Rotherham United on brink after another controversial call in derby loss at Barnsley

IT was difficult to look Paul Warne squarely in the eyes after the events of Saturday.

Flashpoint: Reds' Carlton Morris collides with Viktor Johansson before heading in Barnsley's opening goal. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Valerien Ismael probably couldn’t. Someone who the Rotherham United manager knows well in Carlton Morris probably couldn’t either.

As for his first-choice goalkeeper Viktor Johansson? Well, he struggled to even open one of his eyes after injuring an eye socket in the game’s big moment.

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A goal which simply should never have stood in just the second minute of a one-sided derby contest from ex-Millers loanee Morris proved the difference with Rotherham railing against the injustice of a second huge call going against them in four days.

Plenty to say: Players and officials from both Barnsley and Rotherham, including injured Millers keeper Viktor Johansson haves words with referee Gavin Ward at the end of the game. Picture Bruce Rollinson

No-one could say anything in terms of consolation to a gutted Warne afterwards after he saw his side subjugate a Barnsley team destined for the play-offs.

Ismael, who gracefully congratulated the relegation-haunted Millers for a strong display, rightly said that in two weeks time, the only significant thing about the game will be the result.

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday, all the talk was about Morris’s goal, with replays and images showing that he caught Johansson with an elbow as he jumped to contest a high ball.

In the final analysis, the only person who mattered in referee Gavin Ward gave a goal. Warne was left to pick up the pieces.

Urgent treatment: Viktor Johansson is treated after being injured in a challenge with Carlton Morris. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Barnsley will not really care a jot and why should they. This was a game where only the result mattered with both these sides fighting for totally different causes.

A visibly hurt Warne said: “I think everybody had the same opinion as me, but the only one that counts is the referee’s.

“Goalkeepers got protected more than any other player on the pitch and I have a player (Matt Crooks) sent off for less than that recently and having a three-match ban.

“My keeper has to leave the pitch and it looks like he has got a broken eye socket...I am not saying there was any maliciousness from the player (Morris) at all.

Salt in wounds: Carlton Morris celebrates his winner against Rotherham. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“But I have spoken to him and he said he thought the referee was going to blow straightaway and did not think it was going to stand and nor did anybody else.

“Viktor’s not a shrinking violet – anything but. For him to go off with an elbow and that is how we have lost the game stinks.”

Offering his take, Morris added: “The way I saw it, Mish (Michail Helik) headed the ball across and the ball is there to be challenged and I challenged and felt I won the ball.

“But you know what referees are like with goalkeepers these days and sometimes, they get a bit of protection. Half of me thought he might blow up, but thankfully he didn’t and the goal counted.

“I have worked with ‘Warney’ a couple of times and he’s a ‘ledge’ guy and great manager and I think Rotherham are unfortunate to be in the position they are in.”

Peter Sarstedt topped the charts withWhere Do You Go To My Lovely on the last occasion Rotherham won in the league at Oakwell in March, 1969.

After these brutal events at Barnsley, the bruised and bewildered Millers and their admirable manager go to Brentford on Tuesday. They will justifiably feel like the whole world is against them as Warne put it.

Where there is less sympathy is in the fact that this defeat owed just as much to a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal – also displayed against the likes of Huddersfield and Birmingham of late – and not purely because of a wretched refereeing decision.

United had enough chances to win comfortably after outworking and outperforming a Reds side who were as second best as they were dominant in their recent derby win at Huddersfield.

Aside from the goal, Barnsley went close in the first minute when Cauley Woodrow’s downward volley was saved by Johansson while Callum Brittain’s howitzer flew over late in the first half.

In the second half, their only moment of note saw Daryl Dike saw an effort diverted wide.

After Morris’s moment, it was one-way traffic. Fortunately for Barnsley’s sake, Brad Collins played a blinder while Brittain also made a super goal-saving block when Michael Smith prevaricated in the first half.

Freddie Ladapo – guilty of some appalling misses when he last visited Oakwell in the colours of Plymouth in October, 2018 – was the biggest culprit again.

He delayed from point-blank range in the first half, allowing Collins to save before producing a fresh-air shot when picked out by Smith early in the second half with the goal gaping. It was a truly cringeworthy episode.

Smith later headed a great chance wide and Chiedozie Ogbene missed a glorious opportunity late on when Collins saved. The winger had also been denied earlier by him. You get the drift.

If there is one inking of hope, maybe it is this.

Barnsley were in a similar position to Rotherham this time last year after an unjust derby loss at Leeds United and still staged a miraculous relegation escape.

Just as Leeds were relieved to bag an ugly win at the business end of last season, so are Barnsley now. As Ismael regularly says, it’s ‘money time’. They look quids-in.

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