Mandron. Subs not used: Dave Richards, Oli Finney, Callum McFadzean, Madger Gomes, Travis Johnson.

Goals: Rathbone 54 (Rotherham); Porter pen 89 (Crewe).

Referee: Sam Allison (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 8,747 (343).


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