Why draw against Stoke City '˜felt like defeat' for Rotherham United

Ryan Williams was a relieved man after being on the right side of a penalty call in Rotherham United's draw with Stoke City.

Goal: Rotherham's Richie Towell celbrates putting them 2-0 ahead. Picture: Dean Atkins

For it was the Australian winger whose trickery lured in defender Ashley Williams in the 47th minute, to earn the Millers a spot-kick which Ryan Manning converted.

Three minutes later, Richie Towell tucked away Richard Wood’s header to make it 2-0, but Stoke rallied to grab a draw thanks to goals from Tom Ince and Bojan.

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The Millers winger, however, was simply happy to gain a positive spot-kick decision after a moment he labels “one of the lowest points of my career”.

GET IN: Rotherham's Ryan Manning fires home from the penalty spot. Picture: Dean Atkins

That came the previous week at the City Ground, when Paul Warne’s side looked set for a deserved point at Nottingham Forest.

But Williams was penalised for a tackle on Ben Osborn, and Lewis Grabban tucked away an 86th-minute winner to leave the Millers deflated.

“Last week I was disappointed” said the former Barnsley wideman. “It was the first time I had given a penalty away (against Forest).

“It was one of the lowest points of my career.

Rotherham United's Ryan Williams beats Stoke City's Bruno Martins Indi to the ball. Picture: Dean Atkins.

“It was the 85th minute, I felt like I got the ball, but I gave the referee the decision to make.

“Against Stoke, I just managed to get the other side of him (Williams) and, to be fair, I tried to stay up but he clipped my ankle.”

After a first half in which goalkeeper Marek Rodak starred, several times keeping out the dangerous Benik Afobe, the Millers supporters in the 9,706 crowd must have been pinching themselves to find their team 2-0 ahead.

An inswinging corner was met by the head of Wood – who would later limp off with a groin injury –and Towell poked the ball home.

But Stoke – match statistics tallied 19 shots, and 64 per cent possession – simply had to score, due to the laws of probability with the chances they created.

So it was no surprise when Ince fired home to make it 2-1, Joe Allen then spurning a great chance to equalise when he smashed his volley against the crossbar.

This was a true ‘David and Goliath’ encounter. Rotherham – a team with one of the smallest budgets in the Championship – against a Stoke team crammed full of internationals and Premier League experience.

The enormity of the challenge facing Warne’s men, though, was underlined by looking at Stoke’s substitutes bench.

In Michael Smith, the Millers have just one fit striker – Kyle Vassell and Jamie Proctor are out injured – yet Stoke’s replacements included experienced campaigners Peter Crouch, Charlie Adam, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Shawcross and Bojan.

The latter – a former team-mate of Lionel Messi and company at Barcelona – was introduced alongside Crouch and Adam in the second half, and his header with five minutes remaining secured a deserved point for the visitors.

“We are disappointed,” admitted Williams. “Everyone came into the dressing room thinking it was like a loss, because we were 2-0 up.

“We managed to hold out in the first half, I thought we defended well, but we weren’t very good.

“But we came out like a house on fire in the second half and scored two goals.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on, but there was such big names coming off the bench (for Stoke), I don’t think it’s such a discredit to us.

“Bojan has won the Champions League, been a team-mate of Messi. It’s good to play against players like this and really test ourselves.

“I think we gave them a real run for their money.

“Before the game, if you had said 2-2, I would have taken that 100 per cent.”

After the opening 45 minutes in which Stoke threatened on numerous occasions, most Millers fans would have taken a point.

Twice Afobe, a £12m signing, was picked out by Allen, but on both occasions he was unable to beat Rodak. Welsh international Allen then tried his luck from 20 yards, but again Rodak was on hand to palm the ball over.

Rotherham had their chances, an error from Butland gifting Manning an opportunity, but he could not take advantage of an unguarded goal and fired into the side-netting from a narrow angle. Smith also saw his header flash wide of Butland’s right-hand post.

When Afobe did beat Rodak, the woodwork came to the goalkeeper’s rescue, as the striker’s header rebounded off the bar.

Rotherham returned from their half-time break determined to test the Potters’ rearguard – only Preston have conceded more goals in the Championship – and their ambition was rewarded with two goals in three minutes.

Williams said: “Last season, we seemed to always have trouble in that first 15 minutes coming out of the changing rooms.

“All the boys know we need to go for it a little bit, to get the other team on the back foot.

“We give 110 per cent every game, and you could see that at the end when we were on our knees. But we managed to get a point so we will take that against such a good team as Stoke.”

Rotherham United: Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood (Vyner 55), Towell, Manning, Newell (Taylor 69), Williams, Smith, Jones. Unused substitutes: Price, Forde, Palmer, Wiles, Lewthwaite.

Stoke City: Butland, Pieters, Allen (Adam 82), Williams, Ince, Etebo (Bojan 66), Afobe, Martins Indi, Berahino (Crouch 82), Martina, Woods. Unused substitutes: Federici, Shawcross, Fletcher, Edwards.

Referee: D Webb (Lancs).