Magic Woody, Wiles denied, a fan on the pitch, a dinosaur inflatable, Warne's return and three precious points ... the story of Burton Albion 0 Rotherham United 1

By Paul Davis | 18/08/2019

Magic Woody, Wiles denied, a fan on the pitch, a dinosaur inflatable, Warne's return and three precious points ... the story of Burton Albion 0 Rotherham United 1
The Millers take the lead. Pictures by Steve Mettam

"RICHARD Wood is magic, he wears a magic hat."

Rotherham United fans were singing it before kick-off, they were singing it when their skipper went up for the toss, they were singing it during the game

It was just like old times.

The Wembley warrior was back in the Millers side and leading them to a hugely-important win at Burton Albion that lifted them into the League One play-off places.

Because of the botch at Bury and the Portsmouth postponement, Rotherham now find themselves without a league match for a fortnight.

They needed to sign off with three points to stop rivals getting too far ahead during their unwanted period of inactivity.

And they did. Thanks to Wood. Thanks to Michael Ihiekwe. Thanks to Clark Robertson. Thanks to the type of dogged, driven away display that isn't easy on the eye but forms the bedrock of a promotion campaign.

Wood was relishing it. Paul Warne was relishing Woody.

"He's done well, hasn't he?" the manager grinned. "I love Woody. That's why I always give him new contracts. That's why I always keep him around.

He's back! Richard Wood

"Whether he's in the team or out of the team, he's brilliant for me. Robbo is excellent, so is Icky. The three centre-halves I have at the moment are unbelievable."

Millers fans packed the away end and a corner down the side of the Pirelli Stadium. There were cheers and chants, dancing and delight and two inflatables, a dinosaur and a cow, doing the rounds until they took a bounce too far and were confiscated by hard-hearted stewards.

"We want our dinosaur," sang the supporters.

And they got him. Wood was back in the league side for the first time this season.

Aged 34, in his old-fashioned boots, playing his old-style game, he kicked everything, tackled everything, blocked everything, headed everything and, most importantly, won everything.

He'd played in the midweek Carabao Cup triumph over Shrewsbury. Now he was blocking Burton in the competition that matters most.

Two games. Two clean sheets.

Coincidence? I think not.

THE MATCH

"They've given it as an own goal, have they? It's a bit mean, innit? Who makes that decision and feels good about it? It's unbelievable."

Warne was reacting to the news that Ben Wiles' first strike in senior football was being credited to Burton goalkeeper Kieran O'Hara.

Rawmarsh's finest had been on hand in the 23rd minute to finish off the move of the match, checking inside and shooting home from 15 yards, via the post and O'Hara, after Rotherham had swept the length of the field.

The midfielder reacted with the joy you might expect from a 20-year-old on the cusp of an introductory notch but his celebration paled in comparison to the Millers fan who raced on to the pitch to embrace him before being led off by stewards to join the inflatables in the naughty corner.

"I know him," sighed a sheepish Wiles afterwards. "He's one of my best mates."

Warne, while being mindful that invading supporters aren't to be encouraged, added: "The fourth official said to me 'Look, at half-time can you speak to your number 8 and tell him he shouldn't really hug the lad who came on because it's not good'.

"I said 'Mate, he's just scored a goal and someone has run on and hugged him. It's a Rotherham fan who has had a blood-rush and wants to hug him, not stab him'. I don't know. It's difficult not to enjoy the nice moments in life."

Wood, scorer of the two goals that won the League One Play-off Final in 2017, had done what he always does: start the season on the bench and force his way into the side.

Kyle Vassell shoots

With him at the helm, the Millers were more organised, more solid at set-pieces in their own box, more dangerous at set-pieces in the opposition's.

His biggest piece of magic was the disappearing act he performed on referee Nick Kinseley's eyesight in the second half as the official somehow decided the defender's industrial cleaning out of Scott Fraser wasn't a penalty.

"I honestly didn't see it," said Warne. "I wouldn't sit on the fence. Burton thought Woody wiped their lad out.

"As anyone who can see me on the side of the pitch knows, I'm angst-ridden the whole game. I'm in pure, fricking stress mode. Every time the ball is in our box I'm dreading it hitting the net, I'm dreading the ref giving the other side a penalty.

"My initial reaction was 'He's going to give a penalty' but I honestly didn't see it. If it was a penalty and the ref hasn't seen it then we've ridden our luck a little bit. The game, for me, should have been out of sight by then."

The Millers survived early pressure and opportunities for Nathan Broadhead, twice, and Fraser but worked their way into the contest and, on the weight of chances in a scrappy game, could have led by more than a single goal.

After Kyle Vassell had hit the bar with a cross that turned into a shot, Warne's men were indebted to keeper Daniel Iversen on the stroke of half-time as his stunning stop kept out Liam Boyce's header.

In the second half, Robertson headed a corner over the bar, Vassell had a clear sight of goal only to shoot over and Matt Crooks beat two men and shot straight at O'Hara.

As the clock ticked down, with the visitors having switched from 4-3-3 to a 4-1-3-2, Vassell was only an inch away from connecting with substitute Jamie Lindsay's cross and Robertson held his head in his hands when his goalbound header was deflected over by Colin Daniel.

Matt Olosunde in possession

Millers hearts were in mouths in the dying seconds when Broadhead lifted over a glaring chance to equalise and David Templeton thumped a volley on to the bar but the ref blew to leave the away end springing more than the missing inflatables.

"I don't think we were fully firing, although we created enough chances to win the game comfortably," Warne said.

"We didn't move the ball well enough. We weren't good on the ball but our off-the-ball work was excellent. The lads were putting their bodies on the line.

"We looked a threat at every set-piece. I was disappointed we didn't score off one of those.  I always want perfection, but I'm never going to get that.

"Overall, I'm pretty pleased. I think Burton will easily be top ten so for us to come to a place like this and win is a real statement of intent."

The boss buys a photographed mug for any member of his team who gets on the scoresheet and, basking in the relief of victory, he was feeling generous.

"I'll give Wilesy the goal anyway," he said. "He'll get a scorer's mug but what I might do is put a picture of the Burton goalie on it instead."

THE RETURN

Back in December 2016, in his first game as boss, at the end of a draining week, Warne had cried following a 2-1 defeat at the Pirelli.

This time, it was different. The boss was the last to leave the pitch, raising his arms to the travelling faithful and enjoying his salute being returned 1,600 times over.

"Wins away from home are always special," he said. "People have made the effort to come and you really appreciate it.

"I said to the lads in the team talk 'There are 1,600/1,700 people who have spent their money and come down and had a pie and a pint'. I even saw Eric Twigg having a pie. How surreal is that?

"When you win and share it with the away fans, it definitely means a lot more."

There was only one survivor from that 2-1 loss who played on Saturday: with the turning circle of a brontosaurus and the fire of a T-rex, Woody.

The power in the handshake between manager and captain following the final whistle was everything you'd expect from two strong men.

Richard Wood is magic. And so is this result.

Goals: O'Hara og 23 (Rotherham).

Burton (4-3-3): Kieran O'Hara; John Brayford (Oliver Sarkic 75), John-Joe O'Toole, Jake Buxton, Colin Daniel; Ryan Edwards, Stephen Quinn (Kieran Wallace 80), Scott Fraser (David Templeton 87); Lucas Akins, Liam Boyce, Nathan Broadhead. Not used: Stephen Bywater, Jo Sbarra, Reece Hutchinson, Richard Nartey.

Rotherham (4-3-3): Daniel Iversen; Matt Olosunde, Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Clark Robertson; Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser (Jamie Lindsay 72), Matt Crooks; Michael Smith (Jamie Proctor 80), Kyle Vassell, Freddie Ladapo (Shaun MacDonald 57). Unused: Lewis Price, Joe Mattock,, Jake Cooper.

Referee: Nick Kinseley (Essex).

Attendance: 3,822 (1,600).


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