The '˜goal', the penalty, the ref, the red ... Owls v Millers derby injustice at Hillsborough: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Rotherham United 0
He gesticulated, he shouted, he warred with the world, he was the image of derby-day day defiance.
For 92 minutes, Rotherham United centre-half and Sheffield Wednesday old boy Richard Wood did all of those things in his own penalty box.
Now, deep into time added on, with the Millers seconds away from an heroic Hillsborough point, he was reduced to performing in the visitor’s technical area, wrongly sent off by a referee who blundered throughout the match and saved his worst until last.
This most grizzled of grizzled defenders had gone, seething, screaming injustice, down the tunnel, by the time Wednesday striker Steve Fletcher stepped up to convert the penalty that never was with the assured precision which used to see him grace the Premier League player.
Wood had been ordered off for a foul on Lucas Joao. “I never touched him,” you could see the Millers man mouth, and television replays later suggested he was right.
Two words why Paul Warne’s warriors were worthy of a point in the S6 showdown. Desire. Commitment.
Two words why they headed back across the M1 after this Championship clash with nothing but anger and frustration. Tim. Robinson.
We haven’t even got yet to the perfectly good Rotherham goal that the West Sussex official ruled out on the stroke of half-time.
Barely 1,000 Millers fans were in the Leppings Lane end - a season of struggle, the proximity of Christmas and, mainly, tickets at £36 a pop producing the lowest derby away following in years.
Every one of them will tell you there wasn’t an infringement in sight when Tom Adeyemi rose to head Joe Newell’s supply past Keiren Westwood. Again, TV footage backed them up.
Robinson is the referee who red-carded Fernando Forestieri for daring to be chopped down by Michael Dawson at Hull City last season, so Owls supporters also know how it feels to suffer at this official’s hands.
This was a match between the massive and the not so massive: aristocratic Wednesday, with the top-flight pedigree, going for promotion, versus little Rotherham, in League Two three years ago and their campaign fatally damaged by the regime of Alan Stubbs, bottom of the table and far from safety.
Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal stood, immaculate, at the side of the pitch, sharply suited and booted inside his fashion-statement coat.
Rotherham interim boss Paul Warne patrolled the touchline in his club tracksuit, old-school black Adidas boots and the tight-fitting Millers hat that rarely leaves his head.
Two men with different outfits, different agendas.
Before the last-gasp drama, the occasion had been flat, spoiled by a fussy man in the middle who hardly let a tackle go. Robinson wrongly penalised the Owls more than he did Rotherham. But the big, game-changing decisions went against the Millers
He set his fussy, tinkering tone at the very first kick-off, watching Fletcher pass the ball back to the Owls midfield and then ordering it to be retaken so Fletcher could pass the ball back to the Owls midfield.
Wednesday had the possession but few clear-cut chances as Joao missed, missed and missed again. There was a header from Tom Lees, a shot into the side-netting from Aymen Abdi, a clearance off the line by Darnell Fisher, a Lewis Price save from Joe Mattock’s misplaced header.
Rotherham’s resistance against a top-six side was magnificent. The players are giving their all for Warne who has been in charge for four matches and may well now be left in the hot-seat for much longer.
Peter Odemwingie should have done better in the first half than fire over the bar from inside the area, Joe Newell threatened Wednesday with his direct running and Adeyemi scored, except he didn’t.
Then Joao dived, Robinson reacted and Rotherham’s 35-year undefeated record on Owls turf was gone.
The points were Wednesday’s, the pride Rotherham’s.
“The players had a very good attitude,” Carvalhal said. “We broke a wall that Rotherham put up. We don’t win a lot of those games so I am very happy.
“We never know in this competition whether it will be easier playing the bottom of the league or the top of the league. Rotherham caused us a lot of problems. It’s not easy to break teams down.”
Warne’s view: “This game is a big deal for us and it is a big deal for the town, the club, my players. I have to try to pick them up. They were devastated after the game. Some of them were a bit teary and angry.
“If we have scored a good goal going into the break 1-0, it could have been a different story. To lose at such a late stage is a bitter pill to swallow, but I will still go home pretty proud. We couldn’t give any more.”
Carvalhal came into his after-match press conference, suave, the neck of his unbuttoned shirt plunging like an injury-time Joao, closed, evasive on the key points.
“I don’t talk about refereeing decisions,” he said, before revealing that Joao and Joao’s teammate, Ross Wallace, had told him it was a clear spot-kick.
Warne bounced in, all whiskers, shaved head and disappointed geniality, pining for his beanie, open, expansive.
After using the word “conned” and immediately retracting it, he said: “It was more a case of the player winning the penalty. Would I be happy if my striker did that in the 93rd minute to win the game? Yes, I would. But I don’t know how that is a sending-off.
Rotherham goalkeeper and another ex-Owl, Lewis Price, pitched into the debate by saying when the whistle blew he thought the visitors had been awarded a free-kick.
Warne went on: “For the goal, I’ve watched it back numerous times and I cannot see where the foul is. I can’t even see where it might have been.”
Then he was done talking. There was somewhere he needed to be, someone he wanted to have a word with.
Maybe two words. Tim. Robinson.