Sheffield Wednesday 0 Rotherham United 0 match verdict: Goal drought goes on as Owls and Millers battle to derby draw

Gary-Taylor Fletcher is just wide
Gary-Taylor Fletcher is just wide
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The search for rays of hope proved as futile as the hunt for rays of sunshine at rain-soaked Hillsborough on Saturday.

Both the Owls and the Millers were desperate for the slightest of bright spots to suggest the next six months are not going to be a slog for Championship survival.

Yet, after a South Yorkshire derby that was certainly hard-fought, there was little to suggest either of the two rivals will be coasting to a comfortable finish this season.

A goalless draw was the most apt outcome from a match severely lacking in composed and quality attacking play.

There were chances and Rotherham in particular will feel they should have scored through at least one of two first-half free headers for the brilliantly-industrious Paul Green.

But creativity was largely absent in a contest characterised by nerves and tension.

The real positives? Neither side was as bad as in their respective previous matches. Both managers got the response they hoped for, even if it failed to come in emphatic fashion.

And the effort of both teams could not be faulted. The willingness to chase down, commitment to tackling and battling to the end was present in the majority of both camps.

But beyond that there was very little to shout about.

That each side’s deeper lying midfielder was arguably their best player says a great deal about the nature of this match. Jose Semedo and Richie Smallwood were each the most composed member of their team, battling hard, tackling well and influencing their side going forward.

Conditions were hardly ideal as the rain poured down on S6 throughout the afternoon. The state of the pitch cannot be used as an excuse for either side, however.

Both bore the weight of poor runs and the need to grab a result to turn things around weighed heavy on collective shoulders.

It was the Owls who clearly felt this weight the greater. They looked like the side who knew they needed the win more and the pressure of that told on their play.

Wednesday started brightly but the nerves of a lack of wins and a severe lack of goals - now well beyond 400 minutes since their last goal at Hillsborough - made them hesistant. There seemed to be second thoughts about every attacking run and each pass or cross.

Play was consistently over-thought and over-complicated which played right into the hands of the Millers defence. Chris Maguire and Jacques Maghoma were the most guilty of this.

The only real directness came from full-back Jeremy Helan who would surely be commanding a regular place on the left side of midfield if it was not for a defensive shortage.

Helan’s surging runs showed why Royston Drenthe’s suspension-led absence was felt. There was a distinct lack of no-fear dribbling from Wednesday. A manager would label it ‘not taking responsibility’.6

The hosts’ tempo was good in the early stages of the game but good work in midfield was undone in the final third.

On his first start, loanee Gary Taylor-Fletcher was a handful with his close control. But his tendency to drop deep to influence play left Stevie May isolated.

When Taylor-Fletcher was forced off with an eye injury before half-time, Wednesday looked more threatening with replacement Atdhe Nuhiu at least giving them something to aim at up front.

In the early stages, it was a Taylor-Fletcher who brought their best chance. The forward squeezed between two defenders to meet Helan’s low cross with his touch sending the ball skidding agonisingly wide.

Rotherham were slower starters and seemed to be playing in their shell for at least the first quarter of the game. There were plenty of long balls forward to Alex Revell that were little more than hopeful.

But after the midpoint of the half, they emerged and began to look the more composed side with more purpose to their play.

As the Millers awoke, they really should have gone ahead. Green had the freedom of the 18-yard box as he met a Ben Pringle corner but powered his header well wide.

And, mere moments later, the same scenario brought the same outcome. There was a little more attention on Green this time but he was closer to goal when he put his next header just over the bar.

The half’s only shot on target came from Rotherham. Revell picked out Pringle 25 yards from goal but his low strike deflected tamely into the hands of Keiren Westwood.

A moment of calamity from Rotherham almost gifted Wednesday the lead early in the second half. A long and low punt out of the hands from Westwood - quite possibly the pass of the game from an Owls perspective - sought out Nuhiu deep in Millers territory. Under pressure, Kirk Broadfoot sent a heavy back pass towards Adam Collin who could only swipe at the ball, sending it spinning narrowly wide.

The incident brought the home support at Hillsborough truly to life en masse for the first time. Whether coincidence or not, this signalled play opening up considerably.

Rotherham almost took the lead through a brilliant counter-attack. May was denied with a superb block from Smallwood and the Millers broke. Revell found the impressive Frazer Richardson but the full-back’s fierce shot from the edge of the box was narrowly over.

On the substitute front, Millers boss Steve Evans surprisingly opted to stick rather than twist as he failed to make a single change.

Over the last ten or 15 minutes, Rotherham were largely on the back foot. Whether this was by design or due to the force of the Owls was difficult to tell but there was no real committed push for the victory beyond 80 minutes.

It took Wednesday 75 minutes to register a shot on target but they would go on to finish the stronger.

Helan refused to give up on his run into the box from deep, even getting off the floor to continue on, and he tested Collin with a rasping shot to the near post.

Rotherham did have the ball in the back of the net on 78 minutes when Lee Frecklington cannoned a shot in off the post but he had made his run too early and was ruled offside.

The game’s single moment of controversy came ten minutes from time. Substitute Kieran Lee received a pass 15 yards out and tumbled as he turned Broadfoot. Initial reaction said penalty. Referee Nigel Miller said no.

Plenty of eyes fell on May during the afternoon. Booed with every touch by Rotherham’s away following, he was - as expected - the focal point of the afternoon’s story after August’s brief tug-of-war for his services.

He had chances to be the Wednesday hero - and seal his place as a Millers villain - late on. First, a turn and shot from the edge of the area proved a simple low save from Collin.

Then came a moment which looked set for May heroics. A free-kick on the edge of the box , two minutes to go. May went for placement rather than power but his shot curled in flight, bringing an unconvincing parry from Collin.

Ultimately, it proved to be a game without attacking heroics. The desire for a hero burns strong for these two rivals.

Wednesday: Westwood 7, Palmer 5, Lees 6, Loovens 6, Helan 7, Maguire 5 (Lee 66 6), Coke 6, Semedo 8, Maghoma 5, May 6, Taylor-Fletcher 6 (Nuhiu 38 6).

Rotherham: Collin 6, Richardson 7, Morgan 7, Broadfoot 5, Skarz 6, Taylor 6, Frecklington 7, Green 7, Smallwood 8, Pringle 7, Revell 6.