Last-gasp uproar, a performance to forget and a debut to remember ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Tranmere Rovers 1

By Paul Davis | 01/09/2019

Last-gasp uproar, a performance to forget and a debut to remember ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Tranmere Rovers 1
Ben Wiles scores. Pictures by Dave Poucher

MATT Hamshaw headed seethingly straight for the referee.

A more amiable man than the Rotherham United coach you could not wish to meet, but his face was twisted in fury as he confronted Andy Haines.

Hamshaw vented his finger-jabbing disgust on the Tyne & Wear official who was stood in the centre circle at AESSEAL New York Stadium, flanked by his assistants at the final whistle.

The Millers had just conceded a stoppage-time equaliser in Saturday's clash with Tranmere Rovers and a first home win of their League One campaign had been torn from their grasp.

The ball appeared to have gone out in the build-up to the late, late leveller. No whistle. There were suspicions that Stefan Payne had been offside before he'd struck from close range. No flag.

Hamshaw turned his back on Haines but found he still had more to say and went back for seconds.

"I thought the ball went out," said manager Paul Warne, a calmer figure than his coach in his post-match press conference. "I have watched it back. It's hugely disappointing.

"I believe the linesman said two of our players were playing their lad on. I've seen replays. They weren't. It's a double whammy."

Last-gasp agony

Haines was booed off as he finally left the field but Warne wasn't using him as an excuse for a desperately disappointing afternoon where the anxiety spilled from three sides of New York.

"The worst we have been," the manager acknowledged.

4-3-3 is a work in progress. Whatever the merits or otherwise of the formation, some players have yet to come to terms with it. Winger Chiedozie Ogbene has arrived and another wide man, Jake Hastie, is on his way. Warne will be pleased he now has the option to mix things up.

"We were poor in the first half," he said. "We played a lot better in the second. We just didn't move the ball quickly enough in the first."

"Teams come here and are happy with a point. There was no flow to the game in the first half. We got frustrated and it reflected in our play and on the terraces.​"

He couldn't stop his mind wandering back to the 94th-minute flashpoint that had left the stadium in stunned uproar.

"In my opinion, it's gone out," he said. "I haven't got all the angles but it definitely looks out.​"


Tranmere were niggly, the play was scrappy and the first half was a non-event, Ben Wiles' 44th-minute mishit shot squirming on to a post the only moment of real danger.

The Millers foundered on the rock that was centre-half Emmanuel Monthe. The Tranmere giant gave it the full Monthe, keeping Freddie Ladapo quiet and relishing his test of strength with Michael Smith.

New boy Chiedozie Ogbene, on for his debut much earlier than expected when Kyle Vassell limped off in the 12th minute, found his lightning-quick stride after the break and suddenly Rotherham looked like a Rotherham side are supposed to when they're attacking the North Stand.

Twice the flying winger left his marker for dead on the left flank and produced perfect centres. Smith was only inches away from connecting with the first and the second saw Matt Crooks half-volley over the bar at the back post.

Paul Mullin had a shot saved for the visitors but in the 73rd minute the Millers made a breakthrough that was all the sweeter for coming from local lad Ben Wiles.

The Rawmarsh youngster had been denied his first strike in senior football by an 'own goal' ruling at Burton Albion a fortnight earlier. This time there was no doubt as he controlled Matt Olosunde's right-wing cross and fired high into the net on the turn.

1-0. Time to see the game out. It hadn't been pretty but victory looked to be in the bag.

Twenty-one minutes later, after Crooks has whizzed one a whisker wide and Ladapo had shot straight at Davies when clean through, the officials chose not intervene and Payne inflicted pain.

That sparked the heat of Hamshaw and he wasn't the only one to make his point about two lost ones as Jamie Linsday, Michael Ihiekwe, Matt Olosunde and Richard Wood joined him in the Millers throng challenging the ref.

Paul Warne feels the tension

Kieron Morris had controlled the ball right on the byline before crossing to set in motion the chain of events that had ended with the ball being played back in for Payne to do his damage. Maybe it had gone out, maybe it hadn't.

Wiles certainly thought it had, fatefully pausing as he went to block the Rovers man.

"I don't think anybody would stop in the 94th minute if the ball wasn't out of play," Warne said.

Rotherham were lacking in the first half and leggy towards the end of the second when their Carabao Cup exertions on Wednesday night - rather than the preferred Tuesday - possibly caught up with them.

The draw left them in 13th spot with two games in hand over nearly all the clubs above them.

"We got involved in the whole 'frustration' thing," Warne lamented. "The same thing happened against Lincoln City when we were way in the ascendency but got sucker-punched and got frustrated.

"The lads against Tranmere got frustrated. I think they made different decisions as a result. They needed to score in the first 10 minutes and it didn't happen so they got more frustrated.

"It is something we are going to have to help them with because a lot of teams are going to turn up here to try to take a point.

"When we went 1-0 up, Tranmere played a more natural game and that is when we were creating chances because they were more open.

"It is just disappointing we couldn't get a second goal when we were having chances. The game might have taken a different path then.

"We are going to have to get used to the 'slowing the game down' tactic. We are going to have to be more patient on the ball and not think we have got to get a shot off after three seconds."


After Vassell's long, slow walk to the sideline, came Ogbene's short, sharp, blistering acceleration.

Home fans took to the 22-year-old instantly.

Chiedoze Ogbene impresses on his debut

"Cheyo put some unbelievable balls across and in my opinion we should be scoring one or two there," Warne said,

"He was good. He has been in for only two days, bless him. It is a bit surreal. We have got 10 or 11 new players so it is going to take a bit of time to get it exactly as we want.

"You can still play bad and ugly and win 1-0. There is no shame in that. Everything isn't perfect all of the time. There was some good performances and Cheyo's was definitely one of them."

Meanwhile, Hamshaw wasn't finished. He finally walked away but, as he departed, continued to give Haines a volley as fierce as the one Crooks had put over the bar from Ogbene's sumptuous supply.

The 94th minute. It was crucial, costly, excruciating.

But 'ball over the line' doesn’t cloud the bigger picture: the Millers should have got the game over the line.

Goals: Wiles 73 (Rotherham); Payne 90 + 4 (Tranmere).

Rotherham (4-3-3): Daniel Iversen, Matt Olosunde, Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Clark Robertson; Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser (Jamie Lindsay H-T), Matt Crooks; Michael Smith, Kyle Vassell (Chiedozie Ogbene 12), Freddie Ladapo (Joe Mattock 89). Subs not used: Laurence Bilboe, Jake Cooper, Adam Thompson, Shaun MacDonald.

Tranmere (3-4-1-2): Scott Davies; Sid Nelson (Calum Woods 89), George Ray, Emmanuel Monthe; Kieron Morris, Darren Potter, David Perkins, Liam Ridehalgh; Connor Jennings; Paul Mullin (Rushian Hepburn-Murphy 75), Stefan Payne. Subs not used: Luke Pilling, Jordan Ponticelli, Harvey Gilmour, Jacob Maddox, Danny Walker-Rice.

Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance: 8,691 (982).

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