Another ref, another injustice and is there a conspiracy against the Millers? The story of Barnsley 1 Rotherham United 0

Another ref, another injustice and is there a conspiracy against the Millers? The story of Barnsley 1 Rotherham United 0

By Paul Davis | 25/04/2021

Another ref, another injustice and is there a conspiracy against the Millers? The story of Barnsley 1 Rotherham United 0
No foul. Pictures by Jim Brailsford

 

THE goalkeeper lay crumpled on the turf for more than five minutes while medical staff administered treatment.

When Viktor Johansson finally rose, groggy, unsteady on his feet, his left eye was swollen, bruised, almost closed.

But it wasn't a foul.

The Viking had been laid out by Carlton Morris's elbow as both players went for a ball in the air. There was no spite in the challenge of the Barnsley striker and former Rotherham United loanee yet the Millers man had felt the full weight of his opponent's raised arm.

But it wasn't a foul, it was a goal. Morris's 81st-second header was allowed to stand and Johansson would play no further part in a South Yorkshire derby vital to the visitors' hopes of Championship survival.

The keeper was having trouble focusing as he was helped off the Oakwell pitch but his sight was still better than that of referee Gavin Ward.

"I have seen it again. And I’ve seen my goalkeeper’s face," said Rotherham manager Paul Warne, a boss normally loathe to criticise officialdom but driven by events of the last few days to suspect a plot against his club higher up the food chain.

Viktor Johansson after the game

"I've spoken to Carlton, who I like, and even he said he was waiting for a foul to be given. I don’t know anyone who didn’t think it was a foul."

There are enough things conspiring against the Millers this season - injuries, Covid outbreaks, a packed run-in of 12 matches in 37 days - without the refs joining in.

The Millers were playing without key midfielder Matt Crooks, watching from the iFollow commentary box as he began a three-match ban following Darren Bond's wrong decision to send him off for a head clash against Middlesbrough and the FA's rush to protect one of their own by rejecting the appeal.

Warne said: "Viktor’s not a shrinking violet - anything but. For him to go off with an elbow in the second minute and that’s how we’ve lost the game, it stinks massively.

"That decision in the second minute reaffirms my belief that everyone seems to want us down."

THE MATCH

Ward had shaped to blow for an infringement and then changed his mind.

"I have watched it back and he puts his whistle to his mouth," Warne said. "If he thinks it’s a goal, I don’t know what more to say. Everyone who has been involved in football post 1980s would think that would be disallowed."

To their credit, Rotherham, going for broke with a 3-4-3 formation that included flying winger Chiedozie Ogbene in the frontline, responded to Saturday's early setback by giving the play-off-chasing home side a huge scare.

Only that old problem of failing to convert chances prevented them winning and moving to within a point of fourth-bottom Derby County with two matches in hand and four left to play.

"There can't be many games where we have had more attacks on goal, more clear-cut chances than in this one," Warne said. "It is not very often the opposition manager says, as he has done today, that my team should have won.

"I can't knock the lads' effort. We had enough chances to score. We played with ten men for 70 minutes a few days ago, we are playing virtually a quarter of a season in a month and the lads are still prepared to put that much effort in. That's how much they want to stay up."

Johansson had excelled himself by tipping over Cauley Woodrow's shot into the ground after only 33 seconds but replacement Jamal Blackman never had a save to make.

The Viking receives treatment while referee Gavin Ward disagrees with Jamie Lindsay that he should have blown for a foul

Ogbene's 18-yard effort was too close to keeper Brad Collins, Michael Smith took too long to get his shot away from Freddie Ladapo's feed and, as the interval approached, Ladapo lost his footing at the crucial moment when he was through on goal.

Johansson was back on the grass at the end of the match, his eye growing redder and more sore

But nowhere near as sore as his manager.

"I was disappointed all day," Warne said. "A lot of things have gone on. We should have come away with three points, I don't even think a draw would have been fair on us.

"My lads put an unbelievable shift in against a team no-one wants to play against because they outrun and outfight other sides and are at the top in pressing. We were the better side in virtually every department. We left it one-v-one on the pitch and there weren't many we lost."

Within five minutes of the restart Ogbene had burst into the box and ridden what appeared to be a foul to test Collins and Ladapo had conjured up a bloopers-reel contender, connecting only with fresh air when Smith had set him up with an empty net inside the six-yard box.

The Millers were relieved to see Daryl Dike's 77th-minute effort get a touch off Richard Wood and bobble wide but were quickly back on the attack and Smith headed wide from Harding's cross. It wasn't Ladapo-esque but he should have scored.

With two minutes to go, Ogbene thought he'd earned a priceless point but his shot from close in was beaten away by Collins and Rotherham's hopes were over when George Hirst's stoppage-time attempt was deflected wide.

"Chieo could have had a penalty if he'd been less honest and gone down but he stayed on his feet," Warne said. "That would have been a sending-off and 1-1.

"We had chances. The Chieo one was the biggest, I thought. Smudge's header, Freddie at the far post ...

"We have to be more clinical, we know that. Our staff can't work any harder to prepare the lads. I hope Rotherham fans know how hard we are working to try to survive. That performance today may have typified our season so far: there’s a lot of effort but we can’t hit the goals."

THE INJUSTICE

The boss answered media questions on the touchline carrying a bulging back-pack and the weight of the world on his shoulders.

The season is on the line and no-one is helping the Millers. Not even themselves, to be honest.

Too many opportunities have been squandered in an eight-game run since the international break that has brought only four goals and four points when a point per fixture was the least of their safety ambitions.

Angry Paul Warne on the pitch at the end

Warne, still a twinkle in his dad's eye when Rotherham last won in Barnsley, in 1971, kept coming back to the same critical issues.

"I think everybody has the same opinion as me that it's a foul but the only one that counts is the referee’s," he said.

"I have had a player sent off for less than that recently and he is having to serve a three-match ban.

"My keeper has to leave the pitch after two minutes and it looks like he has got a broken eye socket. I am not saying there was any malice from the player at all. I have spoken to Carlton and he said he thought the referee was going to blow straightaway.

"We did have 94 more minutes to get ourselves back in the game, so I cannot hang my hat on that. I thought we did everything to win the game, apart from score. We just have not taken the chances."

Boss and staff tried to speak to Ward afterwards but the referee was having none of it.

It just added to the sense of burning frustration.

Warne had stood in his technical area, urging on his side, railing against the ref, bridling against the injustice on a grander scale that could cost his team their place in the division.

There was hidden meaning but a visible implication in his words:

"Come on, you're fighting the f*cking world."

Goals: Morris 2 (Barnsley).

Barnsley (3-4-3): Brad Collins; Mads Andersen, Michal Helik, Michael Solbauer (Toby Sibbick 51); Callum Brittain, Aapo Halme, Alex Mowatt, Callum Styles (Jordan Williams H-T); Daryl Dike, Cauley Woodrow, Carlton Morris (Victor Adeboyejo 90). Subs not used: Jack Walton, Conor Chaplin, Romal Palmer, Clarke Oduor, Jasper Moon, Cameron Thompson.

Rotherham (3-4-3): Viktor Johansson (Jamal Blackman 7); Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood (Wes Harding 79), Angus MacDonald; Lewis Wing, Shaun MacDonald (Ben Wiles 79), Jamie Lindsay (Florian Jozefzoon 79), Ryan Giles; Chiedozie Ogbene, Freddie Ladapo (George Hirst 58), Michael Smith. Subs not used: Joe Mattock. Trevor Clarke, Dan Barlaser, Kieran Sadlier.

Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey).


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