Rotherham United match verdict: Wolves 5 Millers 0

Matt Derbyshire's overhead kick
Matt Derbyshire's overhead kick
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Once up on a time, there was a match at Molineux where both sides created loads of chances, it finished 6-4 and everyone went away buzzing about the spectacle they’d just witnessed.

Once up on a time, there was a match at Molineux where both sides created loads of chances, it finished 6-4 and everyone went away buzzing about the spectacle they’d just witnessed.

Nearly a year later, came volume two. The plot followed a similar line in that both teams had ample opportunities to score, only this time the home outfit won 5-0.

It sounds almost like make-believe to suggest, 10 months on from that unforgettable 10-goal April epic between these two clubs, that Rotherham United had just as many serious attempts on goal as Wolves on Saturday, but it’s absolutely true. No fiction in that.

Yet nobody would deny the Kenny Jackett’s men were worthy winners as they dealt a damaging blow to the Millers’ goal difference on an afternoon when the visitors suffered a collective off day and other results around the foot of the Championship table went against them.

Defeat dropped Rotherham to 21st place, three points above Millwall, occupiers of the last relegation spot and the visitors to AESSEAL New York Stadium on Saturday for a potentially season-defining showdown. A win in this so- tight division would have lifted them to 17th.

Steve Evans’ troops had no answer to Molineux’s band of gold, the attacking triumvirate of Nouha Dicko, Benik Afobe and Bakary Sako which sparkled to such an extent that they claimed four of the five goals between them and Sako set up the fifh.

Time and again the Millers’ rearguard was undone by a combination of pace, power, movement and precision passing. Heaven knows why Wolves aren’t right in the promotion mix. Obviously, Dicko, who enjoyed a prolific loan spell at New York Stadium last season and swapped warm acknowledgements with the travelling fans before kick-off, had to be among the scorers.

Against that, Matt Derbyshire could have scored three and Conor Sammon, on as a half-time substitute, wasted two glorious heading opportunities. Adam Hammill missed chances and brought the save of the game from Tomasz Kuszczak with a curling effort the flying ex-Manchester United goalkeeper did wonderfully well to palm away while Richie Smallwood had left his shooting boots back in South Yorkshire after his midweek goal against Derby

The Millers didn’t deserve anything from the match, yet they didn’t merit a five-goal thrashing. They never looked like a team who could score five goals in reply, but they could have done. It was a weird afternoon.

Evans summed it up well when he said: “I don’t want to be foolish and say we’ve made five, six, seven chances. But we have. The difference is, they’ve been clinical. We’ve missed quite simple chances.

“Our defending wasn’t good, our finishing wasn’t good, so it’s a bad day for us at the office. We obviously have to go away and look at it, reflect on it and try to put it right.

“That’s not been like us in recent weeks. We gave them too much time on the ball at different times.”

Wolves looked threatening from the off but should have been behind in the ninth minute when a deep cross from Derbyshire found Hammill, selected ahead of Ben Pringle to play against his former club, who should have done better than poke the ball at Kuszczak on the half-volley.

Pringle had done well and run himself into the ground last Tuesday against Derby and it was a surprise to many to see him benched against a club known to really rate him. In his after-match interview, Evans referenced Blackburn away a fortnight ago when Prings was off his game after a huge effort in the win over Ipswich three days earlier. Perhaps not the strange decision it might have at first seemed then.

It was a game too far for midfielder Rob Milsom who had performed heroics in his first Championship start of an injury-ravaged season against the Rams.

Then he ran on adrenalin; here, four days after, he ran through treacle until his half-time substitution, unable, despite his best efforts, to impose himself on the opposition.

Afobe nipped in to place the ball beyond Adam Collin in the 23rd minute and, after a fine Collin save to deny James Henry, it was 2-0 five minutes later when Dicko curled the ball in after Afobe’s neat little through-ball.

But suddenly it was Rotherham asking the questions. Smallwood mishit a shot, Hammill grazed the bar with the help of a deflection, Smallwood missed his connection again after good work by Derbyshire and then Derbyshire fluffed the best chance of the lot, mistiming his volley on half-time with the goal at his mercy.

After the break, it was more of the same as a Derbyshire header got the best out of Kuszczak and the striker’s goalbound overhead kick was blocked.

Rotherham simply had to score in this spell but didn’t, and when Afobe showed them how it was done by rounding Collin in the 63rd minute the game was up.

“There were some key moments in the game. Before half-time we’re 2-0 down - and we’ve probably created our downfall - and we miss a couple of golden chances to make it 2-1, 2-2 even, at the interval,” Evans said,

“Then we’ve come out for the second half … I think it’s Wolves’ first time in out half when the boy goes through and finishes it. But we had three or four chances in that spell, and I think if it goes 2-1 perhaps things are different. But it would be foolish for me to say anything else other than to congratulate Wolves.”

Even at 3-0 down, the visitors weren’t done, Sammon twice directing easy headers at Kuszczak that were inexplicably tame for such a wholehearted competitor and Hammill going so close with his pinpoint curler.

Midfielder Dave Edwards interrupted the three Molineux musketeers with a headed fourth from Sako’s corner after 72 minutes and the left-winger got in on the act himself 11 minutes from time, smashing a low drive through Collin.

“Attack, attack ... attack, attack, attack,” the Wolves fans chanted. Evans might have taken it as a cue to have a go at his players after the match, but no. There was just calmness and rationale amid his obvious hurt, along with an urgent desire to put things right in time for the trip to Vicarage Road tomorrow.

“I think we’ve worked extremely hard today. We can’t fault the commitment and effort, otherwise we wouldn’t have made the chances we’ve created today,” he said.

“Wolves are quite dynamic and excellent going forward, but we felt we could get at them at the back, and we did.

“I’ve told the players we’ll look at it. We’ll have a look at it on the screen and we’ll address certain things. Then we’ll move on and try to put a team, a system and a shape together and get ready for Watford.”

And so this strange narrative comes to an end, the account of a day when it all went right for one team and all went wrong for the other.

Fairytale stuff for Wolves, a horror story for the Millers.

Wolves (4-4-2): Kuszczak 8, Iorfa 8, Batth 7, Stearman 9, Golbourne (Hause 76) 6, Henry 6, McDonald 8, Edwards 7, Sako 8, Afobe 8 (van La Parra 66, 6), Dicko 8 (Doyle 66, 5). Subs not used: McCarey, Doherty, Ebanks-Landell, Jacobs.

Rotherham United (4-4-2): Collin 6, Richardson 6, Broadfoot 5, Arnason 6, Fryers 6, Hamill 6 (Newton 81), Green 6, Smallwood 6, Milsom 5 (Sammon H-T), Ward 5, Derbyshire 7 (Clarke-Harris 76). Subs not used: Loach, Morgan, Pringle, Bowery.

Manager’s view - Steve Evans: “ This was a day when perhaps Matt Derbyshire could have had a couple, Conor Sammon could have had a couple, Adam Hammill could have had a couple. We can look all round the team and say we could have scored six or seven today. We’re on the end of a 5-0 drubbing and we lick our wounds and move on. There’ll be no rash decisions being made. We’ve all let ourselves down today. We’ve let our wonderful support who’ve travelled here down as well.”

Manager’s view - Kenny Jackett: “I felt the first 30 minutes we played as well as we have done for months. We passed the ball well, controlled the game, had some short passes and some long passes as well. The key goal in the Championship is the first goal and we got it with a very well-taken finish from Benik Afobe.We followed that up with Nouha Dicko’s goal, so a very good first period to the game. We didn’t manage it very well after that, I felt we were too loose, too open and quite scruffy with our defending. Rotherham have great spirit, they don’t ever give up and keep putting balls into your box and test you and give you problems to solve. After that period, after my goalkeeper made a couple of key saves, I felt our play on the counter-attack was very good and obviously we were able to finish and go further ahead. Goals are obviously great for forwards and give them confidence. But I think Afobe’s got a good all-round game as well and that’s helped us as a side to link up play. At 21 and 22 years old Afobe and Dicko are good for the future and we’re pleased with the work they are doing.”

Hero: Nobody worthy of that name, but Matt Derbyshire never shirked his respsonsibilities and showed up well. No goal for the in-form striker to add to his four in five games, but he could have had a hat-trick on a difficult day for the Millers.

Key moment: Tomasz Kuszczak’s superb save from Matt Derbyshire’s 61st-minute header. The home fans were getting restless and had Rotherham made it 2-1 who knows how events might have unfolded.

Viewpoint. Survival won’t be won or lost against play-off contenders at places like Molineux. It will be decided in games against teams like Millwall, next up at NYS on Saturday. In a season of huge matches, this is now the biggest of them all.

Ref watch: Iain Williamson (Berkshire). Unfussy, decent performance, Didn’t influence the game in any kind of way, which is what you want from your officials. Turned down penalty appeals from both sides but neither were huge shouts.

Attendance: 20,336.