New York tension as Millers held back by home form ... the story of Rotherham United 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1

By Paul Davis | 27/10/2019

New York tension as Millers held back by home form ... the story of Rotherham United 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1
Michael Smith has a shot blocked. Pictures by Steve Mettam

FITTINGLY, an apology followed a sorry performance.

Rotherham United had been beaten at home for the second successive time in League One and their chance to join the play-off pack had gone.

The result, a 1-0 defeat against Wycombe Wanderers, was poor, the display even poorer.

Where were the heroics of Portman Road three days earlier when then-leaders Ipswich Town had been toppled by a performance bristling with drive, energy, purpose and aggression?

Back on their own soil on Saturday, the Millers were nervous, disjointed, dispirited, blinking in the rain, with no eye for goal.

It's becoming a trend. On their travels, Rotherham are a match for any side in the division. Yet at AESSEAL New York Stadium, where teams come to defend and steal what they can, Paul Warne's side have yet to come up with answers.

"The poor home form has put an extra layer of pressure on me," the manager acknowledged. "I don't think we are letting it affect the lads. We might have to do something different.

"Our away performances have been excellent. Around 250 fans kindly went to Ipswich in the week and saw us play at our absolute best, then we follow it up like that in front of eight-and-a-bit thousand and they don't get to see what we can do.

"For that, I apologise."

Wycombe have lost only once in the league this season and are in second spot. But they were no more than game, organised and willing to pour everything into stopping the opposition playing.

Eye on the ball for Matt Crooks

It was enough against the Millers who, by the time the final whistle blew, had failed to muster a single effort on target.

Away from home, Rotherham have won four and drawn one of their seven league matches. They've seen off top-four sides likes the Tractor Boys and Blackpool and had the better of the contest at Sunderland.

At home, they have been beaten three times in seven outings and have twice been held to draws. Only in the 4-0 win over Coventry City have they truly realised their potential.

Tension is in the air and inside the stadium expectancy has given way to edge. The more the Millers don't perform, the more the disappointment is heard. The more the disappointment is heard, the less the Millers perform.

New York, we have a problem.

THE GAME

For an hour and a half they toiled after falling behind in the fifth minute, but Rotherham rarely looked like fighting back against opponents making up for their limitations with effort and doggedness.

The Millers were the opposite of Wanderers: much less than the sum of their parts.

The visitors won all their defensive headers at set-pieces while Rotherham struggled to hit teammates with passes, played with little precision, shed possession on their own throw-ins and made nothing of ten corners.

It was tough to watch.

"It is very disappointing," Warne said. "If we could have backed up our excellence in midweek with a home performance and home win, we could have shot up the table and been a win behind Wycombe with a game in hand. It would have been rosy.

"For whatever reason, we just didn't perform anywhere near the levels required. I asked the lads for their input and they said themselves that they thought a few of them under-performed."

A long ball over the top freed Scott Kashket to skip through, round Richard Wood and slot the ball past Daniel Iversen for Wycombe's opener.

Michael Smith's header wide in the 25th-minute cross and an 84th-minute incident when the ball cannoned off Chiedozie Ogbene's head and flew over the bar were all the Millers managed in response.

They spent virtually all of the second half in enemy territory but Iversen, who had denied Kashket seconds before the break, had the only save to make, doing well to palm away Matt Bloomfield's shot.

Just once this season have Rotherham recorded back-to-back league victories and they looked sluggish as they tried to build on their Wednesday-night exploits at Portman Road.

"Playing twice in such a short space of time does affect the physicality of it," Warne said. "But it shouldn't affect the lads' confidence and drive to get on the ball.

"We tried to prepare the lads for how we thought Wycombe would play. We just looked a young team. Hammy (coach Matt Hamshaw) said to me in the dressing room, in a few months’ time this group could be amazing.

"But at the moment it's just not clicking as well as we would like at home. I feel sorry for the fans."

Jamie Lindsay makes a tackle

Wycombe time-wasted, play-acted, niggled and got away with it. There was 50mm of rain in 22 hours before-kick-off but it didn't fall as quickly as referee Neil Hair did for Joe Jacobson's con-trick.

The left-back threw himself to the floor in the first half as Michael Smith shaped to challenge him on the touchline. There was no contact but Smith went in the book as the official missed plenty and sometimes saw things that hadn't happened.

Warne, having kept faith with ten of his starters at Ipswich, was uncharacteristically coy when asked why his players are finding it hard on their own patch.

"I don't want to be 100 per cent candid about it," he said. "I thought we were a bit predictable. Even in previous home games (when we haven't won), we switched the ball to get down the opposite side, but today it felt like we were one-dimensional.

"The lads looked a bit jaded. Maybe that's my fault. I could have made more changes. I am not going to use that as an excuse.

"I try not to change a winning team too much. Tiredness might be prevalent after an hour but not after half an hour.

"Wycombe played really well. Their game-plan worked really well and they deserved their win. When we go a goal down, collectively we get a bit frustrated.

"There's, like, an hour to go and I am screaming at the players to relax and just play. They feel like they have to do everything at 100 miles per hour."

OGBENE

On his first start, summer signing Ogbene showed glimpses of how dangerous his lightning pace can be and the winger set up the Millers' only clear chance by burning past Jack Grimmer and crossing for Smith’s wayward header.

"There were flashes of great play from him," Warne said. "I have asked him to run past people and put crosses into the box.

Chiedozie Ogbene on the run

"It was him who put in the cross in for Smudge in the first half. That was a really good chance. If you are not having the best day at the office, you need your slim pickings to go in.

"Chieo worked hard. I was pretty pleased with him."

Rotherham keep looking like they might be the real deal before taking a step back. They could have gone seventh with a victory. Instead, they slipped two places to 11th.

Apologetic Warne added: "We just didn't have enough of our key men performing today. We just weren't at our best."

As they look to eradicate their maddening inconsistency, Rotherham won’t be that sorry that five of their next six matches are away from New York.

Rotherham United (4-4-1-1): Daniel Iversen; Billy Jones (Jake Hastie H-T), Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood (Trevor Clarke 64), Joe Mattock; Matt Olosunde (Carlton Morris 73), Ben Wiles, Jamie Lindsay, Chiedozie Ogbene; Matt Crooks; Michael Smith. Subs not used: Lewis Price, Jake Cooper, Dan Barlaser, Freddie Ladapo.

Wycombe (4-2-3-1): Ryan Allsop; Jack Grimmer, Anthony Stewart, Darius Charles, Joe Jacobson; Dominic Gape (Alex Pattison H-T), Curtis Thompson; Rolando Aarons (Adebayo Akinfenwa 78), Matt Bloomfield, Scott Kashket (Nnamdi Ofoborh 83);  David Wheeler. Subs not used: Cameron Yates, Giles Phillips, Nick Freeman, Josh Parker.

Goal: Kashket 5 (Wycombe).

Referee: Neil Hair (Peterborough).

Attendance: 8,337 (512).

 


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