Battle, bottle and Paul Warne takes on rival boss ... the story of Reading 1 Rotherham United 1

Battle, bottle and Paul Warne takes on rival boss ... the story of Reading 1 Rotherham United 1

By Paul Davis | 24/02/2019

Battle, bottle and Paul Warne takes on rival boss ... the story of Reading 1 Rotherham United 1
Someone's happy at the equaliser! Pictures by Trevor Price

ROTHERHAM United's players weren't the only ones to come out fighting when it really mattered.

Manager Paul Warne was up for a scrap too.

The Millers had been staring a damaging defeat in the face in their Championship survival showdown at the Madejski Stadium after Reading had led 1-0 at the break.

Warne's men did what they do best. With the pressure on, with their season possibly on the line, they embraced the challenge and gave everything.

The second half belonged to them and by the end of a crucial encounter they had got the point they deserved, the draw they needed.

"Too direct," sniffed Royals boss Jose Gomes who likes to see lots of passes and the ball on the ground.

Warne, as respectful a manager as you will find in the division, bit back.

Paul Warne and Jose Gomes before Gomes made his comments

"I don’t get that. Why is that?" he bristled. "That’s a bit harsh. It does my nut in.

"I’m getting tired reading about ‘long ball’ and all that. I'm bit offended on behalf of the lads."

The result leaves Rotherham third from bottom of the table, behind Gomes' team only on goal difference. 12 games to go, 12 cup finals left.

Reading, backed by Chinese money and bursting with January loan signings, know the humble Millers, just like in that second-half fightback, will keep on coming.

Royals superiority? Warne wasn't having it. Neither were his side.

THE GAME

Rotherham made their first second-half statement of intent before the contest had even restarted.

The boss sent his troops back out early, nearly two minutes before the home team reappeared.

After Anthony Forde had inexplicably let a Michael Smith cross run through his legs when he had time and space to pick his spot, Reading were leading through Liverpool loanee Ovie Ejaria who expertly guided Garath McCleary's 31st-minute pull-back into the far top corner.

Next up was the most important 45 minutes of the campaign so far. When, at length, the Royals emerged to resume hostilities, they found the Millers already lying in wait.

"I said to the lads 'You look like you don't think you're going to score'," Warne revealed. "We weren't getting on the second balls.

"I think we were the better side in the second half. We dominated it really. We were much more of a threat after the break. In the last half-hour, we ran over them."

Only committed defending kept the visitors at bay. Reading's passes gave way to a series of desperate blocks as Michael Smith led the charge and Rotherham hunted in packs.

The clock was ticking down when Will Vaulks hung a perfect cross in the air, Clark Robertson sent a header back across goal and Semi Ajayi "threw a knee" at it - his words, not mine - to apply a finish in the 80th minute as ungainly as it was glorious.

Five draws in the last five matches. The Millers are finding it hard to win games but, boy, they don't know when they're beaten.

Clark Robertson sets up Semi Ajayi's goal

Warne added: "This is a good point for us. Reading winning would have put them three points in front of us, given them a boost and ruined the little run we're on. It would have depressed our lads a little bit.

"I think our lads will take more from the game than theirs will. They won't be happy they threw a lead away against us."

Still there was time for late drama.

In the last couple of minutes, goalkeeper Marek Rodak made a hash of things wide left of his penalty area, leaving his net totally unguarded.

Reading had wheeled out Mo Barrow as a substitute and the Gambian sent across an inviting ball as Nelson Oliveira scampered in on goal. The other Mo, Farah, couldn't have run back faster than Rodak who atoned with a frantic dive and grateful clutch.

Right at the death, sub Joe Newell could even have claimed a first away triumph of the season but fired his effort inches wide.

"I honestly thought Newelly's shot was going to go in. He caught it sweet, didn’t he?" Warne said.

"My heart was in my mouth, without a shadow of a doubt, when Marek slipped It's in moments like that that you wonder why anyone is in football management. All the best plans and all the effort of the lads could have gone to waste with a sucker-punch."

In the end, honours even, but maybe a slight psychological edge gained for Rotherham.

Fight from the players, more fighting talk from their boss, still irked by Gomes: "If you watch us play week to week, I think you’d give us more respect than that."

CHARACTER

Players and 763 travelling fans, in fine voice throughout the afternoon, swapped applause at the end and Warne was quick to praise the supporters' contribution.

"If we are to stay up, it’s going to take everyone at the club being together," he said.

Saluting the fans

Earlier, Vaulks - at the heart of the fray, in the heat of battle, at the centre of the storm, provider of a second-half clearance as good as a goal - had led out the team before kick-off carrying a white towel.

It was for wiping the ball dry before he launched his howitzer hurls into the penalty box on a wet, slippy pitch. He flung it down a few feet over the touchline.

And that, my friends, will be the only towel thrown by the Millers between now and when their Championship fate is finally decided.

Reading (4-2-3-1): Emi Martinez; Andy Yiadom, Matt Miazga, Liam Moore, Tyler Blackett; Lewis Baker, John Swift; Yakou Meite, Ovie Ejaria, Garath McCleary; Nelson Oliveira. Unused: Chris Gunter, Paul McShane, Sam Walker, Danny Loader.

Subs: John O'Shea (for Meite, 72), Mo Barrow (for McCleary, 86), Callum Harriott (for Blackett, 86).

Rotherham (4-1-4-1): Marek Rodak; Billy Jones, Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Semi Ajayi; Jon Taylor, Richie Towell, Will Vaulks, Anthony Forde; Michael Smith. Unused: Lewis Price, Zak Vyner, Richard Wood, Jerry Yates.

Subs: Ryan Williams (for Taylor, 58), Newell (for Ihiekwe, 70), Matt Crooks (for Towell, 89).

Goals: Ejaria 31 (Reading); Ajayi 80 (Rotherham).

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).

Attendance: 15,958 (763).



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