Match analysis: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Rotherham United 0 - Late, cruel but Owls get job done
Nothing is ever guaranteed in the topsy-turvy world of the Championship.
‘Accidents’ - as Owls chief Carlos Carvalhal eloquently puts it - frequently occur in the second-tier when you least expect them.
There was very nearly another surprise on Saturday.
Rock-bottom Rotherham United were minutes away from yet again frustrating Wednesday at S6.
The Millers entered the derby without a win in 13 Championship away matches and having picked up just one point on the road this season. They deserved to double their tally over the weekend.
But you don’t always get what you deserve in sport and Rotherham were undone by route one football deep into added on time.
Keiren Westwood, on his 100th Wednesday appearance, launched the ball upfield and Steven Fletcher’s deft flick on caused panic in the Millers defence.
Richard Wood misjudged the situation and it proved fatal as referee Tim Robinson - more on him shortly - pointed to the penalty spot after deeming the defender had sent Lucas Joao tumbling to the ground.
Fletcher, as cool as a cucumber, rifled home the spot-kick to claim his third goal in four outings and break Rotherham’s stubborn resistance.
You had to feel for Millers, who deserved better following a hard-working, tenacious showing. It was desperately cruel and harsh but Lady Luck failed to shine on them.
The visitors had a perfectly good goal chalked off before the interval when midfielder Tom Adeyemi bundled in Joe Newell’s well-flighted free-kick. It was disallowed for a foul. Had the Championship’s bottom club gone ahead, it could have been a long afternoon for the Owls.
It was yet another disjointed, unconvincing showing from Carvalhal’s charges. Nonetheless, they still got the job done.
Where possible I try to avoid criticising match officials. It is sometimes easy to blame them for the shortcomingsof your own team. It is not always straight forward making decisions in the heat of the battle when you don’t have the benefit of technology.
The best referees tend to be the ones you hardly notice but I’m fairly sure Mr Robinson won’t be on the Christmas card list of either club following a fussy, frustrating performance.
Robinson was whistle happy from the start. It was like he had never officiated a derby before. He just didn’t let the match flow and his pedantic refereeing contributed to a scrappy, mediocre spectacle.
“It was a South Yorkshire derby where you weren’t allowed to tackle,” bemoaned Rotherham interim boss Paul Warne. “I’ve never been in a game where there were so many free kicks and it was non-contact football for both teams.”
Carvalhal was slightly more diplomatic, describing the officiating as “not a typically British style”.
“There were a lot of fouls,” he conceded.
It is not the first time in 2016 the Owls have been left baffled by Robinson’s decision-making. It was Robinson who incorrectly sent off Fernando Forestieri in the closing stages of their goalless draw against promotion rivals Hull City last February. His call cost Wednesday the services of their talismanic forward Forestieri for two matches at a crucial stage of the season.
TALKING POINT NUMBER ONE
There were cries of ‘You don’t know what you are doing’ from the home faithful long before the big flashpoint of a scrappy, turgid first half.
Rotherham, searching for a first win on their travels in more than eight months, thought they had taken the lead through Adeyemi but the strike was ruled out for a foul.
TV replays suggested there was no obvious issue.
Warne said: “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.
“I will go and speak to the referee and he will tell me something I didn’t see.”
TALKING POINT NUMBER TWO
Wood, facing his old club, led from the front for the Millers but his late lapse in concentration proved fatal as the Owls secured their first home win over Rotherham since 1981.
The centre-back misjudged Fletcher’s flick on and he brought down Joao.
Carvalhal said he didn’t have a clear view of the penalty incident but Joao and Ross Wallace told him the referee’s decision was correct.
Warne grudgingly agreed with the call but claimed there was “minimal contact”. Wood was definitely unlucky to see red.
But the Owls, missing a string of senior players and yet to hit top form, rode their luck and moved back into the top-six of a crazy division thanks to Fletcher.