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Rotherham United 1 Ipswich Town 0: Warne’s joy at three points

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A DRAMATIC 90th-minute strike from Michael Smith earned the Millers three precious points as Paul Warne again got the better of good friend and former Rotherham team-mate.

The unmarked Smith rifled home at the far post high past Bartosz Bialkowski after a free-kick from the left from substitute Anthony Forde.

It was reward for a vastly-improved and pumped-up second half from the Millers, who were much better on the restart after a meek first-half offering.

It was a forceful and assertive second-half from the hosts, with manager Warne - who prevaled against Millers legend Hurst when he was managing Shrewsbury in the League One play-off - afforded a welcome fillip after seeing his side mauled at Brentford last weekend.

Ipswich dominated the majority of the half and played some neat possession football, although genuine chances were at a premium.

Their best opportunity arrived twenty minutes in when Semi Ajayi misjudged the flight of the ball following Janoi Donacien's free kick, with Ellis Harrison briefly in on goal, but Marek Rodak made a key smothering save as the Ipswich forward attempted to round him as he advanced out of goal.

The Millers also survived an early scare when a last-ditch clearance denied former Miller Grant Ward from Gwion Edwards' low centre, while Will Vaulks did well to get in the way of Jon Nolan's goalbound strike.

At the other end, the hosts struggled to piece anything together after a slow start.

A dangerous Donacien strike was then deflected over after more Town pressure, with the Millers - despite showing plenty of commitment - failing to test Ipswich keeper Bartosz Bialkowski.

The Millers' only dangerous moment arrived just before the break when a long throw from Zac Vyner fell invitingly for Jon Taylor, but his deflected half-volley was easily gathered by the under-worked Bartosz Bialkowski.

Thankfully, the hosts imposed themselves much better on the restart after a low-gear first period and took the game to the visitors.

A chance was fashioned out when Kyle Vassell's angled low shot was grasped by Bialkowski and soon after, Michael Smith's volley flew into the side-netting following a long punt forward from Rodak.

Just after the hour mark, the visitors went close to breaking the deadlock with a rasping shot from distance from Jon Nolan fizzing just wide - five minutes after dragging a shot off target when well placed.

A hectic finale ensued with Kayden Jackson firing straight at Rodak and the hosts surviving a penalty scare after Jordan Roberts went down under pressure from Joe Mattock before Bialkowski denied Forde with a reflex save.

But the last word went to Smith.

Warne said: “It was a tough game. The lads rode the first half. I thought we were better in the second half.

“To get a win in any which we can, I will take it. In the first half we got outplayed. We changed the shape at half time and I always think there is a chance we are going to score. It was very pleasing that we scored that late.

“The second half is never the same as the first half. If you stay in the game there’s always a chance you can nick it. The scoreline was kind to us.

“The lads will hopefully enjoy the feeling of winning.

“I think we will get better than what we were but the fact that we got three points is a joy. It gives them a lot of belief in themselves.”

The club dedicated the win to television star Barry Chuckle - real name Barry Elliott - who died last weekend and was a lifelong Rotherham fan, as well as being the club’s life president.

Rotherham fans sang his name during the win, while the two sets of supporters traded a chant of “to me, to you” - the famous catchphrase of Barry and brother Paul in their popular show ChuckleVision.

Warne is hopeful match winner Smith can score regularly in the Championship.

“He is a confidence player. In the second half his performance was excellent. He started become more of a threat when our shape got better. I’d like to think he will go on and score no end,” added Warne.

Rotherham United: Rodak; Vyner, Ajayi, Wood, Mattock; Taylor (Forde 67), Vaulks, Palmer, Newell (Williams 62); Smith, Vassell (Jones 90). Substitutes unused: Price, Raggett, Wiles, Ball.

Ipswich Town: Bialkowski; Donacien, Nsiala, Chambers, Knudsen; Skuse; Edwards (Roberts 82), Chalobah, Nolan, Ward (Edun 78); Harrison (Jackson 67). Substitutes unused: subs: Gerken, Spence, Sears, Kenlock.

Referee: D Webb (Co.Durham).

Attendance: 9,460 (1,341 Ipswich supporters).