Tough day at office sees Rotherham United’s home and relegation worries increase

bitter winter temperatures greeted these two relegation rivals on Easter Monday and there was cold comfort and a shiver down the spine for Rotherham United at the final whistle.

TOUGH GOING: Rotherham United's Michale Ihiekwe tangles with Wycombe's Uche Ikpeazu. Picture: Dean Atkins.
TOUGH GOING: Rotherham United's Michale Ihiekwe tangles with Wycombe's Uche Ikpeazu. Picture: Dean Atkins.

At the beginning of a run of five home games out of six which are highly likely to decide their Championship fate, this was a desperate result and should the Millers finish the season in the relegation zone, then this day will be one that they will rue.

But in the final analysis and without taking this painful loss in isolation, Rotherham’s form at the AESSEAL New York Stadium – unlike in previous successful relegation missions – has not been good enough. They may be missing fans, but so is everyone. 

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The Millers have won once at home since December 12 and that is a grim statistic, even accounting for some exhilarating highs on the road.

FRUSTRATION: Rotherham United manager Paul Warne instructs from the sidelines in the defeat to Wycombe. Picture: Dean Atkins.

Against a Wycombe side who had not scored in their previous five away games, Rotherham – who were unbalanced and ragged defensively in the absence of suspended captain Richard Wood – conceded two dreadful goals in the opening 25 minutes.

The hosts switched to a back three in the second half, with Chiedozie Ogbene making his comeback from injury, but the damage had unfortunately been done, courtesy of strikes from Admiral Muskwe – who scored with less than ninety seconds on the clock – and former Barnsley defender Jason McCarthy.

Wycombe – who started the day five points behind the Millers – protected their precious gains in the second half with the intensity you would expect from a team in their stricken position, while getting plenty of bodies behind the ball. 

The hosts applied pressure, but lacked the wit and sophistication to break them down. The action was stop-start and scrappy and that suited those in blue perfectly as the visitors secured back-to-back wins for the first time since early December.

Rotherham United's Michael Smith gets away from Wycombe's grappling Joe Jacobson. Picture: Dean Atkins.

A workaholic, ultra-committed performance which was not unlike that of Paul Warne’s Rotherham at their best was afforded gloss when more lamentable Millers defending enabled David Wheeler to slot home a late third.

Warne said: “I did not see it coming. I tried to play it down, but knew it was a big game. I did not want the lads going into it feeling it was a must-win as I thought it might affect their performance.

“After they scored the first goal, everything was a bit rushed and there was no tempo to the game at all.

“We had enough chances in the first half to get at least one goal back and we did not take them and then unfortunately, the pressure mounts and the frustration gets bigger and bigger and before you know it, the game has seeped away from you and you have come away with nothing.

“I always knew this would be a really tough game. It is not the pomposity of football, but people see the league table and what Wycombe have done this year has been excellent and they have accumulated a lot of points and beaten better teams than us.”

The smart money remains on the Chairboys going down, but they remain in the game just about.

Their second-minute opener was a gift. Joe Jacobsen’s free-kick was flicked on and Muskwe ghosted into an ocean of space before steering the ball past the exposed Viktor Johansson.

Having switched to a back four and with a make-shift left-back in Ben Wiles, the hosts toiled at the back and a tough day got worse.

Muskwe and Anis Mehmeti spurned half-chances as the hosts’ hesitancy continued before terrific work by Uche Ikpeazu set up McCarthy, who was given far too much space before unleashing a low drive which deflected in to compound matters.

United, who palpably lacked width in the first half, still fashioned several opportunities with Michael Ihiekwe planting a point-blank header wide and an important touch from Jack Grimmer denying a certain goal at the back spot for Freddie Ladapo following Michael Smith’s cross-shot.

David Stockdale was kept honest to thwart Wiles and Jamie Lindsay in quick succession and also turned away a low drive from Lewis Wing, with the Millers’ number of chances at least providing them with a spot of hope in the second period.

But there was no onslaught.

Wing fired just off target, while Stockdale was in the right place to prevent Angus MacDonald from scoring before salt in the wounds was applied by substitute Wheeler as a seething Warne stood motionless in his technical area after enduring a bruising afternoon at the office.

Rotherham United: Johansson; Harding, Ihiekwe, A McDonald, Wiles (Jozefzoon 45); Barlaser (Ogbene 45); Lindsay (Giles 76), Wing, Crooks; Smith, Ladapo (Hirst 76). Unused substitutes: Blackman, S MacDonald, Sadlier, Clarke, Olosunde.
Wycombe Wanderers: Stockdale; McCarthy, Grimmer, Knight, Jacobsen (Stewart 44); Onyedinma; Muskwe (McCleary 87), Adeniran, Thompson (Horgan 87), Mehmeti (Wheeler 45); Ikpeazu (Akinfenwa 78). Unused substitutes: Allsop, Kashket, Phillips, Samuel.
Referee: J Linington (Isle of Wight).

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