RAMBLE: Rotherham -v- Wednesday

RAMBLE: Rotherham -v- Wednesday

I’d picked this fixture out of the list at the start of the season as a ‘must attend’ for the simple reason that it was the only Championship ground I’d not yet visited.

So when the ticket details went up there was a slight panic as I realised that I was 10 points short of the required 710 to guarantee a ticket on day one of sales.

Luckily I was straight in on day two and secured seats for me and David from Wakefield.

Having made David miss the start of the Millwall game by ending up on a delayed train I was now in his hands on his patch.

I got a train from London to meet him in Wakefield for a pre-match pint and we drove down to see the sights of New York, (Rotherham).

Stadium upgrade: The New York Stadium

Stadium upgrade: The New York Stadium

As we crossed the bridge after parking up we could see the perfect view of old and new: Millmoor in the foreground with the New York Stadium in the background.

Fair play to Rotherham, they had apparently moved out of Millmoor after feeling held to ransom by the landlord and they have built themselves a perfect ground for a club their size.

It’s a nice set-up – one that doesn’t suit their vile manager.

I am very grateful to Milan Mandaric for all he did for us but it has to be said we dodged a bullet when he approached Rotherham to offer Steve Evans the Wednesday job.

I don’t know what I would have done if he’d taken over but I do know I am delighted he didn’t.

Rotherham’s dislike for us is completely unreciprocated but the presence of him in their dugout does make them an eminently more dislikeable club.

Just outside the ground was a bloke playing bagpipes.

Lone piper: Not the only whining bag of wind of Rotherham

Lone piper: Not the only whining bag of wind in Rotherham

Bagpipes?! In Rotherham?

What’s all that about?

Still I guess on Cup Final day you see all sorts.

Despite spending the first 27 years of my life in the North, as a resident of London I do enjoy returning and marvelling at the prices.

£2 burgers! £2 matchday car park!

Even the beer in the ground was at least a quid cheaper than it would have been in my local! I’ll come again.

Having found our seats, despite being in a non-signposted part of the stand, we saw that Kamil Zayatte had dropped out of the originally announced line-up, with Joe Mattock coming in.

I wasn’t worried about that, but the intrigue was whether our 4-5-1 would be an attacking or defensive formation.

We also noticed that Atdhe Nuhiu wasn’t taking part in the shooting practice with the other attacking players.

I commented to David that perhaps this was because he was having a kick-about with the mascot in the centre circle, but he pointed out that it wasn’t the mascot.

Why's the mascot in the starting line-up?

Why’s the mascot in the starting line-up?

It was our new loan signing, Lloyd Isgrove. Oops.

Then the tannoy burst into life with an automated message:

“Attention, a situation has arisen where we need to evacuate the building”

No-one moved.

“Attention, a situation has arisen where we need to evacuate the building”

Even the stewards and security were unmoved. Then a human voice:

“Attention, please ignore the last message”

WAHAAAAY!!!

“An alarm has gone off after a pyrotechnic was set off in the North Stand. The game will now be delayed by 15 minutes”.

Hang on?!

May the Rotherham fan who sadly passed away rest in peace

May the Rotherham fan who sadly passed away rest in peace

We later heard the delay may have been caused by the death of a Rotherham fan.

Suddenly a slight delay in a football match seems insignificant.

May they Rest in Peace.

THE MATCH

This was a poor game of football in the first half, between two poor teams but one who wanted it more than the other.

After a few errors and no quality of note from either side, Keiren Westwood made a good save from Matt Derbyshire as the striker made space for himself.

They were having more possession but Lewis McGugan nearly put us in front after creating a chance on his own.

Rotherham had a goal disallowed for a foul on Westwood after a bizarre mis-kick from Nuhiu but then we had a great chance which Kieren Lee should have buried.

Safe hands: As usual, Westwood was one of Wednesday's better players in the first half

Safe hands: As usual, Westwood was one of Wednesday’s better players in the first half

They were still looking the side more likely to score though and Westwood made a great save from a corner which then led to a break from Jeremy Helan, but his pass to McGugan didn’t give the midfielder enough of a chance to shoot and it came to nothing.

Before half time Sam Hutchinson got his customary stupid booking that could easily have been worse, for a challenge he didn’t even need to make.

HALF TIME: Rotherham United 0-0 WEDNESDAY

At half time it was easy to pick our best players.

Westwood had kept us in it and McGugan was involved in literally everything we did.

Tom Lees was the only defender having a good game and Lee was working hard but that was it as far as positives were concerned.

Both full backs were poor and making basic errors, Claude Dielna had dropped us in it more than once and nothing was sticking up front.

Isgrove tried to get into the game but with no real effect and Helan’s one-footed play was preventing him from being any sort of threat.

The only hope we had was that it was a similar poor show at Millwall at half time and we scored three in the second half that night…

SECOND HALF

Stuart Gray made no changes at half time, presumably because he couldn’t decide which of the seven ineffectual players to take off.

We had a couple of openings at the start of the half but nothing concrete and Rotherham started to get a real foothold in the game.

Pringle: The self-procliamed 'pig killer' put the Millers ahead

Pringle: The self-proclaimed ‘pig killer’ put the Millers ahead

The pressure told when Ben Pringle shot from the edge of the area and it deflected in.

Lucky, but then you make your own luck by having pressure and shots, something we’d not had much of in either respect.

The Rotherham fans obviously loved that, and something had to change.

Caolan Lavery was immediately introduced and then Chris Maguire and Stevie May came on, with Hutchinson completing his card/injury double by hobbling off when he was about to be subbed anyway.

The changes certainly helped. Lavery brightened things up and we were now more positively set up.

We still weren’t creating much but then we got a free kick on the edge of the area and everyone immediately started singing McGugan’s name.

He put the ball down. Suddenly Dielna appeared from nowhere and grabbed the ball.

It wasn’t on a left-footers side so it made no sense, regardless of McGugan being clearly the better dead ball option.
Maybe it was going to be a clever ploy?

Dielna: Should not be taking free kicks ahead of McGugan

Dielna: Should not be taking free kicks ahead of McGugan

Nope. Dielna smashed it into the wall. At about knee height.

Cue immediate boos from the away end and a lot of abuse aimed at Gray.

Maybe he instructed Dielna to take it? If so then that’s bizarre, if not then I’m not sure why he got such intense abuse.

In fact at this point I was actually thinking what a miracle Gray has performed in getting this squad of players to 50 points already.

Looking through the team I think only half are mid-table Championship standard.

On this performance the other half are barely mid-table League One standard.

Does that make him a genius or a failure? More on that later.

Anyway we had picked up since the subs and Lavery on the left was causing problems, while Maguire was being the usual pest on the right.

McGugan: Wednesday's most/only creative player

McGugan: Wednesday’s most/only creative player

It was down that side that we were having some luck, with Marnick Vermijl proving to be a more effective attacking full back than defensive one, and McGugan was linking up with them both.

Then McGugan found space near the right touchline, got to the byline and floated a lovely cross into the box where Lavery was at the front of a queue of yellow shirts to head home.

YEEEESSSSS!!!!

Ha! We’d got an equaliser out of nothing and it had come from our most likely creator and most lively substitute.

Equaliser: But the celebrations didn't last long

Equaliser: But the celebrations didn’t last long

The away end went mad, and with our seats being right by the stewards separating us from the home fans it was particularly chaotic around us.

The game kicked off and we were still cheering.

IF YOU DON’T….

The ball was played into the left channel and the Rotherham sub Jordan Bowery picked it up, in too much space really.

FOOKIN’ BOUNCE…

Bowery cut inside and seemed to have few options, but he got into the area.

IF YOU DON’T FOOKIN BOUNCE THEN YOU’RE A…

Bowery shot towards the near post, Westwood got his hand to it but it nestled in the bottom corner.

TWAT!!!!!!!!

Evans: Ran on the pitch to celebrate Bowery's 'winner'

Evans: Ran on the pitch to celebrate Bowery’s ‘winner’

The home ends went predictably mental while Evans sprinted (as much as he can) onto the pitch to join in with his players.

Our celebrations had literally been stopped in their tracks, we had barely caught our breath and we’d let them get back in front.

Absolutely Typical Wednesday.

Being as we’d created so little for 86 minutes it seemed unlikely that we would get ourselves level again with only injury time remaining, even though we knew there would be a lot after Hutchinson’s injury.

I think the board said seven minutes but we were hardly full of optimism so a roar of encouragement didn’t follow it.

Then, deep into injury time, we got another free kick near the box.

This time it was in much more of a crossing than shooting position but there was no doubt that McGugan was taking this one.

We put most of the team in the box and the fans held their breath.

Another equaliser: Wednesday had rescued a point...

Another equaliser: Wednesday had rescued a point…

McGugan swung the perfect ball in and Nuhiu powered the ball home with his head.

GOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!

You are kidding me?! Why has it been so hard for us to score this season?

A free kick taken that sweetly simply cannot be missed and it wasn’t. This scoring lark is easy after all!!

Suddenly Nuhiu, who had been berated for 90 minutes by many Wednesdayites, was being told that Wednesday love him more than he will know.

Fickle old bunch aren’t we?

McGugan, meanwhile, had two excellent assists.

On this form he has to be priority number one to sign in the summer.

My fear is he has had anonymous games as well as brilliant ones and that’s why he has been let go by other sides chasing promotion, but he was easily our best player here.

Without him we’d have been dead and buried.

It seemed so late in the game that this time even we couldn’t screw it up, but as the game kicked off again the ref didn’t blow up.

Rotherham were shellshocked and we had the ball back.

We couldn’t, could we?

The ball was slipped in to May on the edge of the box.

He had been barracked by the home fans throughout the game as he warmed up, he’d been booed and had “what a waste of money” screamed his way.

Wouldn’t it be great if he could score a dramatic winner now?

No chance of that though, as he had his back to goal and was outnumbered.

But he slipped a cheeky little backheel in to the onrushing Kieran Lee, who took it in his stride and was suddenly clean through.

Lift-off: Lee win it in the 98th minute

Lift-off: Lee win it in the 98th minute

One sublime touch later and the ball was in the net.

YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

The whole ground seemed to let out a simultaneous: “WHAT THE F#%€!?!” (although the noise in the away end was slightly more positive than I imagine the home end had been).

YOU ARE KIDDING ME!!!!! GET IN THERE!!!!!

This was simply unbelievable.

Not just because Wednesday don’t win games like this, especially in local derbies where we tend to surrender meekly against opposition who are far more motivated than us due to the fact we don’t really care about them (Pigs and Leeds aside).

Late drama: Mattock celebrates with the match-winner

Late drama: Mattock celebrates with the match-winner

But in this particular game we had deserved approximately two-thirds of bugger all.

We were dreadful.

We had got out of jail with a goal out of nothing and then done a Wednesday and thrown it away immediately, yet somehow we had not only equalised again, but we’d bloody won it!

The home fans were streaming for the exits.

“IS THERE A FIRE DRILL?!?” we asked, politely.

“3-2 IN YOUR CUP FINAL” we gently reminded them.

And then Stevie May had the chance to really rub it in as we broke again but he could only stab a shot at former Owls loanee Emiliano Martinez.

Not that it mattered.

The final whistle went and the fans and players celebrated the most unlikely of wins.

FULL TIME: Rotherham United 2-3 WEDNESDAY

One picture says it all

One picture says it all


At this point I literally could not stop laughing.

I had to dash to ensure I got the train back but I was chuckling all the way to London.

We’ve been at tense games that have decided our future in recent seasons and the emotions are completely different.

This time it seemed all set to be a frustrating defeat but ultimately an inconsequential one.

No really, it was our pleasure

No really, it was our pleasure

The team would be booed off and Gray’s future would be the focus of the conversation among Owls fans but essentially the defeat would have meant little to us.

However to Rotherham it meant everything.

Their league position demanded a win but their hatred of us made it all the more crucial.

They had played better than us – they were still clearly a poor team but they deserved the win they were so desperate for.

Maybe if their manager wasn’t Steve Evans I’d even have sympathised.

But he is. So all I could do was laugh.

Chris Maguire clearly felt the same as he was encouraging us all to point and wave at their departing fans as the players came over at full time.

Typical Maguire wind-up behaviour that he has to be careful of.

I got the train back to London and followed the England rugby match on Twitter – it was never going to be.

Incredible late drama doesn’t happen often to teams I support so it was never going to happen twice in one day.

A few thoughts without the emotion of the end of the game:

The question remains whether Stuart Gray is the right manager to take us to the next level

The question remains whether Stuart Gray is the right manager to take us to the next level

Gray: I think leading us to mid-table has been a great achievement and he is clearly an excellent coach and an intelligent guy.

He has earned his chance and I really don’t agree with, or understand, the abuse he was getting at times in this game, regardless of the performance.

However, I think there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about his ability to take us to the next level – and by that I just mean playoff contenders, not the Premier League.

He doesn’t seem to be able to get us playing positively with multiple formations.

When we line up 4-5-1 it always seems to end up being negative when it doesn’t have to be.

His signings are hit and miss to say the least, especially since we’ve had ‘money’.
He gave three-year contracts to Filipe Melo, who he never plays, and Vermijl, who he dropped quickly and who looks nervous and weak defensively.

They may come good but we need to see that this season to know if they should be first teamers next season.

People accuse him of having favourites, like Jacques Maghoma, but he doesn’t seem to know who his best players are.

Nuhiu is not the best player in the world but our tactics when he plays do not utilise his strengths.

I hate contemplating a managerial change, we’ve had too many of them over the years and Gray is far from the worst, but if we are serious about pushing for promotion I do question if Gray is the man to lead us.

Chansiri: The new owner has some big decisions (and some big signings) to make over the summer

Chansiri: The new owner has some big decisions (and some big signings) to make over the summer

A brilliant coach he undoubtedly is.

A brilliant manager? I just don’t know.

The question for Dejphon Chansiri is: does he wait to find out?

Gray deserves the chance to prove himself but my gut says he won’t be there at Christmas.

In the meantime we have seven games left to see what of this current squad should be there in August.

On today’s showing, not many.

I’m still laughing though.

Baldy
Owls Alive
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TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @chris_shelley


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