Rotherham United v Sheffield Wednesday: Owls beat Millers when it matters

Steven Fletcher heads the second goal
Steven Fletcher heads the second goal
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There were empty seats in the home stands.

The away end was packed. Heaving. Sold out.

Derby action

Derby action

No-one takes a derby lightly, and the match at New York Stadium mattered to Rotherham United.

But it really, really mattered to Sheffield Wednesday.

The Millers were already relegated from the Championship while the Owls were desperate to regain the play-off place they had guarded for so long before a recent dip in results handed it to Fulham last weekend.

‘Hi Ho Sheffield Wednesday’ was loud as the away supporters paid familiar homage to their men in black, inspired by the old Jeff Beck classic, Hi Ho Silver Lining.

Derby joy for Wednesday

Derby joy for Wednesday

Rotherham had the better of the opening exchanges even though Wednesday had come to attack with three strikers. Away followers had one eye on events at the iPro Stadium where Fulham, a point above their team, were playing Derby County.

Millers caretaker boss Paul Warne in his technical area, was up for it, urging on his side. So was Wednesday chief Carlos Carvalhal who had an extra edge to his demeanour.

The difference between wanting to win and needing to.

Carvalhal had cut a solitary figure 15 minutes before kick-off, standing outside the dressing room deep in thought, gently kicking his foot against the door in the way you’d tap at a car tyre.

He perked up along with the rest of the Wednesday camp when Steven Fletcher fired the Owls in front in the 18th minute. In the 19th, Twitter went into overdrive about the striker being offside as he swept the ball past Millers goalkeeper Lewis Price.

A minute before the break, Fletcher rose at the back post for 2-0, and no social-media accusations this time.

Not long after, the boos rang out at one end of New York. Derby hostility? A refereeing error? No, just world champion boxer and Sheffield United supporter Kell Brook being introduced to the crowd at half-time.

By then, the knockout blows had been delivered.

Jonson Clarke-Harris entered the fray for his first Millers action of the season after knee surgery. Then Owls giant Atdhe Nuhiu strode on in orange shorts so long Rotherham winger Jon Taylor could have worn them as a pair of trousers.

The Millers had their first-half chances, stayed competitive. Wednesday, more clinical when it mattered, saw out the game, leaving Warne’s men with a club-record ninth successive defeat.

Carvalhal was magnanimous in victory: “I’d like to praise the fantastic attitude of our players and fans, but also the fantastic attitude of Rotherham United. I hope they are back in the Championship soon.”

Warne, who is likely to be confirmed as permanent boss shortly, managed to find humour amid his disappointment: “After having the Sheffield Wednesday fans telling me I am getting sacked in the morning, it’s not the best!” he said.

“No-one expected us to win. Our lads are psychologically damaged, so to have an offside goal like that is harsh.”

This fixture had loomed like a cloud for the Owls.

For weeks, it had appeared they might get the chance to send Rotherham down until, ironically, Fulham beat them to it last Saturday.

Suddenly, after a dismal run of only two points in four matches had pushed them down to seventh place, they feared their season going horribly wrong against local rivals doomed to League One.

Cue two-goal Fletcher. Cue Derby beating the Cottagers. Cue Wednesday back in the top six.

A cloud with a Hi Ho Silver Lining.

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