The goals, the joy, the performance, Richard Wood and that tackle ... the story of Rotherham United 4 Peterborough United 0

The goals, the joy, the performance, Richard Wood and that tackle ... the story of Rotherham United 4 Peterborough United 0

By Paul Davis | 30/12/2019

The goals, the joy, the  performance, Richard Wood and that tackle ... the story of Rotherham United 4 Peterborough United 0
Richard Wood after opening the scoring. Pictures by Kerrie Beddows

IT wasn't the goal, it wasn't the near-hat-trick, it was the tackle.

Richard Wood lined up his man just inside the Peterborough United half and hurtled into a 50:50.

He won it, smashed it, of course he did, and in doing so set the tone for a stirring victory that saw Rotherham United's sweep aside their play-off rivals.

'We are bigger, we are stronger, we are better,' that challenge declared. 'Today, we want it more.'

The Millers at their Sunday best was one of the best days of the League One campaign so far and the win moved Paul Warne's side up to third place.

There have been home stutters since opening day but, with Rotherham in full pomp, the crowd in full voice and the opposition in full panic, this had echoes of the promotion push two years ago.

Posh, who had arrived at AESSEAL New York Stadium as the division's top scorers and above the Millers in the table, simply couldn't cope during a second-half onslaught that saw them breached four times.

"I felt we were more like us today," manager Warne said. "It felt like a Rotherham performance.

"It's been hard for us at home this season. Last season in the Championship we were the underdog in every game and it sort of added to the atmosphere and helped out the lads.

"However, this year we go into every home game with people expecting us to win. If we don't score early it adds to the pressure on the team.

"First half, we played okay but we still turned down opportunities to cross the ball, which I wasn't pleased with. Second half, we asked more questions of Peterborough's back four."

Substitute Wood, returning in the 27th minute after six weeks out when Clark Robertson could play through the pain of a long-standing groin problem no longer, epitomised the Millers' desire.

The centre-half stood snorting on the touchline, 6ft 3in of Millers muscle and red-and-white defiance desperate to enter the fray, and would go on to convert the 50th-minute header that opened the floodgates.

Kyle Vassell hits the target with a spectacular overhead kick

Six minutes after the breakthrough there was a huge New York roar as he fairly and ferociously flattened the player brave enough to stand in his way.

"I'm sort of 'old school'. I get in stuck in," the 34-year-old said, a picture of softly-spoken satisfaction in the media suite after the game. "I made some decent tackles. I don't want to sound too cocky about it but that lifts the crowd."

You could almost hear the rattle of the pain-killers as the old warrior sped towards his target.

It was a shuddering, Wrecking Ball of a collision that broke his opponent and broke the opposition's spirit.

THE GAME

The victory gave Warne more pleasure than any of his team's previous ten wins this season

"I wasn't going giddy when three and four goals went in," he said. "It was more about us playing well and us playing the way we want to play. The players will get confidence from that.

"Football is really simple. You just have to run past your opponent, put balls into the box, get efforts on target and be aggressive at set-pieces. We did all those things pretty well.

"Even if we hadn't won I'd have still felt that looked more like my team. It was my favourite performance of the season but not because of the scoreline."

Adam Thompson, impressing again at right-back, put an inviting first-half headed opportunity wide from Dan Barlaser's corner and the division's leading marksman, Ivan Toney, was even more profligate with a header right in front of goal as half-time approached.

Wood showed the Posh man how to do it five minutes after the break with a header from Carlton Morris's cross that wasn't really a header at all.

"Right place, right time," said the scorer. "Joe Mattock's got a little nick on it. I'm just about to head it when he's got the nick.

"The ball's gone in off my shoulder. Happy days. It set us on our way. I'm just happy to be playing. The goal is a bonus."

Woody had done the bigger, stronger, better bit and Chiedozie Ogbene added 'faster' to the Millers' irresistibility.

Ogbene destroyed Peterborough with his pace and trickery - and Posh defender Frankie Kent paid a red-card price for halting a devastating 54th-minute burst - while Matt Crooks and Dan Barlaser took total control of midfield.

Seventeen minutes after the opener, Crooks, who was popping up everywhere, ran through the visitors’ defence to double the advantage with a shot Rhys Bennett deflected into his own net.

"I believe in my team. They're a fit, strong group," Warne said. "At half-time I asked the lads to keep playing forward. I said to them that if the crosses ended up in the stand then I'd take the heat from the fans.

"It's not just the wingers who have responsibility to cross it, it's the full-backs as well and even the central midfielders at times. If you keep knocking on the door eventually it will open."

With nearly half an hour still to play, the match was over, allowing home supporters to revel in their Yuletide glee as they ran through their favourite Christmas hits, Come on you Reds, Paul Warne's red and white army, We've got Warne-iola and There's Only One Paul Warne.

Plus, of course, the number-one smash, Richard Wood is Magic.

Joe Mattock took the festive edge off proceedings when he was ordered to leave the party early, sent off on 73 minutes for mindlessly pushing his head into the face of Ivan Toney after the pair had tussled and the Peterborough striker had raised his hand.

"I'm not defending him," said Warne tersely. "Poor.

"Yep, I've spoken to him. You won't be surprised to know I'm not telling you what I've said. I'm disappointed. That's three games he's missing for us, three big games for us that could have a massive part to be play in our season. I'm not best pleased."

Delight for the Millers

At 11 v 11 Rotherham had held the upper hand, 11 v 10 was no contest and 10 v 10 changed nothing.

Wood was involved again in the 77th minute as his header was turned in by Peterborough's Joe Ward before Michael Smith shot just too high, Kyle Vassell hit the post and Wood's arching headed effort brought the save of the afternoon from Christy Pym.

Deep in time added on, Vassell applied the perfect ending to the celebration, finding the net with a stunning overhead kick for his first ever Millers league strike.

Wood said: "To get a couple of goals was great. I'm claiming our third goal. I've headed it and it's hit the lad and gone in. That's my goal."

Sadly, the official stats organisation begged to differ and chalked it down as the second 'og' of the game.

It was the only battle the defender lost all afternoon.

FUMING FERGIE

Unbeknown to Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson, New York's away dressing room is right next to the media suite. Journalists couldn't help but overhear the 'hairdryer' treatment he gave his players at half-time and the final whistle.

It was all hot air on a day when the real heat came from Warne's men.

"If we keep performing at that level hopefully we should be there or thereabouts," the Millers manager said. "But I'm not getting too giddy with the table.

"You could lose one game and drop down to seventh. I think there will be loads and loads of changes between now and the end of the season.

"I'm more focused on how we perform week in, week out. I thought we played really well at Shrewsbury Town (2-1 win on Boxing Day) and really well today."

Meanwhile, Wood was just pleased he'd been allowed to put his renowned leadership skills to one side and leave everything in the hands of centre-half partner Michael Ihiekwe.

"I didn't need my organisation today," the veteran grinned. "Icky was loud. It was a good job he was too. After coming on I was so out of breath I couldn't get my words out.

"I was just trying to get through to half-time. In the second half I felt a lot better."

Warne caught the merry mood: "I thought Woody's goal would please a lot of people. It's the song they all like to sing.

"It's great for Woody who has been out for a bit. For him to come on and score was pretty magical."

But it wasn't the goal, it was the tackle.

Rotherham (4-4-2): Daniel Iversen; Adam Thompson, Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson (Richard Wood 27), Joe Mattock; Chiedozie Ogbene, Matt Crooks, Dan Barlaser, Matt Olosunde; Freddie Ladapo (Kyle Vassell 69), Carlton Morris (Michael Smith 76). Subs not used: Lewis Price, Ben Wiles, Jamie Lindsay, Jake Hastie.

Peterborough (4-4-2): Christy Pym; Niall Mason, Frankie Kent, Mark Beevers, Daniel Butler; Alex Woodyard, Louis Reed (Rhys Bennett 57), George Boyd, Harrison Burrows (Joe Ward H-T); Ricky-Jade Jones, Ivan Toney (Mo Eisa 82). Subs not used: Conor O'Malley, Sam Cartwright, Kyle Barker, Archie Jones.

Goals: Wood 50, Bennett og 67, Ward og 77, Vassell 90+3 (Rotherham).

Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne and Wear).

Attendance: 9,019 (874).