Rotherham United 1-0 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 16th Apr 2022 14:39
Michael Smith’s 78th-minute goal saw Rotherham to a 1-0 victory over the Blues at the New York Stadium, mathematically ending any remaining hopes Town might have had of making the play-offs. The Blues had the best chance of the first half, James Norwood scuffing wide at the far post, but the Millers, who had won only one of their last seven in League One, were well on top after the break with Smith striking the game’s only goal.
Town boss Kieran McKenna handed 19-year-old Elkan Baggott his league debut, becoming the first Indonesian to feature in English league football.
Baggott, whose only domestic appearance up to now was a start in the EFL Trophy tie against Gillingham two seasons ago, came in on the left of the back three with Cameron Burgess suspended.
The only other changes from the team which drew 1-1 at Shrewsbury last week, were Dominic Thompson’s return to left wing-back for Matt Penney, who dropped to the bench, and Bersant Celina coming into the team with Conor Chaplin among the subs.
The Millers, with the sun beating down on a warm South Yorkshire afternoon, were first to threaten in the third minute from a corner. Big striker Michael Smith nodded back across the box for Wes Harding, whose shot was blocked, then one-time Town trialist Chiedozie Ogbene curled over from outside the area.
Town, wearing all blue, should have gone in front in the ninth minute. Sone Aluko sent Wes Burns away on the right and the Welshman sent over a superb low ball for James Norwood at the far post but somehow the striker contrived to divert it wide from a couple of feet.
Neither side was able to get on top, both having spells on the ball without creating an opening. As the game approached the 20-minute mark, Burns sent a cross into the stand at one end and then Jordi Osei-Tutu did the same at the other.
The home side were forced into a change in the 24th minute when Mickel Miller suffered a knock and Dan Barlaser replaced him, the players taking one of a number of mid-half drinks break due to the sunny conditions.
Five minutes later, a looping free-kick in from the right was half-headed clear by Luke Woolfenden to the right of the box and Ben Wiles struck a low shot which was blocked.
As the half moved into its final quarter of an hour, Rotherham were starting to dominate but with the Blues defending resolutely.
On 35, Town won the ball just inside their half and broke via Celina on the left. The Kosovan international fed Thompson to his left and the on-loan Brentford man sent over a low cross which home keeper Viktor Johansson unconvincingly dived and pawed away behind Norwood.
As the half moved into five minutes of injury time, Burns was booked for a foul on Osei-Tutu, the Rotherham man having thwarted him as he looked to burst towards the Millers’ box.
Two minutes later, Celina joined him in the book with the home fans calling for a red. After Ollie Rathbone had blocked him off after he had laid off a pass a few yards inside the Town, the on-loan Dijon man shoved the midfielder to the ground.
After some pushing and shoving involving a number of players, referee Peter Wright deemed the offence only worthy of a yellow card. Celina could perhaps count himself lucky.
Wright blew his whistle soon afterwards to boos from the home support regarding that decision.
There had been little in what at times had been a frantic period with both teams having spells, although with Rotherham perhaps shading it on that front.
However, Town, while far from their most fluent with too many passes going astray in the opposition half, had had the game’s outstanding chance, Norwood’s spurned ninth-minute chance, while at the other end the backline had defended solidly with debutant Baggott looking far from out of place.
Within a minute of the restart, Norwood had his name added to referee Wright’s book for catching Rotherham skipper Michael Ihiekwe with a stray arm as they jumped for a header.
On 51, Smith headed over from a Millers’ free-kick on the right, Janoi Donacien having got a flick on the ball as it came over.
Rotherham were getting up a head of steam and in the 54th minute an Osei-Tutu cross from the left was too high for Town keeper Christian Walton but, fortunately for the Blues, also Ogbene at the far post. Rarmani Edmonds-Green curled a shot wide in the aftermath.
Woolfenden became the fourth Blues player to be yellow-carded three minutes later for a foul on Rathbone on the Millers’ left, a few yards outside the area. The free-kick was floated to the far post where Smith nodded into the side-netting from a tight angle.
As the game moved towards the hour mark, Tyreeq Bakinson picked up a loose Rotherham pass midway inside the home side’s half but was crowded out as he took it into the box.
In the 62nd minute, Edmonds-Green was shown Rotherham’s first yellow card of the afternoon for rugby tackling Norwood as the striker took the ball past him on the left.
From the free-kick, the ball deflected back towards the near post and Aluko and home keeper Johansson collided as they attacked it, both with their eyes on the prize. The two required treatment as the Rotherham fans again chanted for a red card, before referee Wright showed the Town forward a yellow to more boos.
The Blues already had Chaplin and Macauley Bonne readied to come on and prior to the restart they replaced Aluko and Norwood respectively.
Rotherham had been the better side since the break and in the 70th minute when Rathbone almost played Ogbene in on goal but put just too much on his pass.
However, Town almost went in front in the 72nd minute when Woolfenden made a strong run out of defence, exchanging a pass along the way, before getting to the byline and cutting back across the area. The ball was stabbed clear and Burns struck a powerful effort which was on its way into the top corner until Johansson superbly tipped it behind.
The home side went close almost immediately. From the resultant corner, the Millers broke and won a flag-kick of their own on the left from which Smith got in front of Baggott while manhandling him and headed goalwards from inside the six-yard box but Walton was in position to stop it and Chaplin cleared.
However, the home fans didn’t have to wait too much longer to see their side go in front. In the 78th minute, Harding sent a long throw into the area, Osei-Tutu’s shot was blocked by Baggott but the ball deflected out to Smith on the left of the box from where he deftly struck his 25th goal of the season across Walton, who was perhaps unsighted as Woolfenden sought to block, and into the corner of the net.
Town immediately swapped Celina for Joe Pigott as they looked to get back into a game in which they had been second best since the break.
As the match moved into its final three minutes the Blues won two quick corners, neither of which came to anything. Between the two, veteran centre-half Richard Wood took over from Osei-Tutu.
The fourth official’s board indicated nine additional minutes, the period having been punctuated by drinks breaks and stoppages for Rotherham injuries.
But the Blues were unable to find a threat during those minutes with Smith heading over for the Millers prior to the whistle.
Four successive Town visits to the New York Stadium have now ended in 1-0 defeats, with Smith having also scored the winner in the August 2018 fixture between the sides in the Championship.
After a first half in which there had been little in it, in the second the Millers found the mojo which had been missing for them in recent weeks and stepped it up with Town never able to get their passing going, putting in probably the poorest half under McKenna.
Too often the Blues found themselves trying to get the ball forward too quickly rather than moving it around in the manner which has become familiar in the last few months.
Smith had come close just before scoring and after the break, aside from Burns’s strike following Woolfenden’s excellent run, the Millers, who move back up to second with MK Dons in action this evening, always looked the most likely scorers.
The defeat, only the fourth in McKenna’s 20 games in charge, and other results over the weekend see the Blues drop to 10th in the table with the play-offs now mathematically impossible.
Town, whose recent run is now one win in six, are next in action at home to leaders Wigan on Tuesday.
Town: Walton, Donacien, Woolfenden, Baggott, Burns, Bakinson, Morsy (c), Thompson, Aluko (Chaplin 66), Celina (Pigott 79), Norwood (Bonne 66). Unused: Hladky, Penney, Carroll, El Mizouni. Referee: Peter Wright (Merseyside). Att: 9,364, (Town: 1,087).
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