Gritty Millers earn quality 'kite' mark

Wycombe 1 Rotherham United 0

THERE isn't much in League Two that isn't bigger, better, flashier and certainly richer up in the Premier League.

But it's arguable that in the all-singing, all-dancing rich man's paradise they don't quite get down-to-earth stuff like this - and they certainly don't have beautiful red kites circling over any of their plush grounds.

Don't tell 'em or they'll want some or, more likely, want to upstage everybody and send out for golden eagles!

I reckon those red kites can be a handy distraction on an afternoon when the football's a bit dull and there's not much going off.

But you didn't dare cast your eyes skywards for a second and take them off this feisty, combative, all-action bash between two teams who are high fliers themselves.

Second v third it was and it showed!

At half-time, those red kites might have seemed more like vultures, circling and ready to pick over the bones of Rotherham's seemingly inevitable slide towards a crucial defeat.

At that stage, they were down, looking wounded and struggling to get to their feet. Wycombe, looking up to it and up for it and determined to get a grip on a vital match, seemed set to pick at the carcass and get a juicy three points.

As the sides came out for the second half, Millers followers must have feared for their team if nothing changed.

But it did change. The wounded animal recovered. And the Millers answered questions about their ability to respond when it got tough and had all the right answers except the critical one of putting the ball in the net.

So, dig out that old cliche and attach it here - it was, yes, a game of two halves!

Wycombe earned the right to boss the first half with determined, no-nonsense defending, getting in Rotherham's faces, be it by fair means or with what they could get away, with topped by some pretty sharp and lively attacking that Rotherham did well to keep at bay.

I've seen similarly vital games in years gone by when the Millers would have succumbed. Instead they responded splendidly with a second half every bit as determined as Wycombe earlier and with a more considered attacking threat which had the home side under the cosh and anxious far too often for comfort.

Really, it was all no less than you'd expect or should have been. It got spiky, challenges flew in and we had a thrilling second half in which Rotherham seemed poised to equalise at any time whilst Wycombe did all they could to deny them before, late on, threatening a few times to kill the game off on the break.

It was the sort of hard-fought encounter you get between two close rivals and often won by a narrow margin with the home side, perhaps aided by home advantage, just doing enough when their noses are in front, to battle through for the points - and in this case completing the double over Rotherham.

At least Rotherham salvaged some pride and the fact a large number of their fans were applauding at the end certainly indicates they had given their followers something to shout about in the second half.

The first half was Wycombe's. Going down the slope, they got after the Millers who, the longer the half went on, became more frustrated not so much at what the ref was giving but at what he was missing or not spotting.

Good defensive stints, with Nick Fenton ruggedly to the fore, kept Rotherham in it and it was certainly a tough re-introduction at left-back for Jamie Green on the ground where he made his full debut.

He was up against the wily veteran Gareth Ainsworth, now 37, but still a handful in fits and starts. And he was to prove the difference on 28 minutes.

The goal, actually, was amazingly identical to a lone winner scored late on by Alan Lee from a Paul Warne centre at the same end on an absolutely freezing, snowy March night 10 years ago - a goal which took Rotherham to the top of what is now League One.

This time sub left-back Danny Foster delivered right footed from the left and Ainsworth timed his run and leap to perfection, climbing above Green to head powerfully in.

Previously Stuart Beavon had flashed an excellent effort inches wide and forced a good save from Andy Warrington. Rotherham battled through, didn't concede the killer second goal but, strive though they did, made very little after an early Fenton header wide from a Nicky Law free-kick.

Come the second half and, with Marcus Marshall switched to the left, Rotherham turned things round.

Marshall certainly caused problems but there were two or three crucial occasions when he wanted to dribble a bit more when he'd made space and should, have delivered into the danger area.

Law and Randall both fired 20-yarders just over with Nikki Bull beaten and it was a real top-drawer save from the Wycombe keeper 20 minutes from time which prevented an equaliser.

After a flowing move involving Randall, Jason Taylor, Tonge and Law, Ryan Taylor's header looked in and seemed behind Bull but he got fingertips to brush the ball onto the underside of the bar and then punched the air as it bounced away to safety.

There was another incredible saving moment for the home side when Law whipped in a free-kick from the left and it was going inside the far post when Westwood somehow managed to divert it over his own bar when the odds seemed on it going under. Ryan Taylor glanced over from another free-kick.

By then Wycombe were looking to cash in on breakaways late on and Betsy hit a post and Warrington made a brilliant tip over from Beavon's fierce effort in a thrilling finale.

Adam Le Fondre was clearly unhappy at being taken off late on and removing your top scorer might seem at odds with trying to bag an equaliser but the little fella, although better here, looks in a form dip and, frankly, not too near a goal. No-one likes being hauled off and his little headshake and then a petulant little march off to the corner of the dugout indicated his feelings. What's more, he's never gone five successive games without a goal for the Millers before. He'll be back.

Jason Taylor, who'd competed valiantly throughout (and been on the receiving end of a shuddering 'take that' foul from big centre-half Dave Winfield in the second half) succumbed to frustration as Wycombe wasted time by the corner flag and his hack at Ben Strevens meant a red card and a three-match ban.

At half-time, Wycombe looked promotion material and wanted it more. By the end, the Millers had shown character, spirit and ability to indicate they're in it for the long haul too.

Got a view? Leave a comment below.

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