A good mid summer crowd of over 7000 were in attendance as the Pies & the U's started their 2018/19 league campaign at a hot day in Nottingham this afternoon.
Notts began the game on the front foot knocking the ball around confidently without really making inroads into a solid looking U's defence. Notts new boy Enzio Boldewijn almost broke the deadlock on 20 minutes his goalbound effort from close range was pushed behind for a corner by U's keeper Dillon Barnes. Colchester came more into the game as the half wore on with new man Frank Nouble in particular looking lively. There was a chance at both ends before half time, firstly U's centre back Luke Prosser had a header cleared off the line by Notts defender Shaun Brisley then County loanee new boy Nathan Thomas wildly volleyed high & wide whilst well positioned in the box.
HT Pies 0 U's 0
Notts again started the second period well with forward Kane Hemmings having a decent effort deflected wide for a fruitless corner. Back came the visitors & Notts had keeper Fitzsimon to thank for keeping his side level with a great save from U's full back Jackson who had burst clear. Notts turn next & a peach of a cross from Boldewijn found sub Kristian Dennis on the penalty spot 12 yards out & the striker blazed the ball over when it looked easier to score. Thomas then had a fine volley expertly tipped over by the busy U's keeper Barnes but Colchester weathered the storm & had two chances to win the game before full time, firstly defender Tom Eastman curled a delightful shot from the edge of the area that unluckily rattled the Notts crossbar & later substitute Mandron clipped the outside of the post with a snapshot.
FT Pies 0 U's 0
A draw was probably fair although the visitors from Essex had the better chances, certainly not a boring 0-0.
A good pre season crowd of over 10000 were at a warm but showery Hillsborough for the Owls prestigious friendly with La Liga side Villareal this afternoon.
The early exchanges were cagey with the teams content to feel their way into the game. The home side were first to threaten when a fine cross from the Owls full back Palmer was met by forward Atdhe Nuhiu but his header was narrowly over the bar on 10 minutes. Three minutes later however the Spaniards were in front through a fine diving header from striker Moreno after a fine Pedrasa cross from the left. The visitors then seemed to take control of the game & Wednesday were indebted to their keeper Wildsmith when he produced an exceptional one handed stop from a snapshot by ex Arsenal ace Santi Casorla. Against the run of play the Owls equalised out of the blue on 33 minutes when following a fine move involving midfielders Bannon & Hutchinson, Palmer made no mistake from close range. Buoyed by the equaliser Wednesday ended the half in the ascendancy without carving out any other clear opportunities.
HT OWLS 1 VILLAREAL 1
The "yellow submarine" as Villareal fans call their team regained the lead within two minutes of the restart with ex Everton centre back Funes Mori powerfully headed home a Miguel Layun corner. Cue loads of substitutions for both sides but this time there was to be no comeback from the home team as Villareal were by now in total control & on 69 minutes a fine dinked finish by new signing, forward Ekambi rubber stamped their comfortable victory following more good work from Layun. There was time for Wednesday striker Steven Fletcher to hit the post with a low drilled effort but in truth the game was over by this time.
FT OWLS 1 VILLAREAL 3
The La Liga side showed just why they finished last season in a fine fifth place in a very strong league & could do as well again. Wednesday looked slow predictable & largely lethargic at times & will need to improve before the REAL business starts next weekend.
Two of last season's promoted teams met at a very warm night at NYS to continue their preparations for the forthcoming season.
A very strong Premier League bound Cardiff bossed the early possession but it was Championship side Rotherham that had the best early chance through left back Joe Mattock who flashed an effort just wide. Cardiff continued to press however & deservedly went in front on 13 minutes when Millers keeper Lewis Price spilled a cross from the left & left Bluebirds new signing Josh Murphy with a tap in. It was almost two moments later when Cardiff's other big money signing Bobby Reid put in an inviting low cross from the right & last season's leading scorer Kenneth Zahore completely missed the ball with the goal gaping. Towards the halfway point of the half the home side were coming more into the game & after centre half Semi Ajayi had completely missed the target with a free header & Aussie midfielder Ryan Williams had a goalbound effort well saved by Etheridge in the Welsh sides goal the equaliser arrived through a bullet header from Millers midfielder Matt Palmer following fine work by Jon Taylor on the right wing.
HT Millers 1 Bluebirds 1
A raft of second half substitutions by both teams badly affected the flow of the game & it became stop start & bitty with long understandable drinks breaks etc. The Millers however gained the win with a fine curling strike from distance from Striker Michael Smith on 80 minutes, a rare moment of quality in a frankly dull second period.
So more minutes in the legs of the players of both teams which was the object of the exercise I suppose.
My first blog of the 2018/19 season saw me travel to the beautiful spa town of Harrogate to see their newly promoted National League team taking on League 1 side Bradford City at their CNG Stadium home on a cloudy but very warm summers afternoon.
Whilst Harrogate fielded predominantly the side that won the National League North play off final with a couple of new signings but the League 1 Bantams decided to field a mainly youth team with only one or two players with the benefit of 1st team experience & boy did it show as the home team rattled in SIX first half goals without reply in what was little short of a footballing massacre on the club's artificial surface. There were impressive performances throughout from the National League new boys, particularly last season's top scorer Dominic Knowles & diminutive skilful midfielder Jack Emmett who both scored twice.
HT Harrogate 6 Bradford 0
Bradford's youngsters must have had a rocket of a team talk at half time as from the restart as they were competing with far more gusto & reduced the arrears on the hour with a close range finish from striker Clare. Almost immediately Clare bagged his second after a goalkeeping howler from Harrogate keeper Belshaw. Was the comeback on?? Er, no, Harrogate recovered their composure & added a 7th near the end through new signing Aaron Williams.
FT Harrogate 7 Bradford 2
I had a very enjoyable day at a very friendly little club who's first team should do very well at their new elevated level. The CNG Stadium is a very pretty neat little ground although very small but there is room to develop the ground further if the club continues to be successful.
My final 2017/18 blog takes me to Wembley for the League 1 Play Off final.
A dissapointingly low but expectant 26218 crowd greeted the teams at a roasting hot afternoon at Wembley for the conclusion of the League 1 season.
The Millers were on the front foot from the kick off & had the first sight of goal when forward David Ball slid a dangerous ball across the face of goal with no Millers players managing to get a decisive touch. Rotherham continued to press & on 8 minutes won a penalty awarded when the referee spotted Shrews defender Omar Beckles manhandling the Millers player Richard Wood inside the area. Ball took the spot kick but was denied by a magnificent save from Shrews loanee keeper Dean Henderson. Undeterred Rotherham continued to attack but were met with stubborn resistance from the Shrews back four but the Shrews almost went in front on the half hour. A rare Shrews attack saw midfielder Jon Nolan crossed for striker Carlton Morris who placed his header just wide. From the next attack however Rotherham took the lead when a Joe Newell corner was powerfully headed home by Wood. Richie Towell was only just over the bar with a 30 yarder as the Millers ended the half well on top.
Half Time MILLERS 1 SHREWS 0
The Shrews needed to improve to keep in the match & they pushed forward in the early minutes of the second period with Morris crossing dangerously with none of his team mates managing to reach the ball before they drew level on 58 minutes with a slick free kick routine. Shaun Whalley knocked a short free kick to Mat Sadler in space & he found winger Alex Rodman who forced the ball home from close range. The blisteringly hot weather was taking it's toll on the players now so we witnessed a raft of substitutions as both managers were looking for fresh legs to inject some pace to proceedings. The introduction of the Millers midfielder Ryan Williams certainly helped them pick up the pace of the game & his ball picked out fellow sub forward Caolan Lavery who dissapointingly shot wide when clear on goal. Newells shot was saved before the last action in the 90 minutes saw Williams denied when his goalbound shot was again brilliantly saved by Henderson.
FT MILLERS 1 SHREWS 1
Extra time started with the Millers pouring forward in search of the goal that would avoid the lottery of a penalty shootout to decide the game. Following a period of Millers pressure, Towell dragged a long range shot harmlessly wide of the target before Sadler was cautioned for cynically hauling back Williams – in a moment which proved crucial. Newell floated the free kick towards the far post for Wood to slide the ball home to regain the lead for the Millers.
HT Extra Time Millers 2 Shrews 1
The second period of extra time was a scrappy affair with Rotherham comfortably repelling Shrewsbury's increasingly desperate attacks. A stop start affair with players understandably going down with cramp before the whistle sounded with the Millers back in the Championship deservedly so on the balance of play.
FULL TIME ROTHERHAM UNITED 2 SHREWSBURY TOWN 1
PS; It's about time the FA rethought the venue for the Play Off final. Fans are rightly fed up of the rip off prices of tickets, travel & associated extras (the programme was a tenner ffs) of a trip to a London venue who's iconic status that has eroded over recent years ( Spurs home games, NFL, Semi Finals etc). IMO it's time to end this cash cow for the FA.
11061 expectant fans were packed into NYS for the second leg of this play off semi final after the teams played out an exciting 2-2 draw at Glanford Park last Saturday lunchtime.
The first ten minutes or saw was a cagey affair with the two teams finding their feet in the game but the visiting Iron started to get on top & created the game's first real chance when full back Townsend produced a lovely ball to Adelakun who's first time shot produced a smart save from Millers keeper Marek Rodak. On the half hour mark the Millers started to force the Iron on the backfoot & after the Millers aussie midfielder Ryan Williams had a goalbound effort courageously blocked by Iron defender McCardle the Millers came even closer to taking the lead when Rotherham's loanee midfielder Richie Towell unleashed a 25 yard effort which was heading towards the top corner of the net until a wonderful save by Iron rookie keeper Ryan Watson tipping the ball for a corner. The home side had their tails up now & their pressure finally paid off in the 2nd minute of first half added time when a long throw by Will Vaulks was powered home from the head of Millers captain Richard Wood.
HT Millers 1 Iron 0
Scunthorpe tried to push forward after the break & should have done better after a clever flick by Ivan Toney sent Duane Holmes through on goal but a heavy first touch allowed Rodak to collect the ball easily. As the Iron puashed forward they were leaving gaps at the back & from one of these breaks Millers winger Joe Newell was only just wide with a left foot shot. The Millers gave themselves some breathing space on 63 minutes with a second goal scored by Vaulks from around 12 yards after a good run & cross from full back Josh Emmanuel. Undeterred the Iron continued to attack, Toney had a decent effort blocked by Wood, & sub McGeehan should have reduced the arrears when he headed horribly wide from a free header 8 yards out. Rotherham could have put the game out of sight on 83 minutes when sub Jon Taylor's close range effort was again kept out brilliantly by Watson in the Iron goal. Not to be outdone Rodak had to be at his best to keep out efforts from McGeehan & Holmes in the latter stages of what was a pulsating match.
FT Millers 2 Iron 0
The Millers move on to a Wembley showdown with Shrewsbury Town on May 27th with a deserved win over the two legs but Iron fans should be proud of their team who provided a lot of effort & determination over the two games.
A very warm springtime afternoon in South Yorkshire & a healthy 9512 crowd greeted the two teams on this last game of the regular League 1 season.
With fourth place secured for the Millers & the Tangerines comfortably in mid table there was very little to play for & the early play resembled a pre season friendly with little action of any note. The first chance fell to the home side on 18 minutes when a loose ball fell to full back Josh Emmanuel but his 20 yarder flew over the bar. The Millers continued to threaten & Emmanuel's full back partner Joe Mattock saw a fine header fly just over the bar. Pool had an opportunity on the half hour from a free kick but Sean Longstaffs effort was comfortably saved by Marek Rodak in the Millers goal. The Millers were continuing to press though with centre back Richard Wood & striker Michael Smith going close before the break.
HT Millers 1 Pool 0
Blackpool boss Gary Bowyer's half time team talk seemed to work as his team started much brighter & they nearly opened the scoring on 50 minutes, forward Nathan Delfouneso nearly connecting with a Longstaff pull back but after enjoying their best spell of the game Pool found themselves trailing when on 58 minutes a hopeful cross was headed back by the Millers aussie midfielder Ryan Williams to fellow midfielder Will Vaulks who's left foot shot found the net from the edge of the box. Blackpool responded strongly with efforts from Callum Cooke & Colin Daniel bringing saves from Rodak. Delfouneso should have equalised when he hit a close range effort wide following good work by defender Clark Robertson. In a rare Rotherham attack a wonderful save by Blackpool keeper Christoffer Mafoumbi prevented Vaulks making it 2-0 but soon after Rodak surpassed even that making a miraculous double save from Kelvin Mellor's bullet header & sub Mark Cullen's follow up effort. Threre was still time for Pool's Ollie Turton & sub Dan Agyei to miss presentable chances as Pool brought down the curtain on 2017/18 with an unlucky defeat.
A two leg play off with Scunthorpe now awaits the Millers with the first leg at Glanford Park next Saturday lunchtime (1230pm)
A bright & warm April afternoon greeted the teams at the Wham Stadium in front of a ground record 4753 crowd which included 1789 fans from Lincoln.
Stanley who needed a single point to win the EFL League 2 title started edgily & initially struggled to cope with the Imps physical style but Stanley keeper Chapman had little difficulty keeping out Michael Bostwick's flicked header. Imps striker Matt Green was inches away from collecting Alex Woodyard's through ball as Lincoln continued to threaten. On 20 minutes however it was the host who almost went in front, top scorer Billy Kee forced a fine save from Lincoln keeper Ryan Alsop when his 18 yard effort went through a sea of legs but Alsop was equal to his effort. Spurred on by the near miss & a lot of noise from their enthusiastic fans Stanley started to take control & after Kee scuffed a presentable chance wide they deservedly took the lead, midfielder Jordan Clark scoring from close range after a Sean McConville cross. As half time approached with Stanley well in control, Lincoln defender Scott Wharton was adjudged to have brought down Stanley's Seamus Conneely in the area but Kee's weak spot kick was well saved by Alsop.
HT Stanley 1 Imps 0
The Imps started the second half well & had Stanley penned in their own half for a long period but no real chances emerged & Stanley looked strong in defence. Lincoln did come close on the hour, defender Luke Waterfall heading a Lee Frecklington corner narrowly over the bar. The Imps came even closer to a leveller ten minutes from time when a goalbound Green shot was deflected narrowly over the bar but Stanley's defence held firm. The final whistle brought wild scenes of delight from both Stanley's players & fans celebrating Stanley's first Championship of any sort in the reformed club's 50 year history.
FT Stanley 1 Imps 0
Not a vintage performance by Champions Stanley but they did just enough to take the points. On a personal level & as a neutral fan I feel privileged to witness the greatest day in the history of a lovely little football club. There were older guys who had supported Stanley's first incarnation prior to their demise in 1962 wiping tears of pure joy at the final whistle, just incredible scenes. Who say's nice guys finish last?
A bumper 30000+ crowd including a sizeable Cardiff contingent were in attendance for this vital top of the table clash at a cool drizzly Pride Park this evening.
Neil Warnock's Cardiff size would move four points clear of third placed Fulham with a win while Gary Rowett's Rams needed the points to move above Millwall & back into the coveted sixth place & a possible shot at the Playoffs.
Derby were determined to make a fast start & midfielder Bradley Johnson flashed a shot just wide after only four minutes. The Rams continued to press & a lovely passing move saw a half chance for winger Tom Lawrence but Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge beat him to the ball before he could shoot. A few minutes later Lawrence went even closer to the opening goal when an Andreas Weimann ball reached him inside the area & Etheridge saved his effort brilliantly. Out of nothing & in their first noteworthy attack on 28 minutes Cardiff were in front, full back Joe Bennett sent over a hopeful cross & there was midfielder Martin Patterson to expertly volley home beating keeper Scott Carson at his near post. The goal certainly rattled Derby & the visitors went close to doubling their lead through Junior Hoilett & striker Gary Madine. The half ended with Cardiff in control & just before the whistle midfielder Joe Ralls sent a long range effort just over the bar.
HT Rams 0 Bluebirds 1
Derby started the second half in determined fashion but Cardiff held firm & Madine could have made it 2-0 but poked a close range effort wide. In the next Derby attack they were level, right back Andre Wisdom crossed from the right, veteran centre back Richard Keogh flicked it on & ex Cardiff striker Cameron Jerome rolled the ball past Etheridge to level matters. Top scorer Vydra had now come on as sub & a rampant Derby side looked to get the upper hand & eventually got themselves in front in the 82nd minute, Vydra firing home from another Wisdom pull back. There was to be no Cardiff comeback as Jerome raced clear to make it three in the 90th minute after a mistake by Cardiff defender Morrison.
All in all an enjoyable night & credit to Derby for handling the difficult conditions better & they ran out deserved winners. Both teams fate is in their own hands with Cardiff occupying the second automatic promotion place & Derby filling the last play off spot with two games left.
Paul Warne's Millers were looking to rubber stamp their play off place with three points against mid table Gas at a warm sun drenched New York Stadium this afternoon.
Darrell Clarke's Rovers were quickest out of the blocks & forced two quick corners that brought no reward but on nine minutes out of nothing the Millers were in front. Gas defender James Clarke was caught in possession on the half way line by Millers striker Michael Smith. The ex Bury forward still had a lot to do but he ran clear & curled a lovely shot past Rovers keeper Sam Slocombe from the edge of the area to give Rotherham the lead. Encouraged by the early goal the Millers went after more goals. Will Vaulks was next to go close with a long range effort that Slocombe was equal to then the same player prodded a close range effort wide. On the half hour it should have been 2-0 but the Millers Brighton loanee Richie Towell sent his close range effort horribly wide after being set up by midfielder Joe Newell. Rovers were working hard but struggling to create anything of note but as half time approached Millers keeper Marek Rodak had to be alert to keep out firstly a Tom Nicholls effort then a weak Ellis Harrison header.
Half Time Millers 1 Gas 0
The Millers started the second half brightly & a Jon Taylor cross was hooked just over the bar by Towell. Back came Rovers & Ollie Clarke blazed the ball over from a promising position before Rovers survived a strong penalty appeal when Rotherham's Newell appeared to be bundled over in the area by Gas captain Tom Lockyer. Rovers however were looking more threatening now & Millers centre back Michael Ihekwe superbly blocked a goalbound effort from Rovers Kyle Bennett. The Gas continued to go forward & subs Marc Bola & Dom Telford combined for Telford to head just over from Bola's cross but they were vulnerable on the counter attack when Slocombe kept out a flicked effort from Rotherham sub Ryan Williams. Fellow Millers sub Caolan Lavery was unlucky with a blocked shot but he made the game safe for the Millers in the 90th minute with a tap in from a good Newell cross. Seven minutes of added time passed without incident & the three points were enough to ensure that Rotherham will finish fourth & contest the end of season play offs.
A spring day out on the Lincolnshire coast took me to Cleethorpes for a vital clash to avoid relegation from the EFL between 22nd place Grimsby & 23rd place Barnet at a sunny mild Blundell Park.
Martin Allen's Bees were first to threaten on 3 minutes when striker Shaquille Coulthurst found himself in a shooting position just outside the box but he lifted his effort just over the bar. Grimsby's first attack led to the games first goal on 6 minutes. After JJ Hooper's effort was deflected for a corner, Luke Summerfield's delivery was headed on by Hooper for veteran defender Danny Collins to fire home with aplomb. Encouraged by the early goal Hooper tried a 20 yard effort which was well saved by Bees keeper Craig Ross. Barnet were struggling to get a foothold in the game & on 25 minutes an Andrew Fox cross from the left was headed wide by Summerfield when he was unchallenged & should have at least hit the target. Barnet started to come into the game more in the latter part of the half & centre back Michael Nelson had a header comfortably saved by James McKeown in the Mariners goal. The Bees even had time to waste two free kicks in dangerous positions before the half time whistle.
HT Mariners 1 Bees 0
Martin Allen must have verbally ripped into his troops during the interval as Barnet started the second period with more vigour but on 50 minutes Grimsby really should have added to their lead as forward Harry Cardwell found himself with a shooting opportunity 12 yards out but he wastefully blazed his effort well over the bar. Mariners followers were made to rue their sides missed opportunities when Barnet equalised on 62 minutes when ex Mariner Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro stabbed the ball home from just inside the area following good hold up play from big striker John Akinde. Barnet started to take control of the game after the equaliser & after another goalbound Akpa Akpro effort was blocked the Bees deservedly gained the advantage when midfielder Curtis Weston's shot took a wicked deflection wrongfooting McKeown. The Mariners needed a massive effort to get back into the game & salvation came just two minutes later when Grimsby substitute Harry Clifton sent in a lovely low cross & fellow sub Simeon Jackson was fouled by Nelson to give the Mariners an 84th Minute penalty which top scorer Mitch Rose converted for his 7th League goal of the season. The remainder of the game & the 5 minutes of added time produced great endeavour but no real chances to leave honours even which suits the Mariners more than the Bees as the last three weeks of the regular season beckons.
FT Mariners 2 Bees 2
A lowish 7562 crowd which included a paltry 156 from Lancashire greeted the teams on a mild but dull spring afternoon in South Yorkshire.
It was the visitors who were the fastest out of the traps & Fleetwood's McAlany ( who scored a brace in the Cod Army's 2-0 win over the Millers on the opening day of the season) took aim from 20 yards & his shot was deflected for a corner. From the resulting corner Fleetwood's centre Back Eastham scored from the rebound after his initial header had been parried by Millers keeper Rodak. Five minutes gone & the wobbling Millers 1-0 down. The home side needed a quick response & restored parity when a Joe Newell low cross was sliced into his own net by long serving Nathan Pond for an own goal. 1-1 & only 12 minutes gone. The half then settled into more of a pattern that saw the Millers dominate possession but despite several corners & speculative long range efforts Fleetwood keeper (& ex Miller) Alex Cairns wasn't unduly troubled.
HT Millers 1 Cod Army 1
Former Fleetwood striker David Ball went mighty close to give Rotherham the lead at the start of the second half when his close range effort went just wide after being set up by strike partner Michael Smith. Rotherham continued to dominate & deservedly went in front when winger Anthony Forde's corner was only half cleared to Newell who scored with a sumptuous left foot volley from the edge of the area on 52 minutes. However two minutes later the Cod Army equalised when centre back Ciran Bolger powerfully headed home Hunter's corner with the Millers marking nowhere. Rotherham's Will Vaulks was denied by Cairns as the Millers pushed forward again but soon after they were reminded of their defensive responsibilities when Fleetwood's Hunter flashed an effort just wide. The Millers were still generally in the ascendancy & following Bolgers clumsy challenge on Millers loanee Richie Towell that earned him a yellow card the resultant free kick was bundled home by Millers defender Richard Wood for his fourth goal of the season (& third winner). There was to be no comeback from the Cod Army after this & Smith (three times) & Vaulks could have made the winning margin greater although they did have one scare when in the second minute of five added on Fleetwood sub Wes Burns drew a routine save from Rodak when he could have done better.
The result was just what the doctor ordered for the Millers after their recent poor form & further cements their place in the play offs. As for John Sheridan's Cod Army their fans shouldn't be too disappointed after a first defeat in eight, a run that has surely brought them to League 1 safely & they played their part in a pulsating match which I enjoyed immensely.
A very healthy 9,573 crowd including 1,240 Posh fans greeted the teams as the Millers faced Posh on a cool cloudy Good Friday afternoon at New York Stadium.
After a cagey opening few minutes a good move involving Rotherham's Matt Palmer & Michael Smith put winger Anthony Forde clean through on goal but Posh keeper Conor O'Malley brilliantly saved his effort. Undeterred the Millers continued to press & Loanee Richie Towell shot from distance millimetres over the bar. Posh top scorer Jack Marriott then had a good shout for a penalty turned down when he appeared to be bundled over by Millers centre back Semi Ajayi. Back came Rotherham & Posh keeper O'Malley had to be alert to keep out an effort from Millers full back Joe Mattock then Ajayi headed just over the bar from a corner. Back came Posh & the excellent Jack Marriott was denied the opening goal by the legs of Millers keeper Marek Rodak following good work by Maddison. A pulsating 45 minutes where the only surprise was the 0-0 scoreline.
HT Millers 0 Posh 0
A poor Forde effort that almost went out for a corner was the first effort of the second period but the intensity went up a notch again when Millers substitute Caolan Lavery who had replaced the ineffective David Ball poked an effort wide from around 6 yards. Posh's centre back Tafazolli was booked for an awful challenge on Palmer before a Joe Newell corner wasn't properly cleared & Lavery made amends for his earlier miss by firing past O'Malley to give the Millers the lead on 68 minutes. Rotherham were bossing the game at this stage & O'Malley again excelled himself with a fine stop from a bullet header from Smith to keep it at 1-0. A rare Posh break saw Marriott produce a piece of skill that left two Millers players on their backsides before hitting a dipping 25 yard effort that Rodak saved well. Smith the sent a looping drive just over but the killer second Millers goal still wouldn't come. Six second half substitutions & a couple of injury breaks saw the fourth official put six minutes added time to be played & during this time Millers midfielder Towell had to go off. Rotherham were defending deep trying to see out the added time but in the EIGHTH minute of time added Posh substitute Junior Morais sent over a low cross & Marriott did what he does best, ghosting in & firing home.
FT Millers 1 Posh 1
THE best match I have been to this season. Two good teams playing good football, creating chances & going for it in front of a large appreciative crowd.
A good natured 22000+ crowd which included lots of children greeted the two nations as they entered the field on a cool drizzly early evening at Bramall Lane, Sheffield.
The early exchanges were cagey with both teams struggling to make an impact. Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin had an effort on target on 14 minutes but it was comfortably saved by Ukraine keeper Lunin. Ukraine began to look dangerous after this frequently breaking with pace & after Pikhalyonok hit an effort well wide forward Kovalenko hit a rasping drive which stung the fingers of Gunn in the England goal. Just when England coach Aidy Boothroyd was preparing to read the riot act to his disjointed troops they took the lead in the 41st minute when a fabulous through ball from Norwich's James Maddison found Calvert-Lewin in space & the striker put the ball under Lunin to give the Three Lions an undeserved lead.
HT England 1 Ukraine 0
The early part of the second half continued the pattern of Ukraine looking the better side with Kovalenko again going close & looking dangerous every time his team attacked. On 54 minutes however England nearly made it 2-0 when Lunin made a great save from a fine volley from Forest's Joe Worrall. Ukraine were still the better team though & were desperately unlucky not to equalise when a goalbound shot from midfielder Lunev was spectacularly headed off the line by Everton's Jonjoe Kenny.The equaliser Ukraine richly deserved arrived on 82 minutes when sub Shaparenko headed a left wing cross beyond Gunn unchallenged. England started to look more threatening after Everton's Lookman came on for the ineffective Demari Gray. A period of pressure eventually brought a winning goal for the three lions, Leicester's Ben Chillwell got to the byline & stood up an inviting cross for Liverpool's Dominic Solanke to power home a header to give England a fortunate victory.
FT England 2 Ukraine 1
Valley Parade was today's venue for a mid table clash between the Bantams & the Gills on a mild cloudy afternoon in West Yorkshire.
One noticeable thing as the match started was the poor condition of the playing surface but I was expecting a good competitive game nonetheless. After a quiet opening ten minutes or so it was the visitors who threatened when Gills striker Wilkinson beat a couple of players but had his goalbound shot blocked by Bantams defender Matt Killgallon. Bradford came more into the game & young midfielder Callum Guy had a shot blocked by Gills defender Ehmer before Gills left back Reilly struck a 25 yard shot narrowly over Bantams keeper Colin Doyle's crossbar. Gillingham continued to look the more likely team to break the deadlock & midfielder Scott Wagstaff had two efforts on goal inside a minute just before the break, unluckily for the visitors neither troubled Doyle in the Bantams goal.
HT Bantams 0 Gills 0
The match was crying out for a goal & it got one three minutes after the restart, Bantams forward Dominic Poleon who had a fairly quiet first period struck a lovely 25 yard shot wide of Gills giant keeper Holy & into the bottom corner of the net. The game improved immensely after the goal with Gillingham pushing further forward but leaving gaps at the back for Bradford to exploit. Bradford's Guy hit a long range effort which was saved by Holy. Bantams sub Bruenker also had an effort parried by the giant Gills keeper. Gillingham then introduced top scorer Tom Eaves & after being put clear he saw his goalbound shot well saved by Doyle who hung on to the ball to foil any potential rebound. Gillingham dominated the last twenty minutes going agonisingly close through Eaves again & following a corner in injury time Gillingham's Wilkinson headed over when it looked easier to score.
So the Bantam's poor run of ten matches without a victory is over but they were very fortunate to take the points. Gillingham competed well on a pudding of a pitch & will be a little disappointed with the result stalling their good recent form but both sides will have to be content with mid table mediocrity in May.
A freezing cold snowy Bramall Lane for me this weekend as the play off chasing Blades were up against 16th place Forest;
3/4 of the pitch was covered in snow as the match kicked off & the Blades were nearly celebrating in only the second minute when Forest keeper Pantilimon saved well from a Leon Clarke header following a decent cross from John Fleck. United continued to press & in the 13th minute Clarke headed a Duffy cross wide when it seemed easier to score. Evans & Fleck also went close for United before Forest's first effort on goal in the 39th minute when Cash had an effort well saved by Blackman in the United goal.
HT Blades 0 Forest 0
Whatever Forest boss Karanka said to his team at half time seemed to have the desired effect as Forest tore into United at the start of the second half as both Dowell & Murphy had efforts well saved by Blackman within the first 5 minutes. With the Blades struggling to gain a foothold in the game they nearly conceded again when an unfortunate slip by Welsh midfielder Lee Evans let in Murphy again but the Irishman could only find the side netting. In a rare foray forward, Blades midfielder hit a rasping drive which Pantilimon saved well. The game went a bit flat after this but considering the frankly awful weather both teams deserve credit for providing a decent very watchable game for the 28000 freezing cold supporters.
In 40+ years of watching football up & down the country I have never been as cold as I was today, my wife thinks I'm mental, she may have a point.
Keith Hill's impressive Rochdale grabbed their second away win in four days with a more convincing display than the 1-0 scoreline suggests at a mild but damp NYS this afternoon.
The Millers started quite brightly with winger Anthony Forde having an early chance which he hit well wide but Dale soon gained the upper hand with Andy Cannon being put clear by Matt Done on 12 minutes but Rotherham keeper Marek Rodak was equal to his low effort saving well. Dale again threatened on 35 minutes when Done's clever flick was turned around the post by Rodak who saved again from Dale's Humphry as half time approached. Rotherham centre back Richard Wood found the net in first half injury time but the referee disallowed his effort for a foul on Dale keeper Lillis.
HT Millers 0 Dale 0
Dale continued to threaten at the start of the second period when Rodak again saved brilliantly this time from Dale midfielder Brad Inman's 20 yard effort after he had been played in by Ian Henderson. The promotion chasing Millers were huffing & puffing but getting nowhere near Dale's goal & it was no surprise when the goal Dale's dominance deserved arrived on 67 mins, Inman's unchecked run provided Humphry with a clear effort from 15 yards which gave Rodak no chance. Williams, Lavery &Palmer came on in a last ditch effort to save the Millers 14 game unbeaten run & in the last few minutes Dale keeper Lillis was finally tested with efforts from Wood & Lavery well saved. Dale almost wrapped the game up in injury time but Henderson's chip was a little too high.
FT Millers 0 Dale 1
Dale keep up their remarkable record at NYS (P3 W3), ruin Rotherham's 14 game unbeaten run & become the first team to stop the Millers scoring in 27 games going back to late September. They totally outplayed the Millers in every department & on today's evidence look a good bet to beat the drop.
Over 1100 expectant Millers fans made the trip down to Shropshire for the top of the table clash between the 4th place Millers & top of the table Shrews.
Some welcome February sunshine greeted the sides as they entered the field on a less than perfect playing surface.
The home side were the quickest out of the blocks & when Millers midfielder Will Vaulks lost possession straight from the kick off, Shrews midfielder Shaun Whalley was onto it like a flash, fizzing a cross towards the penalty spot that striker Carlton Morris just failed to reach. Still with less than 10 minutes on the clock Rotherham fashioned their first chance, Striker Michael Smith hitting a good chance wide after being set up by Anthony Forde. The Millers continued to press & excellent close control by the Millers David Ball produced a shooting chance well saved by Henderson in the Shrews goal with Semi Ajayi putting the rebound well wide. Shrewsbury's best first half chance fell to Whalley on 25 minutes when Millers keeper Rodak saved his low effort. Back came Rotherham & Ajayi was within inches of giving his side the lead heading inches over the bar from a corner. The Millers eventually grabbed the lead on 44 minutes with a tap in from Centre Back Richard Wood when Shrewsbury failed to deal with another Millers corner.
HT SHREWS 0 MILLERS 1
Shrewsbury started the second period strongly & midfielder Abu Ogogo hit a long range effort which Rodak saved comfortably. The game was starting to get bogged down into a midfield battle & a raft of substitutions from both sides didn't help with the flow of the game. Shrews sprung to life again on 62 minutes with Whalley clear on goal for the second time & for the second time Rodak stopped his shot brilliantly. With the Millers seemingly content to protect their lead & Shrewsbury struggling to create anything of note the game dissapointingly ended in midfield attrition with Rotherham managing to see the game & the five minutes added time out.
FT SHREWS 0 MILLERS 1
Not a classic by any means but another three points for the on fire Millers who are now unbeaten in 13 & have scored at least once in their last 26 competitive games.
Happy days indeed!!
Yet another cold wet & windy Saturday afternoon greeted the two most in form teams in League 1 at NYS this afternoon.
The Millers started the game on the front foot & almost took an early lead when midfielder Will Vaulks hit a 25 yard effort just too high from an Anthony Forde cross. David Ball was the next Rotherham player to threaten when his close range effort was scrambled to safety by Don's George Francomb. The Millers fans amongst the 8,330 crowd sensed a goal was coming when a dangerous Joe Newell cross was expertly volleyed in by new Millers striker Michael Smith. GoalscorerSmith had to return to the dressing room for running repairs after an accidental clash of heads before a marauding run by Dons Liam Trotter saw the midfielder just crowded out by the Millers defence. In first half added time Rotherham's Newell fizzed a long range effort inches over the bar before the whistle blew on a satisfactory 45 minutes from the home side.
HT Millers 1 Dons 0
Wimbledon had to improve in the second half & they tore into the Millers at the start of the second half. An almighty goalmouth scramble saw the Dons almost equalise through firstly Cody McDonald & then Francomb but the ball wouldn't run kindly for either. Back came Rotherham & only an excellent save by Don's keeper George Long from Vaulks kept the score at 1-0. Wimbledon were having much more of the game now & a fantastic goalsaving tackle by Millers loanee defender Josh Emmanuel prevented McDonald levelling for the Dons. With Wimbledon having to push forward they were leaving gaps at the back & from a quick break Newell was denied by Long again. The Millers made the game safe in injury time when a shot from Millers sub Ryan Williams was parried by Long but Ball converted from around a yard out on the rebound.
FT Millers 2 Dons 0
TEN games unbeaten now for Paul Warnes team & 50 points probably means that they won't be relegated. The Millers have now scored in each of their last 23 competitive matches ,their last blank coming at Blackburn on September 26th. This was a deserved victory over a resolute organised Dons side who provided a stern test for the 5th placed Millers side.
Bramall Lane was my destination on a cold, wet January afternoon to witness this tie between two decent quality Championship sides.
In truth the first half was a dreadfully dull affair with very little goalmouth activity at ether end of the pitch. The only "action" of any note were a couple of fouls which resulted in yellow cards, one mistimed challenge by the Blades John Lundstrum & one particularly nasty challenge on the Blades midfielder Duffy by PNE'S defender Welsh which really should have warranted a straight red.
HT BLADES 0 PNE 0
The game had to improve in the second half & from the restart it did with the games first real chance on 46 minutes, United's Clayton Donaldson shooting just wide from a fine Duffy cross. Another Duffy cross was meant for Blades defender Daniel Lafferty & his effort was brilliantly saved by Declan Rudd in the North End goal. Another awful challenge by North End ensued when Johnson was yellow carded for a foul on Blades sub Basham before North End had their first serious effort on goal in the 78th minute when Johnson saw a low 25 yard effort fizz just wide with Blades keeper Simon Moore beaten. The deadlock was eventually broken on 80 minutes when a defence splitting pass from Basham put forward Billy Sharp through on goal & he was upended by PNE's Centre Half Clarke for the inevitable penalty which Sharp despatched expertly. North End belatedly piled forward in the games latter stages & their best chance came in the games final minute when a fine Jordan Hugill header was brilliantly saved by Moore.
A deserved win for United as they were the only team actually trying to win it but a really poor game.
FT BLADES 1 PNE 0
A freezing cold South Yorkshire afternoon greeted the 1420 Pompey fans attending New York Stadium for the first time in this League 1 clash.
After a minutes applause to honour the lives of the two ex Millers players (John McGlashan & Rodney Fern) who sadly passed away this week, impeccably observed by both sets of supporters the match got under way with the visitors quickly in the ascendancy. Pompey's Matt Kennedy's ball seemed perfect for Kal Naismith but the Pompey forward screwed his effort well wide. Jamal Lowe was the next Pompey player to threaten the Rotherham goal with a good effort that brought a good save from Rodak in the Millers goal. Rotherham were struggling to gain a foothold in the game & almost fell behind again on the half hour when Pompey striker Brett Pitman could only head a Naismith cross into Rodak's hands. A good turn & snapshot from striker David Ball that just cleared the bar towards Half Time was the Millers only real chance of any note & the Millers manager Warne must have been happy & relieved to go into the break level.
HALF TIME...........MILLERS 0 POMPEY 0
Despite their being no changes in personnel at the start of the second half the home team came out invigorated & started taking the game to Pompey almost opened the scoring after just a few seconds of the 2nd half when loanee midfielder Richie Towell saw a goalbound effort blocked by the Pompey defence. Rotherham were doing all the pressing now & after a few Millers corners were starting to panic Pompey's back line Centre Half Richard Wood sent a close range effort wide from around 6 yds. Plenty of goalmouth scrambles were coming fairly regularly now & from one of these both Towell & David Ball saw their close range efforts well wide. Ball then sent an effort inches wide after good wing play on the right by midfielder Forde. The decision to go for the win had been taken with Newel, Smith & Taylor replacing Forde, Yates & Ball in an attempt to get the goal our 2nd Half performance deserved. Just as the 4th official 5 minutes board has started thestart of added time, the Millers were not satisfied with a point &.went all out for the win which was achieved when in the first minute of the five a good cross by sub Michael Smith was expertly headed home by left back Joe Mattock.
A tough but deserved win for Rotherham in a game of two halves but for me Rotherham's attitude was spot on & they dominated the second half.
My first game of 2018 took me to the impressive Molyneux Stadium, home of Wolves for their tie with the Premier Leagues bottom club Swansea on a freezing cold January afternoon.
A good crowd of almost 23,000 greeted the two teams as they kicked off the tie with the Championship outfit going at their Premier League opponents from the start. After just 6 minutes Wolves forward Helder Costa forced a good save from Swans keeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt. Youngster Bright Enobakhare was next to try his luck but again the Swans keeper was equal to it. Defender N'Diaye met Costa's corner, Nordfeldt saved but the ball ran to Enobakhare but he blazed wide with the goal at his mercy. On the half hour the Swans got their first chance of any note with defender Olsson hitting the bar with a 30 yard dipping free kick that had beaten Wolves keeper Will Norris. On 40 minutes Wolves were down to 10 men when referee Anthony Taylor sent Ruben Vinagre off for what looked like a stamp on Swans midfielder Nathan Dyer.
HT Wolves 0 Swans 0
Swansea started the second half strongly looking to enforce the advantage of the extra man & Wolves keeper Norris had to be at his best to deny striker Wilfred Bony as the striker broke clearly from half way. A quiet period of play ensued until ref Taylor inexplicably evened the teams to 10 men each by sending off Swans midfielder Fer for what was nothing more than a trip on Costa when it merited no more than a yellow card if that. Wolves sent on their new signing Rafa Mir from Valencia & he was immediately in the action having a goalbound shot expertly blocked by Swans defender Mike van der Hoorn & putting a header just wide from a cross by sub Douglas.
FT Wolves 0 Swans 0
Get ready Premier League Wolves are coming. Although only drawing I was impressed by Wolves. A young improving side with an inventive attacking style of play. They played Swansea off the park really & were unlucky not to win. I'd make them slight favourites in the replay.
My final game of 2017 took me to Sincil Bank for the meeting of the two promoted clubs from last season's National League. Lincoln knew a win in this clash with bottom placed Rovers could put them in the automatic promotion places while FGR boss Mark Cooper would take any sort of positive result after an awful run of form.
As expected Lincoln were quickly on the attack & took the lead on 8 minutes, a Neal Eardley cross was missed by the FGR defence leaving Imps striker Matt Rhead with a simple header to open the scoring. Lincoln kept up the pressure, chances came & were missed,mainly by Rheads striking partner Matt Green, but Nathan Arnold & Harry Anderson missed good opportunities too. Little was seen of Rovers as an attacking unit until they surprisingly equalised just shy of the half hour mark with a good turn & finish in the area by the prolific Christian Doidge ( surely a club will come in for him in January? Hope Paul Warne is reading this!!). The first half petered out after this goal, probably Lincoln shocked by conceding after being so in control had something to do with it.
HT Lincoln 1 FGR 1
Imps boss Danny Cowley clearly had a job to do at half time to re motivate his side. The team talk had the desired effect as Lincoln went back in front on 56 minutes through a close range Rhead finish after a driving unchecked run by Anderson. The rest of the match was almost all Forest Green attacking, mainly because strangely Lincoln took off BOTH their strikers, Rhead & Green, replaced them with midfielders Whitehouse & Palmer & decided to park the bus. If it wasn't for a fine goalsaving block by Michael Bostwick & an even better save by Lincoln Keeper Vickers from Doidge in added time, the Rovers may well have stolen an unlikely point.
FT Lincoln 2 FGR 1
I always enjoy a visit to Sincil Bank. Lincoln are a lovely club with friendly committed fans & seem to be a club going places. An 8900 crowd with only 86 away fans shows the public of Lincoln are buying into the club.
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