Barnsley 1 Rotherham United 0: Reds nearly there after controversial win

IT has been a controversial week for football.

Barnsley's Carlton Morris challenges Rotherham United keeper Viktor Johansson for the hosts' controversial early opener at Oakwell. PICTURE: BRUCE ROLLINSON.

Just ask Rotherham United - and it is nothing to do with European Super League shenanigans.

After seeing a player in Matt Crooks sent off in hugely controversial circumstances in midweek following an aerial challenge with Middlesbrough’s Grant Hall, a vat load of salt was rubbed into the wounds.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

It was bad enough ahead of the game with the news that Crooks red card had been upheld following an unsuccessful appeal by the club. The big midfielder vented his spleen on social media, suggesting that ‘game has gone’ if players are dismissed for what looked like an accident clash of heads.

Then, a second minute opener for the hosts - in another highly debatable and king-sized moment - provided fuel on the fire.

Former Millers loanee Carlton Morris challenged visiting keeper Viktor Johansson in the air after Michal Helik’s initial header and replays showed he led with an arm and caught the Rotherham player in the process of bundling the ball into the net.

The goal stood and after a fair bit of treatment on the deck, Johansson was substituted. It was another luckless, unfortunate development in a season in which Lady Luck has hardly ever smiled on the beleaguered Millers.

With key business of their own - namely securing play-off participation - Barnsley will not be bothered and will justifiably take what they can. It is ‘money time’ as Valerien Ismael is quick to point out.

Barnsley’s start was barnstorming. Even before their quickfire opener, they went close when Johansson tipped over a downward volley from Cauley Woodrow.

Their goal - Morris’s seventh of the season, the most he has scored for one club - suggested it would be a long old afternoon for Rotherham. It was, but not for the reasons you expect.

The Millers - whose players were cajoled to ‘fight against the world’ as a seething Paul Warne barked on the touchline - dominated much of the rest of the game and made life distinctly uncomfortable for Barnsley.

Unfortunately, they spurned a litany of chances and showed why they are down among the dead men in the process.

It was every bit as damning as the massive and tough call which went against them in the opening salvos.

Opportunities were spurned and Brad Collins was excellent in the home goal. But some of the misses had to be seen to be believed.

Michael Smith was the first culprit. He was denied by a fine saving block from Callum Brittain, but should have got his shot away earlier after good work by Jamie Lindsay and Freddie Ladapo.

Ladapo then delayed for a split-second and was denied by Brad Collins from point-blank range.

It got worse, much worse in the second half for the striker, whose fresh-air shot a few yards out with the whole of the goal to aim at from close was a horror moment.

Collins had also showed his mettle to keep out the dangerous Chiedozie Ogbene - one of six changes made by Warne.

A barometer of Ismael’s unease was the fact that he made two defensive changes with Jordan Williams and Toby Sibbick entering the fray for Callum Styles and Michael Sollbauer.

Their performance was low-key, but the scoreline was benevolent.

Barnsley were again second best in the second half, but try as they might, it refused to happen for the Millers.

Dike spurned a rare opportunity for the hosts when sent clear, but most of the action was at the other end.

Smith continued the narrative by heading an excellent chance wide for the Millers. But the ball refused to go in, reinforced when Ogbene shot at Collins from point blank range.

But it was a day which was all about the result and Barnsley got it. Controversially, but they got it. Football can be a cruel game, just ask Rotherham.

Barnsley: Collins; Sollbauer (Sibbick 51), Helik, Andersen; Brittain, Halme, Mowatt, Styles (J Williams 45); Dike, Woodrow, Morris (Adeboyejo 90). Substitutes unused: Walton, Chaplin, Palmer, Oduor, Moon, Thompson.

Rotherham United: Johansson; Ihiekwe, Wood (Harding 78), A MacDonald; Ogbene, Lindsay (Jozefzoon 78), S MacDonald (Wiles 78), Wing, Giles; Smith, Ladapo (Hirst 58). Substitutes unused: Blackman, Mattock, Sadlier, Clarke, Barlaser.

Referee: G Ward (Surrey).