The two-goal hero, the statement of intent, 'Everywhere' Ollie and 'Up the Football League we go' ... the story of Bolton Wanderers 0 Rotherham United 2

The two-goal hero, the statement of intent, 'Everywhere' Ollie and 'Up the Football League we go' ... the story of Bolton Wanderers 0 Rotherham United 2

By Paul Davis | 19/09/2021

The two-goal hero, the statement of intent,  'Everywhere' Ollie and 'Up the Football League we go' ... the story of Bolton Wanderers 0 Rotherham United 2
Goal joy for Ben Wiles and the Millers at Bolton. Pictures by Jim Brailsford

BEN Wiles surveyed the bank of steps and frowned for the first time since his two-goal salvo had made him Rotherham United's match-winner.

The young midfielder had struck twice in three minutes to settle a thrilling contest between two sides who should be in the promotion shake-up at the end of the campaign

Now journalists wanted to speak to him and they were housed high, high up in a stand, unable to head down to pitchside because of Covid-induced access restrictions.

If the media couldn't come to Ben, Ben had to come to the media. With a sigh, he began his trek.

A bumper crowd had watched proceedings as the away-day Millers proved too much for third-placed Bolton Wanderers and made the leap into the top six that their League One form has deserved this season.

God, it was good. The atmosphere was hot and the competition even hotter as two good teams went for each other in Saturday's breathless attacking encounter. Both cocked their guns and it was Rotherham who were quicker to draw.

"There were 21,000 in there today, which is a great crowd for third-tier football," manager Paul Warne said. "We stood up to the challenge well.  

"A clean sheet away from home and a couple of goals is a very satisfying day at the office. We could have scored more, but Bolton could have scored as well. Overall, we’re delighted with the result."

Early on, Wiles had been a bit of lemon in his tangerine boots as he'd spurned an inviting opportunity to open the scoring.

Suddenly, though, he gloriously struck twice in three minutes and the Millers, showing remarkable energy after their Tuesday-night draw at Lincoln City, never looked back.

Ben Wiles heads in his and Rotherham's second goal

Their victory and the manner of it were a statement of intent. Bolton are the best team Rotherham have run into and they were toppled. Undoubtedly, Rotherham are the best team Bolton have run into as well.

"To say we played midweek and they didn’t, it is a phenomenal effort from us, against an excellent side by the way," Warne said. "Four points is a really good return for us from two really tough away games."

More than 1,500 Millers supporters had journeyed across the M62 to witness a special occasion. The table showed it, the fans sang it.

"Ee-eye, ee-eye, ee-eye oh, up the Football League we go."

THE MATCH

IT was a game of two halves, both very different but each an indicator of what Rotherham could go on to achieve this season.

Bolton had fallen at the Millers' feet in the first-half shootout. In the second, the visitors, content to protect their advantage, retreated and soaked up everything their dangerous, slick-passing opponents could throw at them.

"It’s not something that comes natural to us, to sit back and counter-attack," Warne said. "We are normally all out blazing. It was a very professional display  from us."

Wiles had shot over, Ollie 'Everywhere' Rathbone had tested goalkeeper Joel Dixon from distance and Ricardo Almeida Santos had headed wide at the other end before the deadlock was broken.

This time, the Millers man's aim was perfect as he beat his marker and drove a stunning 18th-minute effort into the top corner.

Rotherham fans hadn't finished celebrating when Dan Barlaser sent a corner to the back post as part of a routine that had been practised in training and this time Wiles' head did the damage as his thumping nod-down bounced off the turf and into the roof of the net.

For Bolton, Eoin Doyle hit the post and Gethin Jones' shot was too weak to trouble Viktor Johansson.

If Wiles' hair had been an inch longer he'd have got the glance he needed on Will Grigg's cross to complete a memorable hat-trick.

It took the Millers' goal-getter longer to negotiate his high-rise journey and present himself for interview than it had to bag his double.

"In the first ten minutes, we were a bit shaky," he said. "After that we played our way into the game and created chances. I'm a bit gutted that I didn't come away with the matchball."

Here, there, everywhere ... Ollie Rathbone

Warne had joined Wiles in making the trudge up into the gods of Bolton's imposing ground and extolled the virtues of his midfield in which Wiles, Rathbone and Barlaser and then substitute Jamie Lindsay had been outstanding

"Our midfielders, any of them can start," he said. "I love all of them. There is no weakness. Jamie didn't start today, but did in midweek. Wilesy didn’t start in midweek but did today.

"There is no issue between them. They know they can start every game when we're asking them to play at the intensity that we do.

"I said to Ollie: 'We are going to have to start taking you off. I don't want you to get the reputation for being even fitter than I was a player.'"

The boss made the right changes at the right time, adding Wes Harding's right-flank solidity and taking off Chiedozie Ogbene at the break  then shoring up his team even more with the 60th-minute introduction of Lindsay.

"If we had lost 3-2, we would have been criticised for making defensive-looking subs, but it seemed the right thing to do," Warne said.

"We left it three for three on the halfway line and it caused us problems so we decided to move the engagement line back.  When the ball went out wide, we pressed, and I was quite happy for Bolton to cross it because we have strength in the middle of the pitch."

After the break, Lloyd Isgrove had a shot saved and Josh Sheehan and George Johnston missed the target for Bolton but it was Rotherham who came closest to scoring when Michael Smith took aim from an angle and hit the inside of the far post.

A first win on Bolton soil since 1990 was in the bag long before the final whistle.

I didn't intend to go down the road of cliche by saying the Millers passed a stiff examination at the University of Bolton Stadium but now that have I might as well record the following:

Rathbone covered every blades of grass, the away fans were the 12th man and believing the Millers have it in them to go up is a no-brainer.

TOGETHERNESS

It was obvious how much it all meant as the victors headed over to the away end at the final whistle.

Lindsay grabbed Wiles, ruffled his hair and the pair laughed in unison; competitors for a position but teammates first.

"The lads are great to work with and train with and you can see how together they are," said Warne said who rewarded his squad with an extra day at home.

"I told them that if we won and scored from a set-piece I would give them Monday off."

Paul Warne salutes the away end

The manager stood, arms raised, in front of supporters, enjoying the red-and-white party unfolding in front of him and was the last man to leave the pitch.

"I’d like to thank the away following," he said. "They were fantastic for us. I hope the fans who came today appreciate the effort the lads put in. Everyone was clapping at the end. It was a great place to be."

Then came the hike into the sky for him and Wiles.

The biggest climb of all, though, belonged to the team: up from 13th into a play-off spot.

Bolton (4-2-3-1): Joel Dixon; Gethin Jones, Ricardo Almeida Santos, George Johnston, Liam Gordon; MJ Williams, Josh Sheehan (Kieran Lee 71), Lloyd Isgrove, Antoni Sarcevic (Elias Kachunga 77), Dapo Afolayan; Eoin Doyle. Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Nathan Delfouneso, Will Aimson, George Thomason, Alex Baptiste.

Rotherham (3-5-2): Viktor Johansson; Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Richard Wood, Joe Mattock; Chiedozie Ogbene (Wes Harding H-T), Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser (Jamie Lindsay 60), Ollie Rathbone, Tolaji Bola; Will Grigg (Kieran Sadlier 78), Michael Smith. Subs not used: Josh Vickers, Michael Ihiekwe, Hakeem Odoffin, Josh Kayode.

Goals: Wiles 18, 21 (Rotherham).

Referee: James Bell (Sheffield).

Attendance: 20,877 (1,578).


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