New paint, new season, new boys and the Millers back in the Championship ... the opening-day story of Rotherham United 1 Swansea City 1

New paint, new season, new boys and the Millers back in the Championship ... the opening-day story of Rotherham United 1 Swansea City 1

By Paul Davis | 31/07/2022

New paint, new season, new boys and the Millers back in the Championship ... the opening-day story of Rotherham United 1 Swansea City 1
Georgie Kelly in the wars. Pictures by Dave Poucher

THE insides of the ground had undergone a paint job.

A new season, a new challenge, a new look for AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Maybe it was because of the recent Women's Euros matches held there. Whatever, the corridors and rooms of Rotherham United's home basked in a tasteful shade of magnolia.

Out on the pitch, there was red and white. And resolve and readiness.

The promoted Millers don't want to fail for the fourth successive time in their bid to stay in this division.

After nine arrivals, a couple of painful departures and summer injury issues, no-one was quite sure how opening day against former Premier League visitors would go. It turned out Paul Warne's men were prepared.

"We work on the opposition and we knew they were going to be a possession-based team and very difficult to get the ball off, the manager said. "We had watched all their pre-season games."

The Championship, eh? Rotherham's fight against the odds.

There was a big crowd, a rousing atmosphere, pleasing brush strokes from Swansea City, tinfuls of energy, discipline and bristle from the Millers.

Two teams pushing for victory in very different ways.

THE MATCH

The first 15 minutes brought more revolving and rotating from the slick Swans than even the just-installed New York digital advertising boards could manage.

Yet suddenly Rotherham were ahead. Wes Harding threw long, Nathan Wood's head made inadequate contact and Chiedozie Ogbene flicked a header over goalkeeper Andy Fisher into the South Stand net.

Given the central attacking role he loves, the Millers flying machine made continual inroads. He thought he'd scored again soon only for Fisher's full-stretch dive and fingers to keep out his close-range overhead kick.

"You can see why I like him up there," Warne said. "He gets you near the opposition goal very quickly."

The Swans' equaliser was as out of the blue as Rotherham's opener, Harry Darling sending a near-30-yard effort screaming past Viktor Johansson to end a sustained spell of home-side pressure.

The scorer said he'd never hit a better shot in his life. Yeah, thanks for that, Darling.

Chiedozie Ogbene opens the scoring

Both teams had chances: more for Swansea, most of the clearer ones for Rotherham. Fisher was a busier man than Johansson whose major contribution was a spectacular second-half stop to deny Jamie Paterson.

Warne's post-match demeanour was a bright as his freshly-decorated surroundings in the media suite. "I didn't get any season tickets on the back of my head so today is a good day," he grinned."

After the break, Ogbene lost out to Fisher again, Michael Obafemi stunned everyone, not least himself, by failing to convert for Swansea from a yard out and Georgie Kelly, Cohen Bramall and Dan Barlaser had shots saved.

Warne had got his substitutions right, throwing on three reinforcements just as Swansea were threatening to take control.

The changes brought the Millers steamrollering back into a contest that either side could have won or lost in the closing stages

"Yes, I'm great, aren't I?" the boss smiled at the 67th-minute introduction of Kelly, Bramall and Peter Kioso.

"It just seemed like  we were fatiguing a little bit. We just needed an injection of pace. We stifled Swansea a little bit.

"I thought the crowd 'got' it - they knew the quality of the opposition. It wasn't a League One game where you can throw the kitchen sink in the last 20 minutes. It is very hard to get a point in this league."

NEW FACES

Ah, Georgie. The crowd love him. The white legs of an eager Irish boy and the black bandage protecting a cut to his head only added to the appeal of the January signing on his home bow.

Once, he had no space and even less time yet still tested the keeper. Other parts of his game need work but in the box he has the instincts and sharpness of a natural striker.

Cameron Humphreys, Grant Hall and Conor Washington as well as Bramall and Kioso were making debuts.

Hall has nous, a hard edge and calmness, Humphreys the quality expected from a former Manchester City player. Even his clearances had a bit of a whip, a bit of bend so they finished up in good areas of the pitch.

"Cameron played really well," Warne said. "As he gets fitter he will be really good, Grant will be ace when he's fit too.

"Cohen caused them problems. You can see why I brought him here. His speed is a joke.

"Georgie nearly scored with his first touch. He was a handful. Fair play to him, this is some level of football to play at when you've spent nearly all of your career playing part-time in Ireland."

At the end, there was relief defeat had been avoided, a tinge of disappointment victory hadn't been achieved, plenty of pride at the way Rotherham had attacked and rattled one of the big guns of the second tier.

Importantly, they hadn't thrown it away in the dying seconds, which has been a trait of previous campaigns in this division.

"The lads are exhausted," Warne said. "I was really pleased with the performance against a really good team. Swansea are a very technical, ball-playing side and very difficult to play against. I am chuffed."

He made his way from the media suite, forgetting his bag but not his manners and bidding cheery farewells as he exited. There was a faint aroma in the air that had nothing to do with fresh layers of emulsion.

What was it? I couldn't get quite place it. Ah, that's it, I've got it now ...

Something not always associated with the Millers in the Championship.

The whiff of optimism.

Rotherham (3-5-1-1): Viktor Johansson; Grant Hall (Peter Kioso 67), Richard Wood, Cameron Humphreys; Wes Harding, Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser, Jamie Lindsay, Shane Ferguson (Cohen Bramall 67); Chiedozie Ogbene, Conor Washington (Georgie Kelly 67). Subs not used: Josh Vickers, Jamie McCart, Scott High, Hakeem Odoffin.

Swansea (3-4-2-1): Andy Fisher; Nathan Wood, Kyle Naughton, Harry Darling; Joel Latibeaudiere, Jay Fulton, Matt Grimes, Matty Sorinola (Ryan Manning 72); Joel Piroe, Jamie Paterson (Olivier Ntcham 72); Michael Obafemi. Subs not used: Steven Benda, Ben Cabango, Liam Cullen, Ollie Cooper, Cameron Congreve.

Goals: Ogbene 17 (Rotherham); Darling 38 (Swansea).

Referee: Matt Donohue (Greater Manchester).

Attendance: 10,454 (1,492).