Michael Smith's 'Shearer' celebration, the impact of Ben Wiles and another promotion rival blitzed ... the story of Rotherham United 5 Sunderland 1

Man of the moment Michael Smith. Pictures by Kerrie BeddowsMan of the moment Michael Smith. Pictures by Kerrie Beddows
Man of the moment Michael Smith. Pictures by Kerrie Beddows
HE wheeled away in celebration, just the one arm in the air: the Alan Shearer salute from the man chasing the Alan Shearer shirt.

The fact that he was doing it right in front of 2,600-plus suffering Sunderland fans was making it all the sweeter for lifelong Newcastle United disciple Michael Smith.

The striker had just headed home his second goal as the Millers swept aside one of their big rivals for a place in the Championship.

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Rotherham United 5 Sunderland 1. That's right. Rotherham United 5 Sunderland 1.

Smith now has 12 league goals in 15 games - already nearly halfway to the 25 target that would see assistant manager Richie Barker hand over his prized possession: a signed, framed shirt once worn by legendary Newcastle scorer Shearer.

This wasn't just Smudge's day, though, this was every Miller's day as the promotion songs rang out around a sold-out AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Rotherham were beautiful, brutal, brilliant, and another contender bit the dust, unable to stand up against the League One whirlwind that Paul Warne's side have become.

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After Saturday's showdown, the Millers were unbeaten in 11 matches. They were the division's joint-top scorers, had the joint-best defensive record and were up to fourth spot.

Even Warne, always notoriously low key in times of triumph, allowed himself a touch of happiness.

Two goals each for Smith and Freddie Ladapo

"I am really pleased with the performance," the manager said. "A 5-1 win at home against anyone is a great afternoon.

"We played well, there was no grey area. I thought all the performances were great. I have got a really motivated squad of players who all want to play a part."

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Smith typifies Rotherham's new-found attitude. There is a belief about him and them, a harder nose and a tougher edge. They want to win, they expect to win, they know they will win if they play at their best.

The centre-forward wasn't afraid to anger the Sunderland supporters with his Shearer dash. He wouldn't have done that in previous seasons.

Portsmouth were crushed 4-1 a fortnight ago, MK Dons were undone 3-0 last week, now it was the turn of the Black Cats - who had arrived at New York above the Millers in the table - to be crushed.

Rotherham aren't just beating top teams, they're dismantling them.


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Long before the end, the visitors were beaten. You could see it in their faces, in their broken demeanour, in the swathes of empty red seats in the South Stand as their followers headed out of the stadium with more than 20 minutes still to play.

They were down to ten men after a needless Aiden McGeady lunge on Chiedozie Ogbene had brought a second yellow card, Smith's header was nestling in the net in the 72nd minute and the home side were managing the game perfectly.

"I don't think 5-1 flattered us," said Warne whose team played towards their own kop in the opening period to keep the autumn sun out of goalkeeper Josh Vickers' eyes.

A fast, frenetic first half contained pockets of play of the highest quality before Rotherham's thrilling mix of rapier and juggernaut saw them take total command after interval.

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The scoring began in the 11th minute when Shane Ferguson and Ben Wiles combined with pace and precision to give the ball to Freddie Ladapo whose exquisite chipped delivery was headed in by Smith.

Sunderland rallied and equalised on the break as Ross Stewart - who would later hit the post when his team were 2-1 down - was freed up to cut in from the left and fire past Vickers, but it was advantage Millers again close to half-time.

Smith returned Ladapo's favour by crossing low from the right and his strike partner got across his marker and directed the ball in from close range for the 50th league goal of his career.

"I thought we started the game really well," Warne said. "I'm hugely disappointed with the goal we conceded. I don't like seeing centre-forwards getting inside our defenders and getting shots off."

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Eight minutes after the restart, Michael Ihiekwe headed in Ferguson's corner, three minutes later McGeady was wild and walked, Smith headed in Rarmani Edmonds-Green's cross and Ladapo completed the rout late on after being unselfishly fed by substitute Josh Kayode.

Smith may well end up with that jersey he covets, but his manager was more bothered about graft than goals

"Strikers always get attention for scoring, but that isn't what turns me on," he said. "It's the work rate, the drive, the press.

Michael Ihiekwe scores the third goal

"I always start with two strikers so if we had two strikers at the club who didn't want to press then we would be in all sorts of bother. They should get massive praise for the hard work."

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Warne was a mix of sniffing out the negatives and not quite being able to hide the satisfaction that was bubbling below the surface.

"I didn't think our set-pieces were good enough," he said. "We were sloppy with the ball on numerous occasions. I just want utopia. I don't want to concede a goal.

"I don't leave here disappointed. I am buzzing. I thought our midfield three were excellent. Dan controlled the game and Ollie (Rathbone) and Ben got around the pitch.

"We haven't been as clinical in our other games. Today we were clinical. The sending-off has had a big effect on the outcome but we were the better side."

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He almost allowed himself to smile when he considered the stats for October - the tough month that would show if his side are the real deal - after a first Millers victory over Sunderland since 1962.

Seven games played, six wins, one draw, 23 goals scored and only three conceded.


Wiles, the talented young pup turned midfield top dog, was hotter than the date at a curry house Warne was treating himself to later that evening.

Sunderland tried kicking him out the clash but the fleet-footed 22-year-old, providing more of the rapier rather than the juggernaut, is a tough lad from Rawmarsh and was having none of it.

Ben Wiles

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"It's really enjoyable beating a good team 5-1 and showing what we're capable of," he said. "It sends a message to the other teams out there.

"In recent years, scoring goals at home has been our little 'struggle point'. We've put that right recently. We can't lose at the moment."

The final whistle brought him an on-field cuddle from Matt Hamshaw, the coach who helped him through the Rotherham youth ranks. Two Rawmarsh lads together.

By then, Smith was off the pitch, substituted for a second home game when he was on a hat-trick. No matter. A double against Newcastle's derby rivals wasn't too shabby.

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He's already scored more times in this campaign than in any of his previous Millers seasons. And he still has another 31 league matches to go.

Howay the lad, howay the mighty Millers. The rumour coming out of Geordieland is that Shearer is after a signed, framed Smudge shirt.

Rotherham (3-5-2): Josh Vickers; Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Michael Ihiewe, Wes Harding; Chiedozie Ogbene (Kieran Sadlier 75), Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser, Ollie Rathbone, Shane Ferguson (Mickel Miller 75); Freddie Ladapo, Michael Smith (Josh Kayode 75). Subs not used: Viktor Johansson, Richard Wood, Tolaji Bola, Hakeem Odoffin.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Thorben Hoffman; Carl Winchester, Tom Flanagan, Callum Doyle, Dennis Cirkin; Dan Neil, Elliot Embleton (Lynden Gooch H-T), Luke O'Nien (Bailey Wight H-T), Aiden McGeady; Leon Dajaku (Corry Evans 59), Ross Stewart. Subs not used: Lee Burge, Frederick Alves, Aiden O'Brien, Stephen Wearne.

Goals: Smith 11, 72, Ladapo 41, 89, Ihiekwe 53 (Rotherham); Stewart 24 (Sunderland).

Referee: David Rock (Hertfordshire).

Attendance: 10,573 (2,601).