Fletcher holds his nerve to sink angry Millers

THEY do say that the clock goes around...

After Darren Garner’s victory run and Ronnie Moore’s famous 2-1 sign to the Hillsborough Kop to hail two famous last-gasp Rotherham United derby-day victories of yore at S6, Steven Fletcher’s celebratory slide after his 94th-minute winner on Saturday will have represented a moment of schadenfreude for Sheffield Wednesday supporters.

For the hardy bunch of Rotherham United followers who travelled across the Tinsley Viaduct with just a small sprinkling of hope and next to no expectation, it was another kick in the guts and an exasperated shaking of heads.

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Just when things could not apparently get any worse in a joyless and funereal season; they did on a dank December afternoon.

A point at the side who Rotherham like to trip up like no other in Wednesday would have been one festive gift to open, at least. But unfortunately, there will be no presents this Christmas.

If there was a Scrooge-like figure, it came in the shape of referee Tim Robinson, whose hugely controversial decision to award the hosts the softest of penalties proved the second fateful and killer blow which eventually floored the poor Millers.

After Lucas Joao went down in a heap under pressure from Richard Wood in the box, the official deliberated for a split-second before pointing to the spot with the ex-Owls defender receiving his marching orders – and Fletcher turning executioner.

It followed a similarly disputed moment just before the interval when Tom Adeyemi appeared to put the Millers in front following Joe Newell’s free-kick, only for the effort to be ruled out for a perceived foul – which not too many among the 27,242 derby crowd spotted. If there was one.

When you are down at the bottom, the rain lashes down in torrents, not gentle drizzle.

For Wednesday, it was another ugly derby win with a snarl, hot on the heels of Tuesday’s three points against Barnsley and while the style marks would hardly have earned a ‘ten from Len’ on Strictly Come Dancing finals weekend, points do make prizes.

In a stop-start campaign, the Owls find themselves in the top six for Christmas and you grasp whatever comes along.

As for the Millers, it proved the polar opposite in Saturday emotions, seven days on from the adrenalin-rush of beating QPR. Football can be cruel.

Rueing those late developments at Hillsborough, Millers keeper and former Owls custodian Lewis Price, so tantalisingly close to helping Rotherham secure just their second away point of 2016-17 and first clean sheet on the road since April 23, said: “I don’t know if it was a penalty or not. But from where I was stood, it did not look like one.

“It looked like he (Joao) fell over. I actually thought that the referee give us a free kick for diving. He then gave a penalty and sent him (Wood) off. It was unbelievable.

“We are feeling a little bit hard done by. It is how things are seeming to go at the minute. We just don’t seem to get that little bit of luck to get us over the line.

“It was massively cruel and a really, really hard pill to swallow, especially so late on.

“The lads defended brilliantly with all their hearts and stopped crosses and won headers. Then to lose like that was really tough to take.

“With the way we played, I think we deserved a point out of the game, at least.”

For their part, the Owls were not about to look a gift horse in the mouth with the exuberant scenes among Wednesdayites at the final whistle proving the antidote to a flat after-the-office-party type afternoon.

That was not helped by a wretched refereeing performance from Robinson, who interrupted play continually, much to the frustration of almost everyone among the derby crowd.

But Wednesday, ultimately, found a lifeline.

Adeyemi’s effort aside, there was little to get heated about in a low-key first-half where there was perspiration, but next to no inspiration.

The quality level remained negligible on the restart, although some alert goalline defending from Darnell Fisher did deny Joao in the nick of time on 53 minutes.

By and large, the on-message Millers repelled the hosts unconvincing efforts, with a rare scare seeing Price grasp a back-header from Joe Mattock before Fletcher headed straight at him seven minutes from time.

But the Owls striker was to have the final say.

Substitute Atdhe Nuhiu, thrown onto add attacking ballast in Carlos Carvalhal’s final throw of the dice for the last half hour with Wednesday increasingly looking bereft of ideas, said: “For us, it was a penalty and at the end of the day, we won the game and that is what matters.

“The three points counted and gives us confidence and is the most important thing.

“As a team, you can always do better and sometimes, people expect more.

“Even with a 1-0, some people will think it is not enough.

“But you can only get three points.

“If you win 6-0 or 1-0, it is the same.

“We still think it is too early to look at the league table as it can change quickly. But obviously, it is nice to see the position we are in at the moment.

“Rotherham put in a good shift in, but I think we were the better team.

“But they defended well and were happy with a point, but we got the win.”