The fans, the frenzy, last-minute Smith and four-minute Woody ... the story of Shrewsbury Town 1 Rotherham United 2

The fans, the frenzy, last-minute Smith and four-minute Woody ... the story of Shrewsbury Town 1 Rotherham United 2

By Paul Davis | 27/12/2019

The fans, the frenzy, last-minute Smith and four-minute Woody ... the story of Shrewsbury Town 1 Rotherham United 2
Michael Smith celebrates his last-gasp winner. Pictures by Trevor Price

THE 97th-minute joy blew his mind. He didn't know where to run.

Michael Smith dashed one way, then the other, finally settling on the corner flag and heading there in almost-pantomime, high-stepping style before producing the worst knee slide of the season.

No-one minded, because the centre-forward had just produced the best header of the season as well.

His thumping effort, deep, deep into stoppage time right in front of the travelling Millers contingent won the Boxing Day encounter for Rotherham United at Shrewsbury Town.

The dulcet tones of Bing Crosby singing his most famous song over the PA system had added a mellow tone to proceedings at half-time but now there was nothing but noise and pandemonium.

Fans were far from home and had earned the right to celebrate. Some ended up on the pitch as the yellow line of stewards proved no match for their mad elation.

"To score a goal that late on ... even I can smile," grinned manager Paul Warne, always notoriously downbeat in victory. "It's one of my sweeter days."

The win moved Rotherham back into the League play-off places and was nothing less than they deserved.

They'd dominated against an in-form side, led on the hour mark through Joe Mattock, been pegged back six minutes later then gloriously come again towards the end to seal their seventh away triumph in 12 outings.

"We just looked a better team than we have in recent weeks," Warne said. "We'd got a lot of our players back from illness and injury. That helps.

"Shrewsbury had won away at Blackpool and beaten Coventry here in their last two matches. They drew at Oxford. They've been taking a lot of points against good teams.

Smith scores

"It's brilliant to be in fifth spot. Being in the top six at this stage ... had you offered me that at the start of the season I'd have taken it."

Smith made his beeline for the corner chased by every outfield Millers player, their away jerseys and victory glow picked out in the late-afternoon gloom by the New Meadow floodlights.

White shirts. White Christmas.

THE GAME

The match was heading into the last ten minutes when the ball found its way into the arms of Rotherham goalkeeper Dan Iversen.

In an instant, the keeper kicked long, Freddie Ladapo picked up the ball and the visitors were on the attack.

No way, no way at all, were Warne's men settling for a point. They were going after all three.

They'd controlled proceedings, fashioned openings and gone close through Carlton Morris - a constant threat against his former club - and Matt Crooks but had to wait until the 60th minute before taking the lead when Mattock nodded home following Michael Ihiekwe's header back from Dan Barlaser's supply.

Six minutes later Shrewsbury were level through Aaron Pierre's header from a well-worked set-piece and the home side later tested Iversen with Ryan Giles' shot on the counter-attack while Omar Beckles volleyed over.

However, Barlaser picked passes, picked pockets of space and led the Millers back into the ascendancy.

"We came here to win. We don't come and shut up shop; anything but," Warne said. "I thought we played pretty well.

"We created the most chances. We conceded off a good free-kick. Other than that, I can remember my keeper making only one save. The lads came back well.

"Carlton was excellent. He won all his headers. He just blew up towards the end. When we first went in front I thought we might go on and win the game more handsomely. But I'm not complaining!

"I thought Dan Barlaser's set-pieces were excellent. They were on the money every time."

Ladapo was foiled, Smith's shot was saved and only seconds remained when Rotherham refused to let up the pressure, the Shrews couldn't get out and Adam Thompson crossed.

Joe Mattock opens the scoring

Smith hung in the air and suddenly so did the magic as the ball crashed into the top corner.

The frontman hasn't always been in favour this year and had been on the pitch for only 12 minutes when he delivered his perfect last-minute gift.

“It's great for Smudge to score a late winner like that," Warne said, "I'm really pleased. He has been frustrated at times but scoring like that in front of his own fans will have made his Christmas that bit sweeter."

THE WOOD EFFECT

There was almost a sharp intake of breath from three sides of the ground when the old warrior prepared to enter the fray in the 93rd minute.

The hard head, the strong heart, the black boots, the man with the magic hat ... here comes Richard Wood.

Shrewsbury are terrified of him.

The centre-half grabbed the winner at New Meadow when the Millers were marching to League One promotion two seasons ago and broke Shrews hearts with two more goals in the play-off final at Wembley. He even scored against them in the Carabao Cup earlier this term.

Freddie Ladapo reacts at the final whistle

Four minutes after his introduction, cue festive frenzy.

Maybe Smith's job of converting his towering header was made just that bit easier because every Shrews player was on Woody watch.

The skipper, back from a six-week injury lay-off, wasn't in the squad for his pace yet somehow managed to be the first man to catch up with the match-winner at the corner flag and bury the striker with his 6ft 3in frame.

He was quickly joined by ecstatic teammates and then by supporters as the wild celebrations became too much for the bricks and mortar of the DM Recruitment Stand to contain.

Nine-hundred-and-eight-seven crazy fans all invited to the same out-of-control Christmas party.

I wonder what old Bing made of it.

May your days be merry and bright.

Shrewsbury (3-4-2-1): Max O'Leary; Ethan Ebanks-Landell, Aaron Pierre, Omar Beckles; Donald Love (Ro-Shaun Williams 86), Brad Walker, Josh Laurent, Scott Golbourne; Shaun Whalley, Dave Edwards (Ryan Giles 79); Fejiri Okenabirhie (Daniel Udoh 68). Subs not used: Joe Murphy, Ousmane Fane, Sean Goss, Jason Cummings.

Rotherham (4-4-2): Daniel Iversen; Adam Thompson, Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock (Richard Wood 90+3); Matt Olosunde, Matt Crooks, Dan Barlaser, Chiedozie Ogbene (Kyle Vassell 82); Freddie Ladapo, Carlton Morris (Michael Smith 85). Subs not used: Lewis Price, Trevor Clarke, Jamie Lindsay, Jake Hastie.

Goals: Mattock 60, Smith 90+7 (Rotherham); Pierre 66 (Shrewsbury).

Referee: Marc Edwards (Tyne and Wear).

Attendance: 7,555 (987).