The disrespect, fighting fans, Freddie-gate and the defeat ... the story of Fleetwood Town 1 Rotherham United 0

The disrespect, fighting fans, Freddie-gate and the defeat ... the story of Fleetwood Town 1 Rotherham United 0

By Paul Davis | 16/01/2022

The disrespect, fighting fans, Freddie-gate and the defeat ... the story of Fleetwood Town 1 Rotherham United 0
Will Grigg in first-half action at Fleetwood. Pictures by Jim Brailsford

 

THE GAME had yet to kick-off but already things were going horribly wrong.

Fleetwood Town asked for a minute's silence as the names and faces of fans who'd passed away in the previous 12 were shown on the big screen at Highbury Stadium.

Almost every Rotherham United follower gave the tribute their full respect, but almost wasn't good enough. One or two - and one in particular - couldn't contain themselves and pockets of noise rose from the sold-out away end to rob the moment of its dignity.

The Millers were quick to act, offering an official apology within two hours of Saturday's final whistle that was accepted by Fleetwood.

Manager Paul Warne had already spoken for the vast majority when he addressed the issue in his touchline interview after watching his team slip to a stoppage-time loss that took them out of League One's top spot.

"I was hugely embarrassed with how one or two individuals behaved during the remembrance," he said. 

"There was one person talking and everyone was trying to shut him up. The more they tried to shut him up, the more he kept talking, and that is embarrassing.  

"I know we've offended some Fleetwood fans. That definitely wasn't our intention."

Boos from angry home followers were ringing out as the game began, setting the tone for an afternoon of remembrance that turned into a Rotherham day to forget.

THE MATCH

Striker Freddie Ladapo watched throughout from the bench. 

When Warne brought off centre-forward Will Grigg at the interval, he turned to young Josh Kayode rather than the 12-goal record signing who has signalled his intent to quit the club.

"The situation obviously affects my decision on whether to bring Freddie on," Warne said. "He was in my team every week before he put a transfer request in. It would be stupid to think my attitude towards him hasn't changed."

Uncharacteristically, the boss made only one substitution as the Millers chased the victory on the Fylde coast that would have kept them at the summit of the table before falling to a 94th-minute sucker-punch.

"This is no disrespect to Fleetwood but I thought we were the only team trying to win," he said. "They were slowing the game down no end, and I’m not too sure about the officiating. 

Josh Kayode on the run

"The longer the game goes on, we’re trying to win it and we probably risked things by throwing bodies forward. In the second half, we got into really good positions  but we just didn’t create enough clear-cut chances to win. I probably could have been braver with the substitutes."

In the first half, Josh Vickers, preferred in goal to Viktor Johansson, denied Callum Camps with his feet as Fleetwood started brightly.

At the other end, Grigg chested the ball just wide after a clever Dan Barlaser/Chiedozie Ogbene free-kick link-up and headed Michael Smith's nod-back against the bar before Ogbene's header brought a fingertip save from Millers old boy Alex Cairns.

Warne was not quite himself. Freddie-gate, the loan recall of Curtis Tilt and stalled contract talks have taken too much of his attention during a transfer window which is unsettling a hitherto settled camp.

Some Rotherham fans fought among themselves at the final whistle and that did nothing to lift his mood.

"I'm told that at the end people were getting frustrated and there was a ruckus," he said. "I'm disappointed with that. It should never come to that. You come to watch a football match, you come to support the team. We win and we lose together and we are going to lose sometimes."

Returning to matters on a soft, uneven pitch that had been over-watered and contained almost as much sand as the nearby beach, he added: "We haven't got the points we came for. We have to lick our wounds and look to change something to get a better performance. 

"I always knew this was going to be difficult. We're warming up and the pitch is ripping apart. But it's the same for both teams. I know it probably doesn't suit the better team. 

"I blame myself a little bit. I openly admit the transfer window has had an effect on me this week. That's not an excuse for the lads. We need to refocus and then we'll go again."

The Rotherham that went 21 games unbeaten in October, November and December would have won this match.

Kayode introduced himself to proceedings by glancing a 47th-minute header just off target, Tom Clarke headed over for Fleetwood and for the second week in a row the flying Ogbene was left apoplectic with disbelief when a penalty decision went against him.

Continually in the second half the wing-back was sprung clear down the right while the Shane Ferguson supply line delivered cross after cross on the other flank but Fleetwood, invigorated by new signings and looking for a fourth win in six outings under new boss Stephen Crainey, got heads to virtually everything.

Time was virtually up when Town launched a long free-kick into Rotherham territory, debut-maker Toto Nsiala climbed highest and sub Anthony Pilkington lost Rarmani, Edmonds and Green with his positioning to joyfully direct the ball over the line.

Chiedozie Ogbene

"To get nothing is hugely disappointing," Warne said. "There are going to be times where everything doesn't go your way - the pitch, whatever excuses you want to make. 

"You just have to dig in and get a performance and a result. It isn't always going to be New York Stadium, 60 per cent possession and 12 shots on target. If you're going to have a good season, you have to win in different sorts of ways. 

"I was disappointed with our set-plays. The balls in were quite good but we didn't get any first contacts. We were aggressive enough on attacking set-pieces. That's my major issue. 

"I don't think we deserved to lose, I don't think anyone in the stadium thought we deserved to lose."

THE GOAL

The surface had been cutting up all game and now the Millers were cutting up rough with the referee.

At the end, Matt Hamshaw headed straight for Rob Lewis and several players followed in their coach's angry path.

The Shrewsbury official had missed an infringement on midfielder Ben Wiles and then blown a second later for a foul on Jay Matete: the free-kick that led to the winner.

"Their player's absolutely wiped Wilesy out," Warne said. "I don't dispute the fact that we might have then fouled their lad but the whistle should have been blown before then. 

"I don't know how the referee doesn't see the assault on Wilesy. It's an absolute joke. We've lost a point on it."

The boss was exaggerating in the heat of his discontent when he said 'wiped out' but the transgression against Wiles had been clear to see.

As Fleetwood celebrated, Rotherham were stunned. Last-gasp misery, pole position no longer theirs, a second loss in three league fixtures to contemplate.

Now the away end really did fall silent.

*******************************************
Goals: Pilkington 90+4 

Millers

Formation: 3-5-2

Josh Vickers: 6
Chosen over Viktor Johansson in a league after performing well in the FA Cup last week. Pulled off an important save to stop Fleetwood taking a second-minute leasd. Sound in every department except his kicking.

Rarmani Edmonds-Green: 7
Having a good, no-frills, solid game until he was at fault for the late, late goal.

Richard Wood: 8
A commanding figure at the back and gave Ellis Harrison hardly any room to breathe. Decent in possession too. His left foot is better than many people give him credit for.

Michael Ihiekwe: 7
There was little wrong with the Millers at the back until the 94th-minute calamity and Ihiekwe was strong in the challenge and calm on the ball.

Chiedozie Ogbene: 7
Raced clear throughout the second half. His crossing was hit and miss but he caused the home side real problems.

Ben Wiles: 6
Quiet in the first half and then came more into the match after the break.

Dan Barlaser: 8
He's added a physical edge to his game. Showed his usual ease and accuracy in possession. Out of it, he covered the ground and competed effectively to win it back.

Ollie Rathbone: 6
The opposite to Ben Wiles. Started well and then faded.

Shane Ferguson: 7
Virtually guaranteed to get his cross in. And it's often a dangerous one.

Michael Smith: 5
Apart from a first-half break that almost set up Will Grigg, he was well below his usual high standards as four committed home defenders made their presence felt. Did little in front of goal and wasn't the threat he can be out wide.

Will Grigg: 6
Looked lively at times and came closest to scoring for Rotherham. It was a surprise to see him taken off at the break.

The subs

Josh Kayode (for Grigg, H-T): 6
Wasn't far away from breaking the deadlock within two minutes of coming on. Showed up well at times. Looks a more confident and assertive player since his first goal for the club earlier this month.

Not used: Viktor Johansson, Wes Harding, Joe Mattock, Jamie Lindsay, Hakeem Odoffin, Freddie Ladapo.

Fleetwood (4-1-2-3): Alex Cairns 7; Callum Johnson 7, Tom Clarke 8, Zak Jules 8, Danny Andrew 7; Dan Batty 6; Carl Johnston 6 (Toto Nsiala H-T, 7), Callum Camps 7 (Jay Matete 85); Paddy Lane 6, Ellis Harrison 6, Cian Hayes 6 (Anthony Pilkington 67, 7). Subs not used: Bill Crellin, Shayden Morris, Dylan Boyle, Max McMillan.

Referee: Rob Lewis (Shrewsbury): 5

Opposition view

“The lads’ attitude, endeavour, application, and desire to stop the ball going into the back of the net was outstanding. I said to them at half-time, if we keep defending how we did in the first half, we’ll get a chance ourselves. Thankfully when we did and we took it late on.

“It’s not just about the starting 11. We need everyone to buy into what we’re doing and that’s exactly what I’m getting every week in training and in games.

“We all know Rotherham are a physical side. They’re up there at the top of the league and they’re there on merit. They utilise what they have got really well. I thought bringing Toto [Nsiala] on would bring us a bit more physicality and that proved to work well, especially at the other end with our set-piece as he knocked it down and we got the winner.”

- Fleetwood boss Stephen Crainey

The stats

Possession: Fleetwood 40 per cent, Millers 60 pc

Goal attempts: Fleetwood 9, Millers 6

On target: Fleetwood 4, Millers 5

Corners: Fleetwood 4, Millers 8

Fouls: Fleetwood 13, Millers 15

Final word

Not great on the pitch. Worse off it.
 



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