Rotherham United 3 Wolverhampton W 3: Millers set highest of standards in festive cracker

Kieran Agard celebrates his goal
Kieran Agard celebrates his goal
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Games of this high a calibre are sadly so rare in football that when you witness one of such a pulsating nature, you have to just sit back, applaud and appreciate.

Forget the contentious penalty decision that swung the game in Wolves’ favour.

Forget the swirling wind that at times made defenders look like fools.

Savour instead the cracking atmosphere generated by 9,000 Millers fans and 2,000 Wolves supporters, who were all in party mood.

Savour the six goals, the momentum shifts and the free-flowing football delivered by two teams intent on winning the game.

From Rotherham’s perspective, as frustrated as they might have been having seen their side squander a 3-1 lead, pride should be the overwhelming emotion after a performance of great purpose and resilience.

As benchmarks go, they do not come much more defining than a home game with a promotion-chasing team who two years ago were playing in the Premier League while the Millers were three divisions below.

That they left the field disappointed their guile and gusto did not yield the maximum return says everything about how far the club has come.

The performance itself suggests there will be more to come, particularly if they can keep hold of Nouha Dicko, the 21-year-old French striker on loan from Wigan Athletic, who struck twice to make it six goals in five starts.

Dicko is on loan until the home date with Crewe on January 11. Whether they keep hold of him may depend on how many more starring roles like this he can squeeze in over the festive period.

He clinically struck twice from inside the six-yard box at the start of each half, but was equally as dangerous throughout the opposition’s half.

At one time, he swung a boot at a high ball on the angle of the penalty area and lashed a vicious volley goalwards that was only a gust of wind away from bending inside Carl Ikeme’s right-hand post.

Fellow loanee Harris Vuckic was just as menacing, the big-man, little-man combo keeping the Wolves defence of Richard Stearman and Danny Batth on their toes for the 73 minutes they were together.

Kieran Agard, who floated behind them in midfield, took his tally to 12 this season with a sumptuous header that arced over Ikeme.

Agard is one of the smallest men on the pitch, but such is the supreme confidence he is playing with, that he rose early and hung in the air like a young Les Ferdinand to steer his header home.

The man delivering the ammunition was Ben Pringle, whose left foot made all three goals.

Occasionally guilty of being a little powder-puff in midfield, nobody could question on Saturday his delivery from set-pieces and open play.

His first ball of such precision almost found Agard just 30 seconds after Batth had stooped to head home James Henry’s free-kick to give Wolves a 10th-minute lead.

But from the resulting corner, Pringle got a second bite at the cherry and whipped in a dangerous ball to the front post that Dicko converted.

In between that delivery and the ball that set up Agard to head them in front on 36 minutes, Rotherham nearly scored a counter-attacking goal that would have graced the Premier League.

Following the breakdown of a Wolves set-piece, Rotherham broke at pace and with numbers.

It was sublime, one-touch stuff, with Lee Frecklington and Agard involved, the latter caressing the ball forward to Dicko, who steered the ball first-time across the area to unmarked right-back Mark Bradley. Sensing a goal-of-the- season contender, Bradley opted not to compose himself and take a touch, instead going for the headlines with a first-time half-volley that flew over the bar.

Despite the miss, the New York faithful rose to their feet in appreciation.

When they rose again nine minutes into the second half, they did so almost in disbelief after Dicko cut in from the right, swept the ball left and then continued his run to chest home Pringle’s latest precision cross.

This was cracking stuff from the hosts, but there was a sting in the tail. Five minutes later, a free-kick was punted into the area, red and gold shirts went up, a sea of arms went up, and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot.

He had seen a handball by Craig Morgan that no other seemed to have spotted, yet the decisiveness of Oliver’s decision was convincing.

Bakary Sako – who had threatened early with a rampaging run but was then shackled by James Tavernier – belted the spot-kick past Adam Collin.

Wolves, roared on by a boisterous following, believed again, and a side still containing some players from their Premier League days completed the comeback within five minutes.

Showing counter-attacking flair of their own, Leigh Griffiths and David Edwards combined to deceive Tavernier on halfway and release Henry. The midfielder raced forward, kept his feet when Morgan tried to haul him down and fired home from 16 yards.

Griffiths should have won it when sent through moments later but the ball bounced off his knee as he took his eye off it.

Chances to win the game were never as clear cut; Dicko hitting the side-netting and Henry chipping onto the roof of the net for their respective sides.

A draw was a fair result and the only pity was Steve Evans, the Rotherham manager, chose to concentrate the majority of his post-match thoughts on the penalty decision that shifted the momentum. “Would we get that penalty at Molineux? Not a chance,” he fumed.

Opposite number Kenny Jackett called it a stonewall penalty. It was somewhere in the middle. Regardless, it had been a brilliant game.

Rotherham United: Collin, Bradley, Morgan, Davis (O’Connor 77), Tavernier; Agard, Frecklington, Arnason, Pringle; Vuckic (Revell 73), Dicko. Unused substitutes: Shearer, Brindley, Skarz, Worrall, Tidser.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Ikeme, Ricketts, Stearman, Batth, Golbourne; Henry (Jacobs 90), Edwards, Price (Davis 67), Sako; Sigurdarson (Griffiths 62), Doyle. Unused substitutes: Hennessey, Evans, McAllindon, Ebanks-Landell.

Referee: M Oliver (Northumberland).