Richard Wood, Dan Barlaser and Matt Crooks on a night of Millers heroes ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Ipswich Town 0

By Paul Davis | 29/01/2020

Richard Wood, Dan Barlaser and Matt Crooks on a night of Millers heroes ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Ipswich Town 0
Rotherham take the lead through Richard Wood. Picture by Steve Mettam

IT was classic Woody. It was classic Rotherham United.

The game was there to be won but still needed winning.

The 42nd minute, Michael Smith's goalbound header parried by the goalkeeper, the ball bouncing up in the air. It was there to be won but still needed winning.

No-one was more desperate to get their head to it just a yard from the goalline than the captain. Wood. Like so often. Right place, right time. 1-0.

This was Rotherham against the leaders, Rotherham against the team that had taken League One's pole position from them the previous weekend, Rotherham against themselves as they sought to bounce straight back from a first defeat in eight matches in their last outing.

Here you are, Ipswich. Have that, feel that, suffer that. Take your blue shirts and defeat back to East Anglia. We are Rotherham. We are red. We are top now.

Even Paul Warne allowed himself a smile.

The manager rarely submits himself to the delight of victory but after the thrills of Tuesday night there was a lightness about him, his tiredness assuaged by a quiet satisfaction.

"I thought our performance was excellent," he said. "We'd lacked a little bit against Peterborough United in our previous match so we made three changes. That is the joy of having a competitive squad.

"I really enjoyed watching us. We worked really hard without the ball and my strikers, whichever two they were, started that off. It was a really good team effort.

"Overall, we more than deserved to win against an excellent side. Home and away against possibly the best team in the league we have taken six points and not conceded a goal.

"I am really pleased with how my lads have played. We were as good as we could be."

Rotherham overran, overpowered and overwhelmed visitors who had arrived at New York Stadium with the best away record in the third tier.

New York, staging its first league night under the lights of the season, crackled with electricity.

There was Wood. The Millers. The warm glow of a brilliant triumph.

THE MATCH

It finished 1-0. It should have been 4-0. Ipswich were penned in for all but the last ten minutes and only stoic resistance from their three centre-halves stopped the score mounting.

Kyle Vassell hit the bar from Dan Barlaser's quick free-kick feed, Hakeeb Adelakun should have done better than hit the goalkeeper from Barlaser's devastating pass, then, following Barlaser's corner, Wood did what Wood does.

After the break, Chiedozie Ogbene was inches away from connecting with Adelakun's deflected cross at the back post and Vassell's overhead kick was superbly blocked by James Wilson.

Hakeeb Adelakun

Another Wood header was ruled out for an infringement only the referee seemed to spot before substitute Ben Wiles went close with a volley and Adelakun rattled the bar with a thundering 30-yard effort.

Wood had been first out for the second half, bristling against the cold with aggression and short-sleeved intent. He'd wear no sleeves if he could, no shirt even.

The skipper's belligerence is as bare-chested as it is beautiful. He grabbed the Millers by the scruff of the neck two years ago and led them to promotion and may well be doing the same again.

He scored, should have had a second and smashed anything that came his way, whether it was opponent or ball.

"He was good, wasn't he?" Warne said. "I thought he could have had a brace, to be fair. I don't see a foul on the goalkeeper. It seemed a little bit harsh."

Two minutes after his second effort was disallowed, Rotherham's wrecking ball was still complaining to the referee about it.

In contrast, there was Barlaser, so intelligent, so measured that he plays his football like other clever people play chess, moving pieces to suit his vision with total precision.

He was a king against pawns. Still, Rotherham played long ball, said Ipswich boss Paul Lambert.

Dan Barlaser

Only at the end did Town threaten, with Luke Garbutt testing Dan Iversen with a 25-yard free-kick and sub James Norwood hitting the post from a seemingly-impossible angle.

"We didn't get as many goals as our play deserved," Warne said. "We really needed that second goal. We had a heart-stopping moment when Dan believes the ball is going out of play and Norwood gets his toe on it. If that had dropped in it would have been a hard pill to swallow."

The win was even sweeter for Norfolk-born Warne, a lifelong fan of Ipswich's great rivals, Norwich City.

"My phone was lively all day with friends back home," he said. "I even had one of my mates text me saying he had his dog put down that day and the only thing that would make him smile was if we beat Ipswich.

"He is a massive Norwich fan. I dedicate this win to my friend's dog."

CROOKS

He played through his grief, he played for his club, he played for his best friend, Jordan Sinnott, who had tragically died, aged 25, three days earlier.

Matt Crooks heard every second of the 25th-minute applause that ran round New York before departing to a standing ovation in the second half.

"I am not sure Crooksy has had anything to eat for three days," said Warne. "To get 60-odd minutes out of him was a pure adrenaline thing.

"He is a really emotional guy. When (assistant boss) Richie Barker came back to work after the death of his brother, Crooksy was the only player who came into the office and hugged him.

"That is quite a unique thing, I couldn't ever imagine ever going in to hug Ronnie (Moore) or Breck (John Breckin) when I was a player.

"He lost his best mate so it is going to hit him hard. He was in my office on Monday and was emotional but he wanted to play.

"I texted him on the morning of the game to check he was okay to start and he texted me back saying 'Definitely' so that was enough for me.

"Maybe it is a bit of sanctuary coming in and training and playing football. It just takes your mind off it. He has done really well."

Crooks was everywhere. It was a giant response from a giant of a man.

Rotherham are lucky to have him and he is lucky to have Rotherham.

We are Rotherham. We are red. We are top now.

Warne's side, in this form, are too strong for the division; a squad looking down on the rest, united in spirit and purpose, perfectly aligned for the run-in.

Just like their match-winner, Woody: right place, right time.

Rotherham (4-4-2): Dan Iversen; Adam Thompson, Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Joe Mattock; Chiedozie Ogbene, Matt Crooks (Ben Wiles 72), Dan Barlaser, Hakeeb Adelakun (Matt Olosunde 89); Kyle Vassell (Freddie Ladapo 75), Michael Smith. Subs not used: Laurence Bilboe, Jamie Lindsay, Shaun MacDonald, Julien Lamy.

Ipswich (3-4-1-2): Will Norris; Luke Chambers, James Wilson, Luke Woolfenden; Gwion Edwards, Emyr Huws (Jon Nolan 69), Flynn Downes, Luke Garbutt; Alan Judge (Freddie Sears 81); Kayden Jackson, Will Keane (James Norwood 67). Subs not used: Tomas Holy, Cole Skuse, Teddy Bishop, Myles Kenlock.

Goals: Wood 42 (Rotherham).

Referee: Antony Coggins (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 9,327 (923).



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