CONTROVERSIAL decisions should take little away from Rotherham United’s first Championship win of the season against a side who have their sights set on a return to the Premier League.
Even the stoppage-time winner was the subject of some dispute with Millers chief Steve Evans happy to accept Emmanuel Ledesma’s claim that he got a toe to the ball even though the video appeared to show Chris Maguire’s low cross to the near post had been turned in by Cardiff defender Matthew Connolly as the pair slid onto it.
Referee Keith Hill’s big call, however, had come in the 40th minute when he took the advice of his linesman and sent off Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall for kicking out at Matt Derbyshire after the Millers striker had prevented a quick release.
Cardiff chief Russell Slade admitted that Marshall – sent off at the end of last season for a head-butt against Nottingham Forest – should have walked but was adamant that his side should have been awarded a free-kick rather than the Millers be given a penalty which, after a lengthy delay as Joe Mason was sacrificed, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe tucked in on his home debut, sending replacement goalkeeper Simon Moore the wrong way.
Rotherham had little time to celebrate as the Belgian goal-scorer turned villain, putting an arm across former Manchester United defender Fabio, who went down theatrically to claim an undisputed penalty at the other end in first-half stoppage time.
Innocent central defender Farrend Rawson was the player booked before Peter Whittingham drilled the spot-kick down the middle past another home debutant in Lee Camp to make it 1-1 at the break.
The Millers had certainly been a match for the visitors in a largely uneventful first half as far as chances were concerned, even though Evans had employed a new attacking formation with Ofoe’s fellow Norwich loanee Tony Andreu operating behind a front two of Derbyshire and Jonson Clarke-Harris.
After seven games without a win, that equaliser could have deflated Rotherham but they tore into the 10 men after the break as Slade employed two defensive banks of four.
It hardly stemmed the tide as Clarke-Harris had a volley saved at the foot of the post and flashed a header wide; Lewis Buxton headed over and had a close-range shot blocked and Derbyshire headed straight at Moore and flicked a shot over from a cross from substitute Ledesma.
Rawson, too, could also only divert a fierce cross from Derbyshire over the bar with a brave snap-header before, in stoppage time, Joe Newell’s fierce volley struck the post after Lee Peltier had headed out Buxton’s cross.
The Millers were not to be denied, however, and that goal in the third minute of stoppage time gave them their first win since securing Championship safety against Reading in April last season.
Odjidja-Ofoe, who made his international debut at 21, was their most potent performer but he may only have a cameo role unless Norwich give him permission to extend his short-term loan.
The right-sided midfield man is glad to have been given the opportunity of some game time with the Millers and says: “It’s good for me to play games. My body is responding pretty good and game by game it’s getting better. I feel happy that I can help the manager who brought me here and we will see what the future brings. Everybody has to sit around the table and discuss what’s happening.”
Although he has taken penalties at previous clubs, the decision for him to take Saturday’s was only made during the drinks break as Cardiff prepared Moore to come on.
Former Club Brugge player Odjidja-Ofoe explained: “We didn’t decide anything before the game who would take a penalty but we have a lot of good penalty-takers in the team.
“On some days some feel better than others and when everybody went for a drink there was a discussion and I felt good, the ball was there and so I said to myself ‘let’s take it’ because I felt confident. It took ages to take the penalty but I stayed calm even though the tension was rising and the opposition were talking to me and trying to get into my mind.
“I just walked away and did not listen to them. I took a lot of penalties for my previous teams – I have not scored all of them but I felt good today. After that we felt strong but it’s a pity we let them come back straight away.”
The Belgian admitted to being the culprit as Fabio went for a return pass from Kagisho Dikgacoi and continued: “I said to the referee he had made a mistake (over Rawson’s booking). Fabio was running through and I could not judge the situation if he was going to get the ball or not so I held his shoulder. He made more out of it than it was but it was a mistake of mine to hold him in the box.”
Of that late winner, Odjidja-Ofoe revealed: “Ledesma was shouting in the dressing room ‘I scored, I scored,’ but I said ‘hey, it’s an own goal,’ but it was a massive goal for the team and the club and it doesn’t really matter who scored it.”
Rotherham United: Camp, Buxton, Rawson, Collins, Mattock; Smallwood; Odjidja-Ofoe, Newell; Andreu (Ledesma 68); Derbyshire (Maguire 83), Clarke-Harris. Unused substitutes: Collin, D Ward, Green, Halford, G Ward.
Cardiff City: Marshall, Peltier, Morrison, Connolly, Fabio; Noone (Jones 75), Whittingham, Dikgacoi, Ralls; Mason (Moore 42); Ameobi (Revell 86). Unused substitutes: Manga, Pilkington, Gunnarsson, , Malone.
Referee: K Hill (Herts).