The tribute in the rain, the late agony (again), the heroic defending, the attacking concern and the absence of Chiedozie Ogbene ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Huddersfield Town 1

The tribute in the rain, the late agony (again), the heroic defending, the attacking concern and the absence of Chiedozie Ogbene ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Huddersfield Town 1

By Paul Davis | 04/10/2020

The tribute in the rain, the late agony (again), the heroic defending, the attacking concern and the absence of Chiedozie Ogbene ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Huddersfield Town 1
The Millers concede in the 95th minute. Pictures by Dave Poucher

ROTHERHAM United walked on to the pitch to the tune of The Mighty Quinn.

It was an old song for an old boy, a moving tribute to much-loved former player Johnny Quinn.

It was fitting that, as the music rang around AESSEAL New York Stadium, the bleakness of the weather, the forbidding sky and the echoing emptiness of the ground lent proceedings a sombre edge in keeping with the sadness of saying farewell to a legend.

The Millers went on to produce a mighty defensive effort. They almost withstood a mighty Huddersfield Town fightback.

But it wasn't to be.

With seconds of stoppage time remaining in the Yorkshire derby, they led 1-0 through Ben Wiles' superb first-half strike.

The visitors, though, had never stopped pushing after the break and a cruel deflection off Angus MacDonald as they tried their luck one final time saw the ball nestling in the back of the net.

"To defend as resolutely as we did for so long and to concede so late ... " Paul Warne's sentence trailed off as the Rotherham boss reflected on the second last-gasp goal against his team in two Championship games.

"We had 11 tired lads on at the end. A couple were carrying injuries. We had to put Vass (Kyle Vassell) on the right because Wilesy (Ben Wiles) couldn't move anymore. Sads (Kieran Sadlier) was struggling with a calf, he couldn't move either. We were like lame ducks for the last ten minutes."

Freddie Ladapo shoots

The stats show the newly-promoted Millers had only 26 per cent possession over the entire game as they fought the second-half onslaught

Just as at Birmingham City a week earlier, they led going into time added on and weren't able to to see out the contest.

"The Championship does have that little bit more quality in the final third," Warne said. "If teams are losing, they are going to throw everything at you.

"Many times Huddersfield went gung-ho and left it two v two. If we'd have picked the proper pass, we'd have been in, but we didn't.

"The fact they got it so late and it was an own goal was hard to take. It is just heartbreaking really."

Heading into the international break, Rotherham have reason to be pleased. After four matches they're 12th in the table, they've matched established second-tier sides and defensively they're proving very hard to break down.

However, on Saturday they were considerations for another day. So soon after the sapping misery of giving up victory so late, it was raining too much to see clearly and hurting too much to think straight.

THE MATCH

MacDonald had his head in his hands, Michael Ihiekwe had his head in his hands, so did Wes Harding. Jamie Lindsay, Joe Mattock and Michael Smith were similar dejected pictures of suffering.

It was the 95th minute and Pipa's off-target shot had just taken a huge turn for the worse off MacDonald's outstretched leg to leave goalkeeper Jamal Blackman helpless.

The heavens were open but until that point the Millers defence had remained resolutely closed. Ihiekwe had been immense, his centre-half partner, MacDonald, even better.

"Considering Angus was outstanding, it makes it a little bit harder," said Warne. "In the three games where we have conceded, we have had a penalty, a slip from Icky (Ihiekwe) and an own goal. I think the lads are doing a lot of things right but there are still a lot of things to improve on."

The Millers began slowly and were indebted to MacDonald for an early goal-saving block on Fraizer Campbell, then they started to drive at Huddersfield and were the better side leading up to the interval

They took the lead in the 33rd minute and the old maestro, Quinn, himself would have been pleased to to get the same connection on the ball as Wiles did when the youngster controlled Sadlier's pass inside and fizzed a sweet, low 25-yarder past Terriers keeper Ben Hamer.

Who knows how the game would have turned out had Freddie Ladapo scored six minutes later rather than see his fierce shot, after a raking pass from George Hirst, pushed over the bar by Hamer's quick reflexes. As it was, that was the end of Rotherham as an attacking force.

Huddersfield gained control by pushing holding midfielder Jonathan Hogg further forward from where he dictated play and pinned the Millers back.

For all their second-half dominance, Town had only one effort on target - an 82nd-minute Pipa shot smartly saved by Blackman - but Rotherham were relieved to see former loanee Josh Koroma waste two opportunities and Adama Diakhaby direct a header wide.

Rotherham take the lead

"I have mixed feelings," Warne said. "I think out of possession the lads couldn't work any harder, they couldn't run any harder. I am just disappointed that when we had the ball we weren't as good as we have been in previous games.

"But that is because Huddersfield don't give you a minute on the ball. This is the biggest Championship test we have had of the season. They move the ball really well."

Having watched his team not ask questions of the visitors in the second half, Warne posed and answered one of his own.

"Did Huddersfield do enough in the game to get a point? I think they did."

NO CHIEO OR DAN

Come on (within or without), own up - who really knows all the lyrics to The Mighty Quinn?

There's the chorus we can all sing, that bit about an Eskimo and then ... well, I'm about done there really.

It wasn't so much an Eskimo that did for Rotherham in the second half as a Toffolo.

That's Harry Toffolo, a New York loanee in late 2015 who spent two months in South Yorkshire during the short reign of Neil Redfearn.

Huddersfield's formation, which frees up their full-backs to spend much of the game as wingers, saw him escape down the Millers' right so many times that he delivered more crosses in the second half than all of the home side put together.

A knee injury, suffered on the eve of the match and which will require surgery, had robbed Rotherham of the lightning-quick Chiedozie Ogbene and Warne was all too aware of the significance of the winger's absence.

"We missed him," he said. "I think he would have got us up the pitch and caused no end of problems. It's not only when he has the ball. His presence would have stopped Toffolo who was pretty instrumental in their second-half performance. He would have pushed Toffolo back."

Agony at the end

New signing Dan Barlaser - whose return from Newcastle United on a permanent deal has delighted supporters - was kept in reserve. Wearing a red hooded cagoule and orange bib, he warmed up by the corner of the North Stand in strange, sad silence, Covid-19 robbing Millers fans of the chance to shower him with their raucous appreciation.

Meanwhile, Warne had dared to dream.

"I had thought we had done enough," he said. "We were only a couple of minutes away, but unfortunately that is four points we've dropped in two games. With those four points, we would be absolutely smoking it. That is what is frustrating.

"We had worked on how to see a game out. There are only so many waves that you can stop really. It's doubly cruel. I'd rather see someone bend it in from 30 yards than concede an own goal."

Victory was so close. Everything changed in the moment it took MacDonald to become the unluckiest man in the stadium.

At the final whistle, the image of Sadlier sinking agonisingly on to his haunches summed up the mood. There were muted handshakes, heads were down. Warne sportingly embraced The Mighty Toffolo.

Afterwards, I looked up the forgotten lines of that famous song.

One of them is: Everybody's in despair.

Goals: Wiles 33 (Rotherham), A MacDonald og 90+5 (Huddersfield).

Rotherham (4-4-2): Jamal Blackman; Wes Harding, Michael Ihiekwe, Angus MacDonald, Joe Mattock; Ben Wiles, Shaun MacDonald ( Jamie Lindsay 75), Matt Crooks, Kieran Sadlier; Freddie Ladapo  Kyle Vassell 70), George Hirst (Michael Smith 52). Subs not used: Viktor Johansson, Richard Wood, Dan Barlaser, Mickel Miller.

Huddersfield (4-1-2-3): Ben Hamer; Pipa, Richard Stearman, Naby Sarr, Harry Toffolo; Jonathan Hogg; Juninho Bacuna (Matty Daly 78), Carel Eiting; Isaac Mbenza (Adama Diakhaby 83), Fraizer Campbell, Josh Koroma. Subs not used: Joel Pereira, Demeaco Duhaney, Ramoney Crichlow, Jaden Brown, Mustapha Olagunju.

Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire).




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