That ref, the penalty that never was and the draw that meant different things to different teams ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Bolton Wanderers 1

The contrasting scenes at either end of the pitch told their own story.

Rotherham United players applauded fans in the North Stand at AESSEAL New York Stadium, but misery caused their bodies to sag and disappointment to contort their faces.

One hundred yards behind them, 2,000 Bolton Wanderers fans were bouncing, the Trotters team were bouncing

Bolton knew they'd got away with one.

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The home terraces directed no spite towards Paul Warne's men after the final whistle of a 1-1 draw. Spectators recognised the Millers had played well enough to win before being sucker-punched in the closing stages. 

No, the anger on the terraces was saved for the referee.


It was in the bag. With five minutes of the regulation 90 remaining, Rotherham were on top, looking to extend a one-goal advantage given to them by Will Vaulks and heading four points clear of the Championship drop zone.

Four minutes earlier, ref John Brooks had infuriated home followers by ignoring strong shouts for a penalty and booking Ryan Manning for diving as the Millers substitute tumbled in the box.

Then Bolton broke, Rotherham dithered in defence and striker Christian Doidge, a transfer target of Warne's in the summer of 2017, equalised with his first goal since joining Wanderers from Forest Green. It was only the visitors' second real attempt on target.

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Suddenly, Brooks' spot-kick call took on a whole new significance.

"I honestly think there is contact," manager Warne said. "I have watched it back eight times. For the ref to book him for simulation, he has obviously seen in it from a different angle to me. The angle I have seen it from, it looks like a pen. 

"For the next ten minutes, my player is limping from the challenge. If he is simulating that too, he is some clever kid."

The Millers passed up on inviting first-half chances as Semi Ajayi and Kyle Vassell headed wide from set-pieces, while Smith, twice, once with a bending 25-yarder that smacked the post, and Ryan Williams went close after Vaulks' opener.

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Marek Rodak pulled off a stunning save to keep out Josh Magennis' spot-kick when the Northern Ireland forward was felled two minutes into the second half by Richard Wood

"As soon as Woody got the wrong side, I knew it was a penalty," Warne said. "Me and Rich (assistant manager Barker) were shouting at the same time:  'No, no, don't touch him, don't touch him ... oh for god's sake, he touched him'. 

"I knew that was going to happen. In fairness to Magennis, as soon as you are the wrong side of the defender in the box, you just have to slow down and if they touch you then you go down. That's how football is now. I have no problem with that. Marek did brilliantly to save it."

Brooks was right to award the penalty but, with Hallowe'en fast approaching, otherwise put on a bit of a horror show.

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Make of it what you will that opposing boss Phil Parkinson took it on himself to praise the man in the middle, despite not being asked a direct question about the official's performance.

"This is a tough place to come to," he said. "They put the ball in the box at every opportunity and make it difficult for you. The referee was excellent in terms of being on the ball with every decision."

Warne was off to the Los Angeles Chargers v Tennessee Titans NFL clash at Wembley today and will witness no more of a physical battering than the one Bolton's three centre-halves were allowed to give Smith.


Vaulks put Rotherham in control in the 55th minute with a bouncing bomb of a free-kick, his fiercely-struck, skidding 22-yarder picking up speed the one time it hit the deck and flying into the bottom corner.

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Half an hour later, Joe Mattock found himself covered in Clayton Donaldson but not in glory as he marred an otherwise decent display by allowing the Bolton man to take the ball from him and set up Doidge.

"They had four strikers on, (Yanic) Wildschut, Doidge, Magennis and Donaldson," Warne said. "They were obvously going to be direct so I knew they would create something. 

"To lose that goal on the counter ... as soon as I saw Joe didn't attack it, I knew we were in trouble."

Doidge still had work to do but was helped by the fact his marker, Wood, was little more than walking wounded, suffering from cramp yet staying on because all three subs had been used.

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Onward went Christian's shoulders as he worked himself into a scoring position and beat Rodak with a precision 18-yard finish.

The Millers, two points above the relegation places, have lost only twice in their last 22 matches on their own turf. Home form will largely decide their fate this season so, against a side likely to be around them in the lower reaches of the table, this was an opportunity missed. 

Warne cut a frustrated figure. As Bolton hugged and hollered, the Millers boss, hands in pockets, walked here, there, nowhere, waiting by the touchline to acknowledge his players.

It was a draw that felt like a defeat for one side, a draw that felt like a win for the other.

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There are signs at New York, not far from the players' entrance, giving directions to speed-awareness courses that take place there. 

Maybe the Millers could enrol and find a way to protect three points.

Rotherham (4-4-1-1): Rodak; Jones (Vyner 28), Ajayi, Wood, Mattock; Taylor (Manning 78), Vaulks, Towell, Vassell (Newell 65); Williams; Smith. Subs not used: Price, Palmer, Wiles, Proctor.

Bolton (3-5-2): Alnwick; Hobbs, Wheater, Wilson; Olkowski, Williams (Doidge 66), O'Neil (Vela 34), Lowe, Dyer (Wildschut 66); Magennis, Donaldson. Subs not used: Matthews, Taylor, Beevers, Noone.

Goals: Vaulks 55 (Rotherham), Doidge 85 (Bolton).

Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire).

Attendance: 10,011 (1,918).