The 'B' word, two misses and a one-goal defeat ... the story of Bournemouth 1 Rotherham United 0

The 'B' word, two misses and a one-goal defeat ... the story of Bournemouth 1 Rotherham United 0

By Paul Davis | 18/02/2021

The 'B' word, two misses and a one-goal defeat ... the story of Bournemouth 1 Rotherham United 0
Richard Wood's chance late in the first half. Pictures by Jim Brailsford

 

"THAT was a grind, wasn't it?"

The opposing manager had yet to take his seat for his press conference but he was already acknowledging the test his team had been given by their dogged, hard-running visitors.

There was no fourth successive Championship away victory for Rotherham United but they'd had a right go against a Bournemouth side that had been in the Premier League last season.

Cherries interim boss Jonathan Woodgate bowled into the plush, socially-distanced media suite at the Vitality Stadium and his opening salvo as he came through the door told of how hard his promotion contenders - unbeaten in four matches under him - had been pushed.

Yep, a grind all right.

Millers manager Paul Warne was next up. A draw would have been the fairest outcome but he wasn't too down after the Wednesday-night defeat, recognising the quality of the opposition while taking satisfaction in the output of his own men who lost for a second consecutive game after four wins and a draw in their previous six matches.

"The lads have belief," he said. "We've been playing well for a few weeks now and have had some great wins.

"We ran and we harried and fought and scrapped. On another night we might have been leaving here with more than zero points.

Michael Ihiekwe climbs well at the Vitality Stadium

"We play on the edge. Every game is a massive game. It has been like that since the start of the season. Most fans would appreciate the effort the lads put in tonight."

Importantly, Rotherham embarked on the long journey home the next morning in 21st spot and still out of the bottom three after a breathless round of midweek fixtures in which most results went their way.

"Yeah, that's good," the boss said. "Everyone below us and just above us kindly lost. It sounds awful but you spend all your life wishing bad luck on people.

The Millers had poor fortune of their own on the south coast. The points went to Bournemouth but if only the visitors had put away the best chances of the contest ...

THE GAME

"Yeah, I know," said Warne, then there was a long pause where his frustration hung silently but palpably in the air.

He'd just been reminded that two opportunities created by Rotherham had been better than any Bournemouth had mustered other than their match-winning strike.

Skipper Richard Wood looked certain to score a 44th-minute equaliser only for the ball to fall awkwardly to him in front of an open net and finish up over the bar and striker Freddie Ladapo, with only Asmir Begovic to beat, missed badly and damagingly ten minutes from time just seconds after coming on as a substitute.

"Freddie was through on goal," Warne said. "He is an unbelievable finisher. That's what he lives off. Most people breathe oxygen, he breathes goals.

"With Woody, I think the ball was just a bit behind him. At the time, I was waiting for the net to ripple because he is normally Mr Reliable in that area. I'm not brave enough to tell him it was his fault."

Philip Billing had shown the pair how it could be done in the 23rd minute after Adam Smith had broken up a Millers attack and then sprinted the length of the field to get on the end of Sam Surridge's pass and provide the crucial pull-back.

The Billing address was Back of the Net as the Danish international midfielder took his time in applying a smooth, emphatic finish.

Rotherham refused to yield, pressing, probing, putting in the hard yards to win the ball only to sometimes lack the quality to do quite enough with it.

Woodgate knew his side had been in a battle. So much so that he continually referenced it as he assessed the contest.

"We showed the battling instinct that you need in the Championship," he said. "You need to turn up and match the other team. Rotherham are down there fighting for their lives and battled for everything."

Wood had been in his usual centre-back role when his veteran limbs couldn't readjust themselves quickly enough to make the most of Michael Ihiekwe's ball back across goal following Dan Barlaser's deliciously-floated, deep free-kick.

The captain was playing much higher up the pitch in the second half and was a fully-fledged centre-forward when his cultured pass with the outside of his left foot played in Ladapo for that golden chance.

"We didn't come here to sit behind the ball. We came here to try to win," Warne said. "We changed the system in the second half. We kept making attacking subs.

"We went 4-4-2 and then went guns out as a 3-4-3. I even put my trusted centre-half, who keeps telling me he can play as a '9', up top."

Lewis Wing in possession

Much had been made before kick-off of referee Keith Stroud originating from the Bournemouth area and being allowed to officiate a Cherries game. He wasn't perfect - and a decision to book Ben Wiles looks worse every time you see the replay - but he was in no way biased.

In between the Wood and Ladapo openings, Wiles turned and fired in a stunning 67th-minute, 20-yard volley that was arrowing into the top corner until Begovic's flying intervention.

"Their keeper plays well against us," Warne said. "He was unbelievable at our place. It was a great save from Wilesy. If we had got an equaliser, we'd have gone for the win."

The Millers kept going to the final whistle but the clock ran down and it needed Viktor Johansson’s stoppage-time save to prevent Junior Stanislas adding a Bournemouth second that would have given the scoreline an unjust slant.

"We threw the kitchen sink and the taps at them," Warne said. "We were desperate for that goal. Unfortunately, it didn't come, but that doesn't detract from how well our lads competed against a very good team.

"Bournemouth didn't cause us loads of problems. That's no disrespect to them but respect to my players.

"The dressing room is disappointed, which is a good sign for me."

THE CHALLENGE

Rotherham - record signing Ladapo, somewhere between £400,000 and £500,000 - operate on a budget which only bottom club Wycombe Wanderers could dispute as the lowest in the division.

Bournemouth brought on a £11.5 million sub in David Brooks.

As well run and stable at the Millers are, their finances will never add up in this division and they're punching well above their weight while ever they remain outside the drop zone.

"Their bench wasn't bad, was it?" said Warne. "Their starting 11 wasn't bad either.

"It's testament to our team that from 60 minutes onwards Begovic - I don't blame him by the way - was taking ages to take goal-kicks. Bournemouth were in no rush to play. I thought we were going to be the next team that scored.

"You see Ben Wiles from Rawmarsh running past someone like Billing and it's quite an emotional thing for me to watch.

"Of course I'm disappointed with the result but am I proud watching my players go toe to toe to Bournemouth? Yes, I am.

"I'm not trying to cover up a defeat. A defeat is a defeat and I understand that, but my overall emotion is one of pride."

In the end, close. Not quite close enough, but Rotherham had, to borrow from Warne, run, harried, fought and scrapped.

And they made their mark on the Cherries and their caretaker chief. The 'B' word cropped up again.

"We battled so hard," Woodgate said. "We had to."

Goals: Billing 23 (Bournemouth).

Bournemouth (4-2-3-1): Asmir Begovic; Adam Smith, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Lloyd Kelly, Diego Rico; Lewis Cook (Ben Pearson 87), Jefferson Lerma; Junior Stanislas, Philip Billing, Arnaut Danjuma (David Brooks 62); Sam Surridge. Subs not used: Mark Travers, Chris Mepham, Jack Wiltshere, Shane Long, Rodrigo Riquelme, Jaidon Anthony, Jordan Zemura.

Rotherham (3-5-1-1): Viktor Johansson; Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Clark Robertson; Matt Olosunde (Ryan Giles 78), Dan Barlaser (Florian Jozefzoon 69), Lewis Wing (Freddie Ladapo 78), Ben Wiles, Wes Harding (Angus MacDonald 87); Matt Crooks; Michael Smith (George Hirst 78). Subs not used: Jamal Blackman, Trevor Clarke, Shaun MacDonald, Kieran Sadlier.

Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).




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