POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Rotherham

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Rotherham

Rotherham United’s recent rise up the Football League ladder under the ever-popular Steve Evans has been nothing short of admirable for a club that almost went into extinction less than a decade ago.

Their initiation into the Championship hasn’t been too bad either with the Millers toppling Leeds, Blackburn and Wolves at the New York Stadium so far this campaign with an away successes at Millwall contributing to a respectable points tally of 17 prior to the South Yorkshire derby clash at Hillsborough on Saturday.

Likewise to United on Tuesday night, the Owls slipped to a disappointing defeat which saw us fire a third straight blank on home soil. In my last ramble I spoke of how Stuart Gray has repeatedly tried but unfortunately failed to bring in a forward on loan in an attempt to bolster our attacking options – let’s face it at the minute we hardly boast the required strength in depth up front that’s required for a successful campaign in the second tier. It’s been reported Gray has had two deals to bring in players this week snubbed by clubs who have their own injuries or suspensions to negotiate meaning they can’t afford to let go of any squad players that may need to be called upon; just our luck!

I was absent from the dire Bournemouth encounter but reports I’ve seen online and on social networks seem to imply there’s definitely a low amount of confidence slowly seeping through the team as there were a vast amount of comments regarding the lack of intensity in our attacking play; in particular there were a lot of mentions to do with the way we’d play the ball sideways or backwards when in promising positions in opposing territory.

Drenthe Red Card

An impact on more than one game

Even more frustratingly, our main source of positivity in attacking play recently (Royston Drenthe) was stupidly sent off for two yellow cards in midweek with the latter incident being deemed as more ‘mistimed’ than ‘malicious’ but the Dutch winger gave referee Mike Dean quite an easy decision to make due to the recklessness of the challenge. The former Real Madrid prospect’s absence was certainly missed against the Millers, as will be discussed later.

Fortunately, though, we were facing an outfit that had recorded back-to-back 3-0 defeats at home to Middlesbrough and away at Reading so something had to give at S6 on a damp afternoon on Hillsborough soil with both sides looking to ink their names on the score sheet.

Due to the dense traffic around the ground and trams moving at a snail’s pace I failed to arrive in the ground in time for the impeccably observed minute’s silence pre-match for our fallen heroes in the Great War, which reached its centenary anniversary this year.

Lest We ForgetRivalry aside, managers; staff; players and fans alike stood side-by-side to pay their respects whilst John Harrison poignantly demonstrated a rendition of ‘The Last Post’; I’m sure all those who witnessed the tribute would certainly agree that it was a great moment of class from all present.

The game began with the typical tempo and fracas that you’d anticipate from a local derby, especially with Evans getting his players right up for this one due to what it meant to the 4,500 traveling faithful from Rotherham. There was certainly hope amongst those congregated in the Leppings Lane end that scenes from previous trips to the home of the Owls could be repeated with Ronnie Moore’s Millers double win in 2003 still down in Rotherham folklore as two of the greatest successes in the history of the side from the NYS.

Chances from open play were few and far between, with Wednesday making the brighter start as loanee Gary Taylor-Fletcher pulled his lightly steered effort just wide of Adam Collin’s far post following a decent low cross from the left-hand side. The former Blackpool man, however, had his afternoon cut short later on following an aerial challenge with Kirk Broadfoot that left the former with a ‘scratched eye’.

The Millers almost edged their noses in front moments later through former Derby midfield man, Paul Green. The Irishman beat his onrushing international colleague, Keiran Westwood to the ball but saw his header float just wide of the post in front of the Kop.

As time progressed, our neat interchanges in the visitors’ half gradually lost effect and it was Evans’ men who began causing us problems. Their tricky number 26 Paul Taylor, on loan from Ipswich, particularly caught my eye as he seemed escape any onrushing challenge from a man in blue and white without creating any significant chances of note though. I was surprised midway through the opening period that he and Ben Pringle swapped wings as before that I thought the runs of Taylor in behind Helan were giving us food for thought down our right hand side before the alteration.

Tom Lees 02

Nice and Leesy does it

As referee, Nigel Taylor, blew the half-time whistle I was pretty satisfied with the opening 45 minutes as we had importantly kept things reasonably tight at the back with the ever-consistent Tom Lees having a particularly solid opening period – keeping the Millers’ lone striker Alex Revell quiet especially as he looked to link up with the onrushing Rotherham midfield.

One man who I thought looked a weakness in the visiting rear-guard in the first half was ex-Rangers man Broadfoot who seemed to lack any real degree of pace and was evidently nervous due to the degree of the fixture from a Rotherham perspective. However, we never really managed to capitalise on this absence of confidence as the period wore on.

In the early exchanges of the second half, though, it was Broadfoot who put Collin under pressure with a bouncing back pass that the Millers’ stopper sliced agonisingly wide from a Wednesday perspective behind him and out for a corner.

It was hearts in the mouth again soon after but this time down at the other end of the field. One thing Evans’ United side is well recognised as is a well-drilled hardworking team and this was certainly evident when Revell’s persistence to close down Westwood inside his own area following a short backpass led to the ex-Leyton Orient man blocking the Owls’ number one’s hesitant kick and diverting the ball wide of the Leppings Lane goal. From the North Stand it certainly looked for a second as if that was inadvertently nestling into the Wednesday goal – a let off from a very nervous exchange of play!

Right-back Frazer Richardson then went close as Evans’ troops began to assert significant pressure for a short while inside of our own half as the once Leeds United full-back drilled a fierce effort just over Westwood’s crossbar.

Jeremy Helan a1

Helan grew in confidence

Helan – who, after a struggle to cope with Taylor in the first half managed to deal with what came his way predominantly in the second – forced a sharp save out of Collin at his near post as the game reached its closing embers when the Frenchman wriggled his way through two challenges before lashing a forceful effort that was heading for the bottom corner of the visitors’ net.

Rotherham were finding gaps in between the lines of the Owls’ defence and midfield as the legs of the outstanding Semedo and average Coke tired in the centre of the park leaving the likes of Pringle, Taylor and Frecklington to run at our backline but to no feel effect as time was edging closer and closer to the 90th minute. Evans was reluctant to throw on a substitute that could have won his side the game but instead was content on maintaining just the one player up front.

A substitute of our own, Keiran Lee, came on and almost provided the killer impact just moments before the final whistle when he controlled an Atdhe Nuhiu flick on – one of few contributions from the Austrian it has to be said – and seemed to worm his way past the back-tracking Broadfoot before the former initially appeared to take down the Wednesday midfielder with mass appeals being turned down by Mr Miller (hopefully the referee’s surname doesn’t serve as some clue to which persuasion he was of!).

Stevie May a1

Stevie May became less effective

Stevie May had a bright start to the match but died off as the match progressed and had the final opportunity to claim all three points but had a 20-yard free kick easily diverted away from Collin leaving the hosts’ barren-run in front of goal on home turf to extend to over 400 minutes without a home goal.

The point, in reflection, was a creditable one for both sides in my opinion as Rotherham were going to be no push overs and with the run we’ve been on it would’ve been very easy for any Wednesdayite to feel less than confident of a home triumph, especially against a club that always seems to be an enigma at Hillsborough.

Steve Evans’ side also saw their winless run extend to five matches and drop to just two points above the dreaded Championship relegation trap door and one win behind the Owls.

So, all in all, a respectable point for all that we can take into the forthcoming international break where a name or two on the injury list can be ticked off and you never know if we’re really lucky we might even recruit someone on loan…dare to dream eh?


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Twitter: @JonOwlzz and @OwlsAlive

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