Michael Smith ... three Hillsborough derbies, three Leppings Lane goals for the Rotherham United striker

Michael Smith scores at Hillsborough earlier this month. Picture by Jim BrailsfordMichael Smith scores at Hillsborough earlier this month. Picture by Jim Brailsford
Michael Smith scores at Hillsborough earlier this month. Picture by Jim Brailsford
MICHAEL Smith cast his eyes towards the Leppings Lane goal.

Hostilities were over, the derby had been won, the striker had done it again.

I knew what he was thinking before he even said it.

“Aye, that’s three in three games in that net,” the Geordie contemplated. “It’s nice.”

December 8 2018, March 3 2021, now February 13 2022.

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Smith is making a habit of scoring against Sheffield Wednesday and Sunday’s strike was the most significant of them all, bringing up his 50th in a Millers shirt.

“Is it 50? Really? I didn’t know,” he said. “There were so many of our fans here today and to manage to score at the end where they all were is special.”

3,500-plus supporters has taken over the away end at Hillsborough, the sixth straight League One victory for Rotherham United putting them well clear at the top and keeping their South Yorkshire rivals out of the play-off places.

Smith had wrapped up a 2-0 win by finding the top corner with an unerring first-time finish six minutes from time to add to Freddie’s Ladapo’s opener.

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“The fans sort of sucked the ball in, didn’t they?” he grinned. “They were tremendous today.

“Icky (Michael Ihiekwe) has rapped the ball into my feet. The only thing I could do was get something on it and I managed to hit the back of the net.”

The centre-forward was talking at the side of the pitch less than half an hour after his exploits, his hair still wet from his shower, a big, black coat protecting him from the rain and his back-pack holding a bagful of memories to take home with him.

His goal was number 21 of the best campaign of his career. Seventeen have come in the league and one in the FA Cup, leaving the Newcastle United fanatic seven short of the 25 he needs to force assistant boss Richie Barker to part company with his treasured signed Alan Shearer jersey.

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Smith has 15 games left to hit the mark and Barker is growing ever more fearful.

S6 successes are the sweetest of all for the Millers and the frontman revealed that manager Paul Warne has got to work on his squad even before they’d arrived at the stadium for a noon kick-off.

“It’s always nice to play in derbies,” he said. “There’s always a little bit extra in them for the players and the fans.

“As we came to the game, the gaffer mentioned it to a few of the new lads how much it means to the fans. The lads who have been here a while already knew what it was about.”

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Rotherham, outplayed but never outfought, got the job done. Six wins, six clean sheets.

“It comes from a solid base at the back,” Smith said. “Whoever plays there, we’re strong. It starts with clean sheets. That’s the platform that lets the forward lads try to win games.

“We’re in a good position to get back to the Championship but the gaffer keeps ramming down our throats: it’s one game at a time. That’s exactly our mentality. We’re looking no further than the Wigan Athletic game on Friday. We’d be mugs if we did.”

So, 21 for the season; 22 if  you included the disputed second goal at Crewe Alexandra that went in with the assistance of goalkeeper David Richards.

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“We did try to claim it,” Smith said. “We appealed but it’s been given as an own goal. It’s just one of those things.

“I managed to claim one at Milton Keynes on appeal. It’s swings and roundabouts.

“Aiming for 30?” I ventured.

“I’ll keep going and hopefully keep playing well and contributing to wins,” he replied. “If I get there, I get there.”

The mad Magpie reflected for a moment, before turning his back on Leppings Lane and heading through the downpour for the team bus  ...

“I’m more bothered about the Shearer shirt.”


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SUNDAY’S triumph saw Rotherham United extend their remarkable derby record at Hillsborough.

In ten matches at the home of Sheffield Wednesday since 1981, the Millers have lost only once.

In the last 41 years, they have racked up six wins and three draws.

Their sole defeat came in December 2016, less than a month after Paul Warne had taken over as manager, when Stephen Fletcher converted a last-minute penalty to condemn them to a 1-0 reverse.

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Rotherham’s most recent three visits — in 2018, 2021 and last weekend — have brought a 2-2 stalemate and 2-1 and 2-0 victories.


OPPOSITION defender Liam Palmer pointed the finger at the referee as he claimed two errors helped Rotherham United win the South Yorkshire derby.

The table-topping Millers triumphed 2-0 against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Sunday to boost their League One promotion hopes and dent their rivals’ play-off ambitions.

But Palmer claimed the first goal was the result of a corner that shouldn’t have been given and that man in the middle Darren Drysdale made another mistake in not awarding the home side a spot-kick.

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“When the game is tight you hope the ref gets the big decisions right and he’s not done that,” the Owls centre-half said.

Palmer disputed whether a deflected cross had spun out of play before being caught by home goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell. From the ensuing flag-kick Freddie Ladapo made a 58th-minute breakthrough for Rotherham.

“I was on that side and I could see the ball hadn’t gone for a corner,” he said.

“Later in the second half we had a wide free-kick and I got the other side of their man (Michael Ihiekwe) and felt some contact in the box. I went down but I don’t know if the ref had a good view or not. I thought it was a penalty.”

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Michael Smith sealed Rotherham’s victory with a fine 84th-minute finish following a free-kick into the Wednesday box.

Palmer paid tribute to the Millers’ dead-ball prowess.

“They are one of the best teams in terms of the variety of their set-pieces,” he said. “They know what they are and what they’re good at and, credit to them, it gets them results.”