HE’D scored a stunner but he knew he’d been upstaged.
Wigan Athletic’s Stephen Humphrys sought out Rotherham United’s Ollie Rathbone after League One’s top two sides had shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at AESSEAL New York Stadium last Friday.
The pair are old pals from their days at Rochdale together and at final whistle the Latics man was keen to catch up with the Millers midfielder who had bagged an even better goal.
“Yeah, he mentioned it,” grinned Rathbone whose form since his summer arrival has been a big factor in Paul Warne’s side being in pole position.
“I know Stephen really well. He’s very good at finishing with both feet. It was a really clean hit. Josh (Vickers) had no chance.”
Humphrys, the subject of a Rotherham bid before his move to the DW Stadium in the close season, had whipped the ball into the net from just outside the box to fire the visitors into a first-half lead.
Rathbone was several yards further out when he took Chiedozie Ogbene’s pass and rifled in an even more spectacular effort 15 minutes from time.
“It was nice play from Chieo,” the 25-year-old said. “He is so good he attracts so many players to the ball. “He was being crowded out but he got his head up and saw me in loads of space.
“Then I had a decision to make: whether to go out wide or shoot. My first instinct was to put the ball on to my left where there might have been a bit more space but then I thought: ‘I’m going to have a go with my right foot.’ As soon as it left my boot I knew it was in.”
Both goals lit up a compelling night-time encounter during which each side underlined their promotion credentials.
Wigan shaded the opening 45 minutes while the Millers dominated after the break.
“They were really strong throughout their team and when they made substitutions they were bringing on really dangerous players up front,” Rathbone said.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful, but I think they were pretty happy with a point. Towards the end, after we got the goal, there was no real impetus from them to go and get another.
“I think we outplayed them for large parts of the game and can take confidence from that. Against the second-place side, we really showed our quality.”
Rathbone is in no doubt where Friday’s firecracker ranks in his 200-plus-game, 14-goal career: “It’s the best I’ve scored by a mile; for the quality of the strike and the size of the occasion.”
Humphrys’ team had drawn but the Wigan forward acknowledged he had lost.
“Thanks,” he said to his mate as they embraced at the end. “You’ve stolen my headlines there.”
NEW York Stadium erupted when Ollie Rathbone’s shot flew into the net and no-one celebrated more animatedly than Rotherham United striker Michael Smith.
It prompted speculation among fans that the 21-goal hot-shot was making out he’d got a touch on the ball and that the goal was actually his.
Rathbone cleared up the confusion: “Smudge said to me: ‘People are saying I’m trying to claim it but I’m not. I was just really happy for you!’”