Impressive Millers, the red card and how abject officiating took the gloss of a thrilling FA Cup tie ... the story of Rotherham United 2 Hull City 3

Impressive Millers, the red card and how abject officiating took the gloss of a thrilling FA Cup tie ... the story of Rotherham United 2 Hull City 3

By Paul Davis | 05/01/2020

Impressive Millers, the red card and how abject officiating took the gloss of a thrilling FA Cup tie ... the story of Rotherham United 2 Hull City 3
Adam Thompson is sent off. Pictures by Steve Mettam

TEN-MAN Rotherham United had gone toe to toe with opposition from a higher division and given them a real scare so why was there so much anger in the air?

The League One Millers had scored two superb goals and been beaten by Hull City in the FA Cup only in stoppage time so why were the boos ringing out at AESSEAL New York Stadium?

Referee Anthony Backhouse, that's why.

The inept Cumbrian official and his equally-poor assistants blighted this third-round tie.

Backhouse was right to send off Millers right-back Adam Thompson midway through the first half on Saturday but elsewhere he was getting it horribly wrong.

Hull's second goal should have been ruled out for offside and obstruction.

The Tigers' winner, so cruel on a team who had battled so hard for more than an hour while a man down, should have been disallowed for a ball out of play and offside during its build-up and a foul during its completion.

So, instead of talking about Rotherham's firepower and resilience, instead of focusing on the triple second-half substitution that swung the contest in the visitors' favour, we're back talking once more about sub-standard officiating.

Captain Richard Wood had something to say and so too did his fellow centre-half, Michael Ihiekwe.

Both made their feelings known to Backhouse while he and his helpers were waiting after the final whistle to exit the pitch and endure the cacophony of New York disapproval they knew was coming their way.

"My overall is feeling is ... not that we've been robbed; that's probably not fair ... that we've been unfortunate to be on the wrong end of a couple of decisions which I believe were wrong," said Paul Warne, manager of the Millers and contender for a second career in the Diplomatic Service.

"There were loads of times where we got the ball back and then a foul was given straightaway.

"There were loads of niggly fouls going on and the issue wasn't being addressed. We wanted to get the ball and counter-attack quickly and we were stopped from doing that. I was frustrated with that and frustrated with a lot of things."

Kyle Vassell, scorer of Rotherham's stunning second goal, took the 'r' word and used it in a different way: "We got robbed a little bit by the officials."


Thompson flew recklessly into Keane Lewis-Potter by the West Stand touchline about level with the edge of the 18-yard box.

After a protracted delay that involved Hull players surrounding the ref and the Tigers bench off their feet he received a straight red card.

"Thommo is a great lad. He's not a nasty player," Warne said. "However, I had no complaint with the sending-off. If the ref thinks it's a sending-off from where he is then he's entitled to give it.

Hull boss Grant McCann agreed with his Millers counterpart about the type of player the 26-year-old is but added: "It was a shocking tackle. It could have broken Keane's leg."

The flashpoint came in the 24th minute, by which time the visitors had taken the lead through Tom Eaves' low, swept finish and the home side had equalised via Michael Smith's neat turn and emphatic 12-yard drive.

With midfielder Ben Wiles pushed into emergency service at right-back and Vassell moved from a central striking role to the left wing in a 4-4-1 formation, Rotherham forgot they were a man light and took the lead minutes before the break.

Michael Smith scores

Matt Olosunde sent a throw-in the direction of Vassell, the attacker allowed the ball to run across his body and suddenly the ball was nestling in the far top corner following a thundering, flashing 20-yard volley.

"Matty's thrown one to me earlier and I've realised their player has not got that tight to me," the scorer said. "This time, I thought I'm going to suck him in, let the ball go over my shoulder and then hit it. Post and in, I'll take that!"

Hull's three muskateers, Jarrod Bowen, Kamil Grosicki and Jackson Irvine, entered the fray together around the hour mark and within five minutes the visitors were level.

Kyle Vassell scored a wonder-goal

Now it was the Rotherham bench's turn to rage as Eaves' header from a Grosicki cross that wasn't cleared far enough by Ihiekwe was allowed to stand.

Eaves' head did terminal damage in the 92nd minute after a number of incidents missed or ignored by Backhouse and assistant Natalie Aspinall.

What the Millers lacked in numbers they made up for in spirit and they came agonisingly close to making it 3-3 when Reece Burke diverted a cross against the frame of his own net.

"The second goal was offside and there was a foul on the last one," Vassell said. "It's tough but we can be proud of ourselves for what we did.

"I thought that for large spells we were the better team. The momentum changed through some decisions from the officials."

Warne said:  "I really enjoyed the match apart from the first ten minutes. I didn't think we were very good then. We didn't move the ball quickly enough and we showed Hull too much respect.

"After that, we were excellent. We worked really hard and created some really good chances. To play for more than an hour with ten men is never easy.

"For Hull to nick it so late on is a killer blow for my team. The lads are absolutely devastated. Their performance and their effort today didn't deserve a defeat."

Maybe Burke's late let-off was a blessing in disguise as the last thing Rotherham needed was a replay. The league matters much more and they can return to their promotion campaign with pride and momentum intact.


Hull goal two: Ryan Tafazolli was offside as the ball was played towards him and the Hull player, as he came back onside, then prevented Olosunde getting out to Grosicki whose cross led to Eaves scoring. Backhouse consulted with Aspinall and his ear-piece for a long time on the touchline before confirming the goal was good.

Hull goal three: The ball went out of play and Aspinall didn't flag. Moments later, Tigers players were offside when it was played into the box and Wiles conceded a corner. Tafazolli pushed over Olosunde as he headed the flag-kick back across goal for Eaves who completed his treble.

There was also a second-half incident when Hull goalkeeper Matt Ingram clearly handled the ball outside his area and escaped sanction.

"The second goal, I think their player has definitely come back from an offside position and definitely blocked Matt Olosunde," Warne complained.  "I cannot see how that isn't an advantage for them. That is a massive turning point in the game.

"I reckon the ref believes there is something amiss and is on the edge of changing his decision but he has to go with that he's told by his people. I wasn't best pleased about it, as you could see from my reaction at the time."

Eaves was the hat-trick hero yet still wasn't the main reason his team edged a pulsating, end-to-end clash.

After Wood and Ihiekwe, coach Matt Hamshaw became the next Miller to vent his displeasure at the end, stopping just before he went down the tunnel and turning to deliver his verdict to Backhouse's face,

Warne had the very last word: "It was like we were waiting for VAR to give us a decision on the second goal."

Ah yes, VAR. Very Awful Refereeing.

Rotherham (4-4-2): Dan Iversen; Adam Thompson, Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Matt Olosunde; Chiedozie Ogbene (Freddie Ladapo 79), Dan Barlaser, Matt Crooks, Ben Wiles; Kyle Vassell (Jamie Lindsay 70), Michael Smith (Carlton Morris 90+1). Subs not used: Lewis Price, Trevor Clarke, Julien Lamy, Jake Hastie.

Hull City (4-3-3): Matt Ingram; Robbie McKenzie, Reece Burke, Ryan Tafazolli, Brandon Fleming (Jarrod Bowen 61); Leonardo Da Silva Lopes, Dan Batty (Jackson Irvine 61), Herbie Kane; Josh Bowler (Kamil Grosicki 61), Tom Eaves, Keane Lewis-Potter. Subs not used: George Long, Eric Lichaj, Sean McLoughlin, George Honeyman.

Goals: Smith 21, Vassell 43 (Rotherham); Eaves 16, 66, 90+2 (Hull).

Red card: Thompson 24 (Rotherham).

Referee: Anthony Backhouse (Cumbria).

Attendance: 6,044 (1,803).

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