Rotherham United 2 Sheffield Wednesday 2: Steve Bruce hits out at “two shocking” refereeing calls as sloppy Owls rescue a point against local rivals

Four goals, two controversial refereeing decisions and a late debut equaliser.

By Dom Howson
Sunday, 17 February, 2019, 10:16
Fernando Forestieri is sent off

The AESSEAL New York Stadium was the place to be for drama and entertainment over the weekend.

Sheffield Wednesday were seconds away from suffering their first defeat under manager Steve Bruce in a full-blooded South Yorkshire derby.

Forestieri is left baffled by his red card

But substitute Dominic Iorfa, making his Owls debut off the bench, prodded in a leveller in the 10th minute of added on time to spark jubilant scenes in the away end.

The 23-year-old was the unlikeliest of scorers, having only previously netted once in 125 career appearances. His strike was officially timed at 99 minutes and 10 seconds – the second latest Championship goal of the season.

There was just time enough time left for fussy referee Darren England to send off Fernando Forestieri after the forward picked up a second yellow card for over-exuberant celebrations, including an attempted high-five with a Wednesday fan on the pitch.

Furious Owls boss Steve Bruce said: "It was a ridiculous decision. It is what we play football for to score in the last minute and celebrate with your supporters. Now why didn’t the ref send off the other 10 who were jumping in the crowd as well?

"As I said to the referee, are you telling me that big Dom wasn't in the crowd celebrating with all the team? He had just scored on his debut and got us a point. There were 10 of them down there and my staff.

"It is absolutely beyond me. They are supposed to celebrate and you want them to celebrate with the supporters. It is why the supporters come in their thousands to have moments like they just witnessed.

"That's what football fans want to see, that it means something for them. All of a sudden we won't be able to have Fernando next week, for celebrating with supporters. What is all that about?"

THE MATCH

After a bright start in the New York sunshine, the Owls lost their way.

Rotherham, battling for their second-tier survival, played as if their lives depended on it. Will Vaulks was outstanding in the midfield engine room, Jon Taylor gave the Millers energy out wide and Michael Smith bullied Wednesday's centre-halves at times with his strength and physicality.

Keiren Westwood produced a smart stop to foil Anthony Forde in the 24th minute after a slip by Michael Hector, who looked shaky all afternoon.

Moments later, Smith spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to put the Millers in front, side-footing wide after a clever cut back by Michael Ihiekwe (More on Ihiekwe later).

Ex-Owls defender Joe Mattock also blazed over when he should have done better after more good approach play.

Adam Reach hit the post after a weak back header by Mattock before the midfielder provided the assist for Forestieri's 35th minute opener against the run of play.

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The Millers restored parity within 86 seconds, Taylor smashing a volley past Westwood following Smith's cross.

It was no more than Rotherham deserved.

IHIEKWE TACKLE

There was a big flashpoint just after the hour mark following Ihiekwe's late, hefty challenge on Forestieri near the halfway line. Bruce was left fuming over the tackle and stormed out of his technical area and onto the pitch to make his feelings known. Referee Darren England issued just a yellow card.

Former Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) boss Keith Hackett said: "It was a straight red challenge every day."

Bruce described the challenge as the "most shocking, shocking foul I’ve seen in years".

"It was a horrendous challenge on him but he only gets a yellow card," said Bruce. "The referee made two shocking decisions and they were both concerning Forestieri."

Semi Ajayi had a header cleared off the line by Adam Reach and Richie Towell was crowded out after a fine run by Vaulks as Rotherham dominated the final quarter. After another uncharacteristic defensive error by Hector, Joe Newell fed Brighton loanee Towell, who drilled in a shot off the post to the delight of the Millers faithful.

The hosts went for the jugular and Smith headed inches wide from Ryan Williams' cross.

Rotherham only had themselves to blame for not securing a famous derby-day victory. Their lack of ruthlessness in the final third came back to haunt them as Iorfa struck with virtually the last kick of an enthralling contest.

"I'm disappointed with the way it ended but it doesn't detract how proud I am of the performance," said Millers manager Paul Warne.

"I thought we were excellent. The only criticism I have got is that we didn't take the chances we had."

As Bruce was quick to point out post-match, the Owls “got away with one” after a sloppy, disjointed display.

“I am not going to b******t you; we made more mistakes today than in the previous three,” he said. “While we are happy to get a point we can't be happy with that performance.”