THEY may have been raised far away by the Water of Leith and River Wensum respectively, but a South Yorkshire derby will forever stir the soul of two adopted sons of the White Rose in Paul Warne and Lee Bullen.
Born and bred in Norfolk, Rotherham United chief Warne’s boyhood leanings may have been towards the yellow and green of Norwich City, yet his football allegiances are now very much coloured in the red and white of the Millers.
These days, the blue and white of Sheffield Wednesday courses through the veins of Edinburgh-raised Bullen as opposed to the maroon of Hearts and the psychological value of victory for either rival manager last night would not have been inconsequential, even at this early juncture of the season.
Home victories against Wednesday are exceedingly rare in these parts, but inspiration could be found in the Millers’ only win in 14 matches against their near-neighbours on Rotherham soil since Dick Habbin’s famous moment in March 1976.
It came in this particular competition in August 2013 via a 2-1 success in the tubthumping days of Steve Evans.
Sadly for the hosts sake and Warne’s, it was ultimately an all-too familiar tale of angst, with the litany of late goals against them continuing with Wednesday once again being the beneficiaries in cruel fashion. The definitive moment arrived in the sixth minute of stoppage time when Atdue Nuhiu bundled home after the Millers failed to clear a cross from Kadeem Harris.
The final whistle soon sounded with ecstatic Wednesdayites belting out a chorus of ‘It’s happening again.”Leon Wobschall
The final whistle soon sounded with ecstatic Wednesdayites belting out a chorus of ‘It’s happening again.”
That said, Nuhiu’s strike was not quite at late as Dominic Iorfa’s leveller in the 10th minute of injury-time in the league fixture here in February, as the Owls snatched a 2-2 draw.
Two added-time goals famously also arrived courtesy of that man Nuhiu and Kieran Lee in a 3-2 away success in March 2015.
Again, this was tough on Rotherham and the contrast in mood between both benches was all too obvious with Bullen celebrating with gusto in scenes of joy as Nuhiu struck.
Before the late drama, this latest instalment delivered an opening half which was classically mundane in the very worst derby traditions – only rising from its torpor-like state just before the break.
It was triggered by the instincts of Jordan Rhodes finally kicking in when he latched onto a pristine left-wing delivery from Morgan Fox, but the striker’s header was guided straight at Daniel Iversen.
Therein told a story, with the moment representing the sort of opportunity that the once-prolific marksman would have put away in his sleep during his pomp at Huddersfield Town and Blackburn Rovers, but how times have changed. Play immediately switched to the other end, with Freddie Ladapo prodding the ball wide after the Owls momentarily erred at the back before Michael Smith stung the palms of Cameron Dawson.
Alongside Ben Wiles, Ladapo showed pockets of threat early on, firing just off target after a neat corner routine, while at the other end, Rhodes and Nuhiu’s labours were stodgy.
Nuhiu did steer one header into the arms of Daniel Iversen, but it was a half which cast the tenacious Sam Winnall – in only his second Owls start of 2019 – in a more favourable light as he at least strove to unhinge the comfortable Millers’ defence.
In the wars with a head wound, Winnall’s evening was curtailed at the break, with the speed of Kadeem Harris called for to provide the Owls with an energy rush alongside Jacob Murphy.
In the event, it was the hosts who initially started to impose their will in time-honoured fashion and get at the visitors’ much-changed back line featuring Jordan Thorniley and a debutant in David Bates. Smith was inches away from turning in Matt Crooks’ low centre before a superb last-ditch challenge from Morgan Fox denied a certain goal for the effervescent Wiles.
Wednesday gradually took the hint, with Iversen making a key block to thwart Nuhiu from a tight angle.
With Barry Bannan introduced to the stage, the Owls were provided with further reassurance attacking the end where their 2,601 followers were housed.
Urged to throw Fernando Forestieri into the fray, Wednesdayites soon got their wish, but a unlikely goal hero almost came to fore in Fox, who almost crowned a excellent game with a winner when he headed inches wide from Harris’s centre – but that particular honour befell Nuhiu,
Rotherham United: Iversen; Olosunde, Ihiekwe, Wood, Robertson; Barlaser (MacDonald 67), Wiles, Crooks (Lindsay 61); Ladapo, Smith (Proctor 74), Vassell. Unused substitutes: Bilboe, Mattock, Cooper, Thompson.
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson; Iorfa, Bates, Thorniley, Fox; Murphy (Bannan 66), Luongo, Pelupessy (Forestieri 76); Winnall (Harris 45), Nuhiu, Rhodes. Unused substitutes: Jones, Lees, Baker, Grant.
Referee: C Breakspear (Surrey).