Nine men and the salute at the end ... the story of Bristol City 1 Rotherham United 0

Richie Towell sees red. Pictures by Trevor PriceRichie Towell sees red. Pictures by Trevor Price
Richie Towell sees red. Pictures by Trevor Price
FIVE-hundred-and-fifty sets of applauding hands told the real story.

A third straight straight defeat and Rotherham United slipping into the bottom three were the stark, headline-making facts on a cruel Championship day at Bristol City.

But the response of the band of travelling supporters showed this was anything but a routine 1-0 loss for Paul Warne's men who remain without a point over the festive period.

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Away fans remained behind at the final whistle to salute the bravery of the Millers, to rise in acclaim of the willingness of the nine men left on the pitch to run and battle to a virtual standstill.

Two sendings-off in eight second-half minutes had changed the game.

Just past the hour mark, Rotherham were comfortable and Bristol were worried. It was 0-0, the Millers were solid in defence, slick on the break and the side most likely to score.

Then Rotherham had a man dismissed for a second yellow card in the 64th minute and a second followed him down the tunnel eight minutes later after a straight red.

Billy Jones is sent off

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Farewell to Billy Jones and Richie Towell respectively, goodbye to any chance of a result,  but not before heroic resistance broken with only four minutes remaining when Adam Webster headed in the winner.

"I think 11 v 11 we were the better team," manager Warne said.

"Our fans were brilliant. They stayed and clapped the team off, which I sincerely appreciate because the lads gave everything."


Towell bent over in incredulity as the referee raised his hand to reveal a flash of 72nd-minute red.

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The Millers midfielder couldn't believe he'd been sent off but was probably the only person inside Ashton Gate showing any surprise that his crude lunge to halt Josh Brownhill's had incurred such a punishment.

Both feet were off the ground and so the grim early-bath Towell jokes could begin.

Jones had been much unluckier eight minutes earlier. The right-back deserved and accepted his first yellow in the 52nd minute for hacking down Marlon Pack, but there was nothing more in it than an unintentional foul when he and Famara Diedhiou came together in a race down the flank.

"Our video analyst says Billy was pushed before he slipped and caught him," Warne said. "If the ref hasn't seen that, he hasn't seen it. There's no point me crying about it. It is what it is.

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"At the time, I thought Richie was just going to be a yellow. It looked like their player made a meal of it, but I've been told both of Richie's feet were off the ground. If that's the case, it's hard to defend that."

Paul Warne

With 11 men, Rotherham had created clear opportunities. Three times in the first half Jon Taylor had sights of goal, twice working Niki Maenpaa and once shooting wastefully wide when the Robins goalkeeper had left his net to punch a Will Vaulks cross.

At the other end, Marek Rodak parried a Diedhiou header and Jones got in a crucial block on a Jamie Paterson shot after Brownhill's long-ranger had been too hot for Rodak to hold.

The Millers still looked strong with ten men and, down to nine, were throwing what bodies they had left on the line in an uplifting display of impassioned defiance.

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Rodak denied Brownhill and Diedhiou headed wide before the crack appeared in the 86th minute as Webster met Jack Hunt's right-wing supply and the ball crept in after Rodak had looked to have made the initial stop.

"It's disappointing we conceded off a cross, but you can't but any pressure on the crosser because you haven't got enough players on the pitch," Warne said.

"Marek nearly saves it. On another day, my lads could have come away with a draw and been heroes. I feel sorry for them. They deserved that honour."


Nineteen-year-old Ben Wiles, making his first ever league start, lined up for the pre-match niceties, shaking hands with mascots closer to him in age than one or two of the elder statesmen in the Millers squad.

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"Wilesy was excellent," said Warne of a youth-system prospect likely to keep his place in the side at home to Preston North End on New Year's Day as Towell begins a three-match ban.

There were one or two mistakes and three or four encouraging signs from a confident, mobile midfielder youngster destined for a big Rotherham future.

Ben Wiles

Defeat left the visitors in the relegation places, but this was nothing like the disappointing loss at survival rivals Bolton Wanderers and Warne was warmed by the quality of the response to that Boxing Day setback.

"I want the players to go home, be proud of what they tried to do and take confidence from it," he said. "I don't want the lads to think there is a crisis because there definitely isn't. Their display was excellent.

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"The best way to sum up the game is that the ball went out of play in the 93rd minute and the Bristol fans didn't want to give it back to us. That's ridiculous given the fact we had only nine men.

Despair at the end

"Apart from the first day of the season (at Brentford), we haven't dropped into the bottom three until now. It's no massive drama for me. We'll try to improve in January and give the Rotherham fans performances they can be proud of."

The boss made sure he acknowledged the clapping Millers throng gathered in the upper tier of the away end.

Three lost points, two red cards, one proud set of supporters.

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Bristol (4-1-4-1): Niki Maenpaa; Jack Hunt, Tomas Kalas, Adam Webster, Jay Dasilva; Marlon Pack; Callum O'Dowda, Jamie Paterson, Josh Brownhill, Hakeeb Adelakun; Famara Diedhiou.

Subs: Matty Taylor (for Adelakun, 59 minutes), Niclas Eliasson (for Dasilva 77), Andreas Weimann (for O'Dowda, 79). Not used: Max O'Leary, Bailey Wright, Lloyd Kelly, Joe Morrell.

Rotherham (4-5-1): Marek Rodak; Billy Jones, Semi Ajayi, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Jon Taylor, Ben Wiles, Will Vaulks, Richie Towell, Ryan Williams; Michael Smith.

Subs: Sean Raggett (for Wiles, 67), Ryan Manning (for Williams, 77), Anthony Forde (for Taylor, 83). Not used: Lewis Price, Richard Wood, Matt Palmer, Joe Newell.

Goals: Webster 84 (Bristol City).

Referee: Scott Duncan (Northumberland).

Attendance: 21, 207 (550).