The early worry, the emphatic comeback and the moment of Gazza greatness ... the story of Rotherham United 6 Bolton Wanderers 1

By Paul Davis | 15/09/2019

The early worry, the emphatic comeback and the moment of Gazza greatness ... the story of Rotherham United 6 Bolton Wanderers 1
Ben Wiles has a day to remember. Pictured by Steve Mettam

GAZZA 1996, Wilesy 2019.

Rotherham United youngster Ben Wiles wasn't even born when Paul Gascoigne scored that goal for England against Scotland in the European Championships.

But the 20-year-old lit up AESSEAL New York Stadium on Saturday in the same way Gazza had illuminated Wembley 23 years ago just when the Millers needed him most.

Bolton Wanderers were in town. Saved-from-extinction Wanderers, revived Wanderers, buzzing Wanderers, backed by a 2,600 away following and playing their first League One encounter since a takeover and nine deadline-day signings.

Could there be a worse time to play them? We all feared what was coming, we all knew what was coming.

Four minutes gone, Bolton 1-0 ahead, the away party in full swing.

Rotherham hadn't won at home in the first six weeks of the season. They'd impressed here, stuttered there, disappointed a week earlier at Doncaster. Now they needed to perform.

Step forward Wiles.

Ten minutes after Wanderers' opener, he took possession on the right, lifted the ball over the head of Jake Wright, nipped round the visiting centre-half, took a touch, ran in on goal and curled the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

Maybe it wasn't quite in the same class as Gascoigne's strike against Scotland but it was way, way too good for League One. Sublime.

By close of play, the score was 6-1 to the home side and New York had its first home success and biggest margin of victory since Notts County were despatched 6-0 in the 2013/14 campaign.

"I was all right when Bolton scored, to be fair," manager Paul Warne said. "I did warn the lads that I thought that in the first 20 minutes Bolton would have a right go at us as they would be euphoric because of what's happened.

"They've signed a good team. Their fans travelled in full voice.

"We had the Liverpool v Newcastle game on in the dressing room before our match. Newcastle scored first but Liverpool just kept playing and in the end they were too much. 

"The belief from our lads was really good. I think we could have taken another few chances. I thought the lads moved the ball really well and looked fit and strong. We're pleased.​"

Wiles delivered more than a game-changing wonder-goal. No-one ran harder, sweated more or showed more quality.

Cometh the hour, cometh the boy.

THE MATCH

Keith Hill knew what his team had just run into.

"We have come up against a fitness machine in Rotherham and tested ourselves physically and mentally," the Wanderers boss said. "We have witnessed what League One is all about there."

The Millers could have slipped on a banana skin but instead just slipped into gear.

It could have finished 10-1 as Warne's men, lining up in a 4-4-2 formation rather than 4-3-3, attacked from all angles. The team of kids Bolton had fielded pre-takeover had lost regularly but never this heavily.

After Thibaud Verlinden's early breakthrough, Wiles wheeled out his wizardry, Freddie Ladapo fired home after a clever one-two with strike partner Carlton Morris who then headed home Michael Ihiekwe's deft supply to kill the contest by the break.

Freddie Ladapo scores his second goal

Matt Crooks - good at times, casual too often - had done his his best to even things up when Rotherham were leading 2-1 in the 34th minute, passing straight to Verlinden who brought the save of the game from Daniel Iversen.

Maybe referee Seb Stockbridge was still rubbing his eyes at Crooks' lack of concentration as he missed Iversen's wonderful stop with an outstetched foot and gave a goal-kick.

Meanwhile, Wiles was everywhere. He's only 20, remember, and not everything the midfielder tried was perfect, but his talent is flourishing and his influence growing game by game.

"I thought Wilesy was the stand-out player on the pitch," Warne said.

The manager was sipping from a carton of tea in the second half. No sugar, yet life was pretty sweets as three more goals flew in within 13 minutes of each other.

Ladapo got on the end of Jamie Lindsay's superb cross to nod in from close range and Morris struck from 20 yards with the help of a deflection.

Winger Jake Hastie completed the rout with tap-in and it was appropriate that the cross had come from the player who had launched the Millers' comeback with his 14th-minute moment of genius.

These were the first home goals for Ladapo, who now has three in six league outings, and the first in Millers colours for Norwich City loanee Morris.

Two in two for Jake Hastie

Ladapo could have scored five, twice hitting the woodwork and once misconnecting in front of an open net. There were other chances, too, for Hastie, Morris and Joe Mattock

Hastie's second goal in two games since his loan switch from Glasgow Rangers meant the sun was shining in more ways than one at late-summer New York, but Warne was uncharacteristically clipped in his after-match press conference.

"It's nice to win," the boss said. "Our team are pretty fit. I try to sign athletes who can play. 

"Bolton kindly said after the match that we were a good team, that we're a fit bunch. It's nice for someone to flatter our team because not many do."

A standing ovation at the end suggested that maybe more people than he thought had appreciated what they'd just seen.

THE DUGOUTS

The best seats in the house were in the South Stand where the majesty of Wiles' goal could be best seen and most appreciated.

Warne still quite liked the perch he was occupying, having decided that from now on he and his staff will be taking up residence in the dugout that had previously been used by the opposition.

"If I can win 6-1 from there every time, that will be great!" he said. "I found it a bit weird. The fans sat around there were really kind to us and said we could go and sit down there more often."

He added cryptically: "I did it for reasons I don't want to share."

Wilesy

At the final whistle, he vacated his new abode and waited by the touchline for his team.

There were strong handshakes for all his players. Bar one.

The boss made an exception when a crop-haired, red-cheeked figure left the scene of his great Gazza impersonation.

A man-hug for the boy.

Rotherham (4-4-2): Daniel Iversen; Matt Olosunde, Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Ben Wiles, Jamie Lindsay (Dan Barlaser 75), Matt Crooks, Jake Hastie (Shaun MacDonald 67); Freddie Ladapo, Carlton Morris (Michael Smith 67). Subs not used: Lewis Price, Billy Jones, Richard Wood, Julien Lamy.

Bolton (4-1-4-1): Remi Matthews; Josh Emmanuel, Jack Hobbs, Jake Wright, Adam Chicksen; Liam Bridcutt; Dennis Politic, Luke Murphy (Ronan Darcy 62), James Weir (Jason Lowe 39), Thibaud Verlinden; Ali Crawford. Subs not used: Ben Alnwick, Yoan Zouma, Jordan Boon, Eddie Brown, Adam Senior.

Goals: Wiles 14, Ladapo 28, 53, Morris 40, 55, Hastie 66 (Rotherham); Verlinden 4 (Bolton).

Referee: Seb Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance: 10,088 (2,600).


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