Viking heroics but Rotherham United 'out-Rotherhamed' as it all goes wrong on the biggest night of the season ... the story of Millers 0 Coventry City 1

Viking heroics but Rotherham United 'out-Rotherhamed' as it all goes wrong on the biggest night of the season ... the story of Millers 0 Coventry City 1

By Paul Davis | 16/04/2021

Viking heroics but Rotherham United 'out-Rotherhamed' as it all goes wrong on the biggest night of the season ... the story of Millers 0 Coventry City 1
Captain Richard Wood in action against Coventry. Pictures by Kerrie Beddows

 

THE Viking sank to his knees at the final whistle and stayed that way for a long, long time.

Goalkeeper Viktor Johansson had done everything he could to keep Rotherham United in a game they could ill afford to lose and understood as well as anybody the potential significance of a defeat against one of their main rivals for Championship survival.

The young Swede cut a lonely, frustrated figure in his penalty area as his teammates trooped off the pitch to the inquest in the dressing room.

The Millers had been well beaten by Coventry City and their boss, Mark Robins, once a manager in this parish, had done a number on his old club.

The Sky Blues were urgent and up for it, snuffing out any semblance of Rotherham threat while posing all kinds of questions that Paul Warne's men had no answer to.

"Robbo won't mind me saying this because he's won but I thought they were really direct, really physical," manager Warne said. "We didn't create anything and they got their goal that over the course of their play they thoroughly merited.

"I think we got what we deserved. Coventry were significantly better than us. They started the game on the front foot, they out-battled us and outfought us, which I don't like to say.

"We changed the system a couple of times, changed the personnel, and it didn't really have any impact on chances created."

No impact at all. Rotherham had zero attempts on target throughout the contest.

This was the big one, the night when the teams third and fourth bottom in the table collided, each having the opportunity to turn the fight against relegation in their favour.

The Millers have been competitive all season but here they were physically feeling the effects of their brutal run of fixtures. And mentally, when the pressure was on, some of them didn't handle it.

It happened against Wycombe Wanderers, now it was being repeated. Rotherham were being 'out-Rotherhamed' and couldn't respond.

THE GAME

From the first minute, you feared what might be coming.

Coventry were fresh and sharp, spirit running through their ranks in the way fatigue was running through the Millers who were negotiating their second match in three days as part of a four-in-nine spell.

Less than 60 seconds were showing on the AESSEAL New York Stadium clock on Thursday when Johansson was called into action for the first time as the visitors raced out of the blocks.

"It was a leggy performance, I completely agree," Warne said. "I've been moaning all season about Wednesday-Saturday games because I think that is ridiculous. Tuesday-Thursday, with Thursday being against a relegation rival, is really harsh.

"No-one goes out to play badly. Collectively, we just weren't great. Obviously the schedule played a part. We didn't have any zing in our play. The win on Tuesday (v QPR) will have taken a lot out of the lads physically, but emotionally as well ... that's the thing.

Matt Crooks

"I'm sitting here talking to you now and I'm exhausted. It is what it is. We have to play the games. It's just unfortunate for us the order they go in. I would have loved to have played this game with more rest, that is for sure. There were some jaded bodies and minds."

Affer the high of QPR, the boss had made changes, bringing back players who had been rested against the Hoops and fielding his strongest side, but the cumulative toll of too many matches in too few days still told.

Johansson pulled off a spectacular first-minute save to tip Liam Kelly's long-range effort on to the bar and was brave and decisive 11 minutes later in denying Callum O'Hare before Matt Godden somehow lifted the rebound over the bar.

The best stop of all came in the 35th minute when he flung out an arm to push away a Tyler Walker back-post header he had no right to keep out.

"Three worldies," said Robins.

The Millers' only real opening came in the 23rd minute when Lewis Wing's fierce drive from an angle on the right thudded off the inside of the post.

"Viktor kept us in the game until half-time and I was hoping we'd get a response in the second," Warne said. "I have no complaints about the scoreline. It's disappointing because after Tuesday night it would have been great to get another win. The sun comes up tomorrow. We'll have to pick up the lads and go again Sunday (v Birmingham City). But this was a blow.

"We hit the post and it would have been well handy had that gone in."

In a second half of few chances, not even Johansson could do anything in the 70th minute when Leo Ostigard climbed superbly to head home a free-kick sent in from the byline.

Asked how he would lift his side for another huge outing this weekend, Warne replied: "It's a good question. You go in after a defeat and everyone feels emotional.

"There's a part of you that wants to say 'You've got to compete', there's a part of you that has sympathy for what they're going through and there's a part of you that thinks 'Look, you've just got to positively spin it for Sunday'. It's a difficult jigsaw to put together.

"We just weren't at our best tonight and, fundamentally, in this league against any opposition if you're not at your best you're not going to get anything.

"If we don't raise our level for Sunday, we'll get nothing again. The lads are well aware what they're playing for and what we're trying to achieve."

SURVIVAL HOPES

Third bottom, seven matches left, four points behind Derby County, two games in hand.

"It's still do-able," Warne said. "You just need to get back-to-back results.

"We have the matches in hand but getting back-to-back wins in this league is difficult for any team in the bottom six. We need another three or four wins, which is no easy ask."

Substitute Ryan Giles

The manager, like Johansson, like you, like me, knew a big opportunity had gone begging:

"If we'd have won tonight, there would have been teams just above near the bottom thinking 'Oh no, we're in trouble' because they know how hard back-to-back wins are. We could have added a bit of pressure to them.

"But it is in our hands and we just have to go in on Sunday and perform to more of a level that you would expect from us.

"There's no disputing that playing on Tuesday and then going again on Thursday is going to have some impact. I'd be naive not to think it. Coventry came in all fresh and guns blazing. They thought this was their chance to stay up and they took it."

And, so, the team with the worst home record in the division lost to the side that had the worst away form.

At the end, the Viking finally rose to his feet, walked round his area for a while and then headed dejectedly for the tunnel after picking up his towel.

Rotherham won’t be throwing in theirs but their survival prospects suddenly look a whole lot bleaker.

Goals: Ostigard 70 (Coventry).

Rotherham (3-5-1-1): Viktor Johansson; Michael Ihiekwe (Kieran Sadlier 87), Richard Wood, Angus MacDonald; Matt Olosunde (Ryan Giles 60), Jamie Lindsay (Chiedozie Ogbene 77), Lewis Wing, Ben Wiles (Freddie Ladapo 60), Wes Harding (Clark Robertson 77); Matt Crooks, Michael Smith. Subs not used: Jamal Blackman, Shaun MacDonald, Dan Barlaser, George Hirst.

Coventry (3-4-1-2): Ben Wilson; Leo Ostigard, Kyle McFadzean, Dominic Hyam; Julien Dacosta, Liam Kelly, Matty James, Sam McCallum; Callum O'Hare (Gustavo Hamer 77); Tyler Walker (Maxime Biamou 71), Matt Godden (Viktor Gyokeres 71). Subs not used: Marko Marosi, Michael Rose, Jamie Allen, Amadou Bakayoko, Jordan Shipley, Josh Eccles.

Referee: Jared Gillett (Merseyside).


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