Freddie on fire but Pompey put out Millers flames ... the story of Portsmouth 3 Rotherham United 2

By Paul Davis | 26/11/2019

Freddie on fire but Pompey put out Millers flames ... the story of Portsmouth 3 Rotherham United 2
Millers action at Portsmouth. Picture by Jim Brailsford

THREE months after they were first due to do battle, Rotherham United finally came face to face with former boss Kenny Jackett.

Jackett lasted just 39 days in South Yorkshire in 2016 before eventually taking the hot-seat at Portsmouth, the Millers' long-haul League One destination tonight.

The gap between the original and rearranged date was much longer than the Pompey manager's fleeting stay at AESSEAL New York Stadium.

The fixture was originally planned for a late-August Saturday but a festival on the south coast on the same day led to a postponement and a five-hour midweek trek for Paul Warne's team.

Sadly, there was no festival feeling as Rotherham suffered only their third away defeat in the league this season, going down 3-2 in a thrilling encounter high on chances and adrenaline.

Freddie Ladapo scored twice in a sterling team effort to take his tally to four goals in the last two games but his efforts were to be in vain against a resurgent Portsmouth outfit who have lost only once in their last 12 outings.

The Millers played the final part of the match with only ten men as they had made all their substitutions only for Billy Jones to be forced off by injury.

"It was a really good game," said Warne. "Both teams were going for it. It could have finished 6-6.

"It was a monumental effort from the lads. They gave me everything. You don't get what you deserve sometimes.

"I'd been positive and made a double substitution then Billy pulls his hamstring so we we're a man down. Clark Robertson was in agony with his groin as well so we played the last ten minutes with virtually nine men."

Despite the loss, Rotherham remain in fourth place.

They were behind after only 33 seconds when their old boy, Ryan Williams, spread play to Portsmouth's left and Ronan Curtis cut inside to send a stunning shot curling into the far corner from the edge of the box.

The Millers recovered well and Kyle Vassell's effort on the turn tested home goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray on six minutes before Ben Wiles shot over from distance.

Vassell was one of three changes to the side that had won at MK Dons three days earlier, starting up front with Ladapo in place of Michael Smith and Matt Crooks while Trevor Clarke came in on the left flank for Jake Hastie.

The two frontmen had combined off the bench for two goals at MK Dons and they were at it again at Fratton Park on the quarter-hour mark as a low free-kick shot from Vassell was spilled by MacGillivray straight on to the feet of the lurking Ladapo who duly struck for the eighth time this season.

After Clarke had headed over, Ladapo should have scored his second of the evening but MacGillivray was equal to the 26th-minute shot when the Rotherham man was clean through on the left.

Ladapo was the man Portsmouth wanted but the one the Millers got. Pompey thought a deal to take him from Plymouth Argyle in the summer was in the bag but a week later he chose Rotherham.

The home team paid big money for John Marquis instead and it was Marquis who restored their lead on 36 minutes, nodding home after Ellis Harrison had headed the ball into his path.

Carlton Morris headed wide for the visitors just before the break but his miss was nothing like as bad as Marquis's soon after at the other end.

Portsmouth is the United Kingdom's most densely-populated city and the Millers' box was the UK's least-populated penalty area as the striker, with all the net to aim at, sent a tame header straight into Dan Iversen's grateful hands.

"I thought we were the stronger in the first half and could have been in front at the break," Warne added. "It's disappointing to lose. It's a long way to come. We took the game to them even with ten men.

"It sounds stupid but I leave here feeling quite happy."

The goals kept coming after the break and Ladapo, just after shooting over, scored his fourth goal in two games by converting from the spot.

He'd missed a penalty at MK but this time he coolly sent the keeper the wrong way following Morris's tumble in the box.

Parity in an exciting contest was to last only four minutes, however, as Ben Close volleyed into the bottom corner for Pompey, and Iversen then kept the Millers in the game with a sharp stop from Curtis.

Both sides could have scored again in the closing stages, with Millers sub Jamie Lindsay seeing a shot deflected agonisingly wide and Marcus Harness flashing a shot narrowly off target.

"Freddie was a constant thorn," Warne said. "It wasn't a hard decision to keep the same team that finished the win last weekend. I thought Freddie's movement would cause their big centre-halves problems and it did."

Just over 200 hardy Rotherham fans made the trip on a night when the boss felt too many refereeing decisions went the way of Portsmouth

"Fair play to the 200 or so," he added. "To come here is some effort. But when it's 200 in a crowd of 16,000 you don't always get what you should from the officials."

Warne and Jackett exchanged cordial handshakes at the end of a gripping confrontation. The pair got on well in their brief time together and there is no rancour between the two.

It was the first time in three attempts that Jackett had taken points off his old club.

His successor, Warne, will wish the match had been played earlier in the season when Pompey were stuttering rather than now when they are mounting a top-six push of their own.

Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): Craig MacGillivray; Brandon Haunstrup, Oli Hawkins, Christian Burgess, Lee Brown; Anton Walkes, Ben Close; Ryan Williams (Marcus Harness 78), John Marquis, Ronan Curtis; Ellis Harrison. Subs not used: Alex Bass, James Bolton, Paul Downing, Andy Cannon, Gareth Evans, Brett Pitman.

Rotherham (4-4-1-1): Dan Iversen; Matt Olosunde (Chiedozie Ogbene H-T), Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson, Billy Jones; Carlton Morris, Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser (Jamie Lindsay 73), Trevor Clarke; Kyle Vassell (Matt Crooks 73); Freddie Ladapo. Subs not used: Lewis Price, Adam Thompson, Jake Hastie, Michael Smith.

Goals: Curtis 1, Marquis 36, Close 66 (Portsmouth); Ladapo 15, 62 pen (Rotherham).

Referee: Antony Coggins (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 16,355 (204).


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