Derby misery adds to a season of woe... on-the-whistle report: Rotherham United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1

RUFC v Sheff 02.03.2024RUFC v Sheff 02.03.2024
RUFC v Sheff 02.03.2024
BOSS Leam Richardson had called for a derby-day performance from Rotherham United but didn't get one as the Millers lost out to neighbours Sheffield Wednesday at a sold-out AESSEAL New York Stadium.

The home side were second best all over the pitch this afternoon and could have gone down by a much heavier margin in their biggest match of the season.

Championship survival was already a lost cause for the division's bottom club going into the clash and they then failed to deliver a display against their South Yorkshire rivals - a place above them in the table - that would have lifted fans' spirit in a campaign of woe.

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A seventh successive loss saw the gap to safety stretch even further to 19 points.

Shane Ferguson makes his first start off the season for Rotherham United, against Sheffield Wednesday at AESSEAL New York Stadium. Picture: Jim BrailsfordShane Ferguson makes his first start off the season for Rotherham United, against Sheffield Wednesday at AESSEAL New York Stadium. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Shane Ferguson makes his first start off the season for Rotherham United, against Sheffield Wednesday at AESSEAL New York Stadium. Picture: Jim Brailsford

The visitors were first to show and it required a sharp save from Viktor Johansson to push away Liam Palmer's third-minute shot after initial inroads had been made on the right by Ian Poveda.

Rotherham were under pressure early on and it required a goal-saving block to deny the Owls an opener when Anthony Musaba broke down the left and crossed low for Ike Ugbo to shoot.

The home team remained pinned back and former Miller Will Vaulks had Johansson scrambling across goal to save when he tried to sneak a free-kick into the corner of the net from 30 yards.

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Akin Famewo had a header ruled out for offside, to the raucous delight of three sides of New York, and Poveda skipped inside and curled an effort off target as Richardson's men continued to struggle to impose themselves on the contest.

Rain had given way to sunshine in S60 but there was little to warm home supporters on the first weekend of spring.

It took until the 30th minute for Rotherham, for whom Shane Ferguson was making a first start of the season, to fashion an attempt on goal, Christ Tiehi lifting the ball well over the bar in front of the North Stand from outside the penalty area.

At the other end, the openings kept on coming and Hakeem Odoffin did well to deflect Musaba's drive for a corner before Vaulks was off target from distance and Marvin Johnson volleyed wide at the back post.

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The injury-hit Millers have been short on numbers all season and the situation was even more acute this afternoon, with Richardson able to name only seven substitutes.

Captain and centre-half Sean Morrison became the latest absentee and midfielder Ollie Rathbone also missed out.

The Owls had four Rotherham old boys in their ranks. Michael Ihiekwe and Vaulks started and there were places on the bench for Michael Smith, who scored both goals in the 2-0 Hillsborough win over the Millers in October, and former loanee Reece James.

Ihiekwe was booed by home fans from the kick-off and Smith received the same treatment when he warmed up down the West Stand touchline and then when he entered the fray.

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The home team appealed in vain for a penalty soon after the restart when Tom Eaves was pulled back inside the box before they lost stand-in skipper Lee Peltier to an injury he had sustained in the first half and been unable to run off.

The Millers had stepped up a gear since the interval and Sam Nombe wasn't far away with a curling effort as the hour mark approached.

However, the lead Wednesday had always threatened to take duly came in the 66th minute when Ugbo tapped in sub Dominic Iorfa's low cross.

The closest Rotherham came to a goal was in the 79th minute when an Andy Rinomhota shot was cleared off the line and the midfielder's follow-up effort then saved by James Beadle.

It was too little, too late.

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The Millers could have fallen further behind in added time but sub Mallik Wilks' header came back off the post.

The Owls breathed more life into their push for safety with a third successive victory. For Rotherham, the last two months in the second tier will be a long, hard, hopeless slog.

Rotherham (3-5-2): Viktor Johansson; Hakeem Odoffin, Lee Peltier (Jamie Lindsay 54), Cameron Humphreys; Peter Kioso, Andy Rinomhota, Christ Tiehi, Sam Clucas (Arvin Appiah 81), Shane Ferguson (Cafu 67); Tom Eaves (Jordan Hugill 67), Sam Nombe (Charlie Wyke 67). Subs not used: Dillon Phillips, Femi Seriki.

Wednesday (4-2-3-1): James Beadle; Liam Palmer, Michael Ihiekwe, Akin Famewo, Marvin Johnson; Will Vaulks (Michael Smith 64), Barry Bannan; Pol Valentin (Dominic Iorfa 64), Ian Poveda (Djeidi Gassama 64), Anthony Musaba (Bambo Diaby 81); Ike Ugbo (Mallik Wilks 90+1). Subs not used: Cameron Dawson, Reece James, Bailey Cadamarteri, Momo Diaby.

Goals: Ugbo 66 (Wednesday).

Referee: David Webb (County Durham).

Attendance: 11,541 (2,100).