Dented teeth, dented hopes and the challenge of the Championship ... The story of Ipswich Town 1 Rotherham United 0

IT was bloody and it hurt.
Jon Taylor rues his missed chance. Pictures by Trevor PriceJon Taylor rues his missed chance. Pictures by Trevor Price
Jon Taylor rues his missed chance. Pictures by Trevor Price

We'll get to the mouth injury that left Rotherham United defender Sean Raggett looking like something from a horror film later.

This is the Millers' defeat against the Championship's bottom club we're talking about.

The visitors threw everything they had at Ipswich Town in the second half but came up short against a team that had won only twice all season heading into the Portman Road contest.

Rotherham dominated after the break in a manner they never have done before away from home in the Championship.

"One-way traffic," said Paul Warne. Correct.

"My goalkeeper didn't touch it with  his hands in the second half," the manager added. Not quite correct, but his point was well made.

Rotherham fall behind

It was the worst possible time to be playing the Tractor Boys, buoyed by five January signings and desperate beyond measure for the win, knowing that any other result would leave them so far adrift that they could already start planning for League One next season.

Ipswich mustered just a single goalbound attempt in a poor first half, just a single goalbound attempt throughout the match, and made it count.

"We did everything we could do to win the game," Warne said. "I've had members of their staff shake my hand and say: 'I can't believe you didn't get anything.'

More than once he muttered, almost to himself: "One shot on target they had."

THE MATCH

The stats told the story: 18 goal attempts for the Millers, the vast majority of which came after the interval, three for Town, all of them in the opening period.

Will Keane got lucky in the 31st minute when his errant first touch came back to him off Raggett and the new boy swept the ball past Marek Rodak.

Warne bristled slightly at suggestions he'd set out too negatively with Semi Ajayi playing as a holding midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation

"If you think my team can play better than that you're more than welcome to my job," he said.

A switch was enforced on him earlier than he was planning in the 37th minute when centre-half Raggett, his mouth dripping red, departed. Rotherham looked more potent when Ryan Williams' impish presence was added to the attack.

Raggett, with his intense stare, intimidating presence and inability to recognise fear, looks like the bad guy in a scary movie anyway and Luke Chambers' elbow only added to the image.

Like the officials, I didn't spot the incident in the Ipswich area, but Warne did and he wasn't happy.

"Raggett got an elbow that bent his two front teeth back," the boss said. "The ref didn't see that or we are given a penalty.

The picture Sean Raggett posted on his Twitter acount

"I thought the second-half performance was outstanding. We didn't move the ball quick enough in the first half.

"We played with Willo as a '10' then put him out wide, brought Jerry (Yates) in and went 4-4-2. We penned them in. It's hugely disappointing for the lads that they didn't get anything but, boo hoo, there's a game next week and we have to go again."

Jon Taylor wasted the game's best chance, volleying over on the stroke of half-time after Anthony Forde's cross had left him all alone in the Town box with enough time and space to pick his spot.

In a second half of incessant pressure, the Millers knocked and knocked without managing to break down the door.

A long-range Will Vaulks free-kick in the 53rd minute brought a save from Dean Gerken before Michael Smith, after lovely build-up play involving Ben Wiles, Joe Mattock, him and Forde, headed a golden opportunity over the bar on the hour mark.

Second-half pressure as Michael Smith shoots

Vaulks had another shot saved, Mattock lost out by inches to Gerken when Vaulks supplied the pass, James Collins almost scored an own goal and the game ended with the ball pinging madly around the Ipswich area, as it had done for much of the final 10 minutes.

"I'm more than proud how we played in the second half," Warne said. "I just thought that with the set-pieces we sometimes hit the first man, which is disappointing.

"We'll have an afternoon in training this week trying to sharpen them up. You can't say we didn't deserve a draw. I thought we were the better team in every department."

HOW IT IS

At the end, Vaulks was literally on his knees, a picture of anger, frustration and agonised misery.

This wasn't a defeat that was easy to accept and was one which made clear the challenge facing the Millers, competing with far bigger clubs and far bigger budgets, at this level.

Ipswich may be the basement side but they are throwing January money at survival amid talk they are paying one of their loan arrivals close to £20,000 a week.

Goalkeeper Marek Rodak joins the attack in the closing stages

While ever Rotherham remain out of the bottom three - and they are a place and two points above the drop zone - they are over-achieving.

"Ipswich see it that if they bring in five new players that will have a massive effect on the group," Warne said.

"WIth them in the position they are in, I can understand why they would sign loads of players. They think they've got loads wrong. I don't think we've got loads wrong. We just need to tweak a little bit."

After the game, emergency dental treatment was being arranged for Raggett, his pain and that of the Millers very real.

The reality, like it or not, is this: for a club like Rotherham, there is no such thing as an easy game in the Championship.

Ipswich (3-4-3): Dean Gerken; Matthew Pennington, Luke Chambers, James Collins; Jack Lankester, Trevoh Chalobah, Cole Skuse, Callum Elder; Will Keane, Collin Quaner, Freddie Sears. Unused: Bartosz Bialkowski, Ellis Harrison, Teddy Bishop, Emyr Huws.

Subs: Flynn Downes (for Quaner, 65 minutes), Simon Dawkins (for Lankester, 74), Toto Nsiala (for Sears, 90+1).

Rotherham (4-1-4-1): Marek Rodak; Zak Vyner, Sean Raggett, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Semi Ajayi, Anthony Forde, Will Vaulks, Ben Wiles, Jon Taylor; Michael Smith. Unused: Lewis Price, Billy Jones, Michael Ihiekwe, Matt Palmer.

Subs: Ryan Williams (for Raggett, 37), Jerry Yates (for Forde, 70), Richard Wood (for Vyner, 89).

Goals: Keane 31 (Ipswich).

Referee: James Linington (Newport).

Attendance: 20,893 (729).