THIS was different, this came from the heart or somewhere beyond, this meant more.
The Rotherham United manager went to the chanting away fans, all 276 of them, gathered high up in a corner of Portman Road against the Suffolk cold.
Ipswich Town had become the latest team to be dismantled by the Millers and this was something Paul Warne wanted to share.
His face contorted with pride and the effects of battle, he celebrated with an arms-raised intensity rarely seen before and the noise in front of him suddenly took on a new, guttural power.
This moment, this result 175 miles from home, this Tuesday night when you could see your own breath, it made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Rotherham were now 15 matches unbeaten, Rotherham were now top of the league.
“I didn’t want to go full Jurgen Klopp but I think I did,” Warne smiled afterwards. I think you always feel more engaged with the fans when you know how much effort they make.
“I am really pleased. Being top gives the lads more confidence. It shows that a lot of what we are doing is right. Coming here like this is a real marker.”
Warne was born just down the road and is a lifelong supporter of Town’s great rivals, Norwich City
“Some of my family and friends were in with our fans,” he said. “With me being a bit of a Canary, winning at Ipswich is a bit of a big deal.”
This stunning Rotherham side, this team five years in the creation, this group the division can’t hold, are also a big deal.
An Ipswich reporter, weary of what he was witnessing, sighed in the press box during the second half: “It’s like they’ve got 13 or 14 men.”
The Millers were everywhere, dashing here, darting there, pressing and punching holes in opponents built at great expense in the summer but not equipped to handle the steamrollering that was being administered by the men in the black.
“It was a really good performance,” Warne said. “I love my players. They take on information, they work so hard out of possession and we sort of suffocated Ipswich really because of our work ethic. We got two good goals and on another night I think we could have had another couple.
“Ipswich are a very good team and Cooky (Paul Cook) is a brilliant manager who will have success here, no doubt, but tonight his players played against a really good Rotherham side who managed the game really well.”
Another match, another goal ... Ben Wiles lit up a murky evening with his third in three games, his seventh of the season and a 24th-minute strike that would have graced the Premier League never mind League One.
2-0 and Rotherham are going top
Michael Smith fed his young teammate who burst forward from 40 yards out, weaved his way through a mass of defenders and chose his spot from just outside the area. Nothing could have come to Christian’s aid as goalkeeper Walton was left to pick a perfect shot out of the net.
“As soon as Wilesy hit it, I knew it was in,” Warne said. “It was a screamer. His performance merited that goal. I thought he was excellent.”
Fifteen games undefeated is a record under the boss — beating the mark of 14 set in the 2017/18 third-tier promotion season — but he opted for a touch of ambivalence at that achievement and his team’s newly-achieved status at the head of the table.
“We are not even halfway through the season yet,” he cautioned. “I’m not saying I am not pleased, though, because I am.
“I enjoy watching my team play, I enjoy working with them, I enjoy watching them smile when we get on the bus and they have won and are top of the league.
“But obviously it doesn’t count for anything at this stage. If we finish 15th I am going to look a right mug come the summer.”
Ipswich had been booed off at half-time and there was no respite for them after the break as the Millers, growing stronger and stronger, kept their foot on the home side’s throat.
Just before the hour-mark, Chiedozie Ogbene created his usual havoc down the right, Ladapo couldn’t quite capitalise and Shane Ferguson came rushing in all of a scamper to fire the loose ball into the roof of the net from an acute angle for his first goal for the club.
“I was so pleased when the net rippled,” Warne said. “I thought that might be enough for us.”
Rotherham had lost goalkeeper Josh Vickers to a sore groin in the warm-up but there was no panic as Viktor Johansson was given the nod to start only 20 minutes before kick-off.
The Swede would have just as quiet a night had he remained on the bench for he didn’t have a save to make — an easy catch from Joe Pigott’s tame header — until stoppage time.
Jamie Lindsay, Richard Wood, Michael Smith and Ladapo could all have added to Rotherham’s advantage at various stages.
Men against Tractor Boys.
The Ipswich scribe was at it again: “This are the hardest-working team I’ve seen this season by a mile,” he said high up in the dark recesses of one of Portman Road’s old, atmospheric stands.
Warne was visibly pleased as the compliment was relayed to him later on.
“When we left the hotel I was preaching to the lads that they have to play like it is the last game of their career because you just don’t know what is going to happen,” he said. “The way we played tonight merited three points.
Man of the Match Ben Wiles
“We didn’t come here to sit behind the ball, we came here to win and impose ourselves.
“I could easily have played two full-backs who were wing-backs and been a bit more defensive but we want to take the game to the opposition all the time.
“Shane and Chieo put a massive workload in and Shane was pretty fundamental on our press. He was the one we released towards their keeper to help us win the ball back early.
“Ipswich asked us a lot questions because they are a very good side but we had a lot of answers.”
So, the Millers reached the summit and planted their flag in deepest East Anglia.
The embrace between Warne and supporters warmed spirits on an evening when even assistant manager Richie Barker forsook his shorts in favour of tracksuit bottoms.
“I am the first to criticise them when they leave on 80 minutes when we are 4-0 up to beat the traffic,” the boss said. “But for 250-plus to come down here on a midweek night, that is some effort.”
With a final, fist-pumping flourish, he left them and walked back across the pitch to address the waiting media throng and play down the climb into pole position.
In the background, however, 267 loud, hardy souls were letting no-one forget.
“We’re top of the league, we’re top of the league, we’re Rotherham United, we’re top of the league.”
Goals: Wiles 24, Ferguson 59 (Rotherham).
Attendance: 18,221 (267).
Viktor Johansson: 6
A spectator for much of the match. What little he had to do he did well.
Rarmani Edmonds-Green: 9
Superb on the ground and good in the air. Read the game, got himself in all the right places and Ipswich couldn’t get past him. His comfort on the ball completed a quality display.
Richard Wood: 8
Macauley Bonne has been a prolific scorer for Ipswich but he never looked like getting anything out of the Millers skipper who put a head or foot on virtually everything all night.
Michael Ihiekwe: 8
Yet another Rotherham clean sheet and Ihiekwe played a full part in that.
Chiedozie Ogbene: 7
Add Ipswich to the list of teams that can’t handle him. Always had the beating of his man, just let down at times by his final delivery.
Ben Wiles: 9
Close to his second 10 of the season. More brilliance from a midfielder coming of age this season. So quick, tricky and direct in attack and did all the hard yards running back as well. Sublime goal from a sublime player. Enjoy what you’re watching because it’s special.
Dan Barlaser: 8
Glided through the game with the ball at his feet and, like Wiles, put in a big defensive shift too.
Jamie Lindsay: 7
Did well to last a full game in his first start in eight weeks after a hamstring tear. Had an impact throughout with his pressing and tackling.
Shane Ferguson: 7
Often a 7, sometimes an 8, hardly ever a 6. Has shown consistent class since his arrival and this game saw more of the same. Not an easy finish for his goal but you never thought he was going to miss.
Freddie Ladapo: 7
Another game where the striker couldn’t be faulted for effort. Looked sharp, covered a lot of ground and never gave the Ipswich defence a chance to breathe. Doing all he can to hold off Will Grigg’s challenge for a place.
Michael Smith: 6
A quieter night from the top scorer back in the side after suspension but did really well to set Wiles on his way to the opening goal.
Wes Harding (for Ogbene 81): NA
Mickel Miller (for Ferguson 81): NA
Kieran Sadlier (for Ladapo 86): NA
All three subs were brought on with the result in the bag and they made sure it stayed that way.
Not used: Hakeem Odoffin, Will Grigg, Josh Kayode.
Ipswich (4-2-3-1): Christian Walton 7; Janoi Donacien 6, Toto Nsiala 6, George Edmundson 7, Bailey Clements (Matt Penney 63) 6; Lee Evans 6 (Kyle Edwards 63, 6); Sam Morsy 6; Conor Chaplin 5 (Joe Pigott 73), Bersant Celina 5, Scott Fraser 5; Macauley Bonne 5. Subs not used: Vaclav Hladky, Rekeem Harper, Kane Vincent-Young, Cameron Burgess.
Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey): 6
“The brutal truth is we were beaten by a far better team all over the pitch
“They had everything — game management, desire, work ethic. You’ve just got to take your hat off to them. They’re something we aspire to be.
“We were way off it. Credit to Rotherham. I knew it was going to be a difficult game. Tonight they brought everything to the table. They are such a formidable opponent in this division.
“There’s no excuses from me, absolutely none. Saturday I was disappointed because I thought we played well at Sunderland and deserved to win. Tonight we deserved what we got, which is nothing.
“Everything that was good about Rotherham tonight was lacking in us.”
— Town boss Paul Cook
Possession: Ipswich 64 per cent, Millers 36 pc
Goal attempts: Ipswich 5 , Millers 11
On target: Ipswich 1, Millers 3
Corners: Ipswich 3, Millers 5
Fouls: Ipswich 14, Millers 12
Millers top and they deserve to be.
“It’s a brilliant night. We knew it was going to be a difficult game. Ipswich have got some great players. We’re in a great place.
“We don’t give teams time on the ball. We’ve been working hard all pre-season and all season.
“I was delighted to score my first goal for the club. I have had a few chances in the last few games and probably should have scored a couple more by now.
“Everyone knows that when Chieo gets the ball nine times out of ten he’s going to go past his player. I just gambled at the back post and he did brilliantly.”
— Shane Ferguson