Owls star Lee steals vi­tal win in derby

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By James Owens

FRUS­TRATED Rother­ham boss Steve Evans felt like he’d been mugged af­ter Sh­effield Wed­nes­day donned ‘bal­a­clavas and hit us with base­ball bats’ to steal a dra­matic last-gasp victory.

It had been a keenly con­tested South York­shire derby at the New York Sta­dium, with the Millers tak­ing the lead cour­tesy of a de­flected Ben Pringle strike shortly be­fore the hour.

But the game ex­ploded into life in the closing stages, with Wed­nes­day manager Gray go­ing for broke with three at­tack­ing sub­sti­tu­tions in the form of Caolan Lav­ery, Ste­vie May, and Chris Maguire.

Gray was re­warded when Lav­ery headed home Lewis McGugan’s cross, but the Owls’ equaliser was im­me­di­ately can­celed out, as Rother­ham sub­sti­tute Jor­dan Bowery scored what looked cer­tain to be the win­ner within sec­onds of the restart.

Rother­ham boss Evans had raced onto the pitch in ju­bi­la­tion af­ter Bowery re­stored the hosts’ lead, but his de­meanour at full­time could not have been more dif­fer­ent.

Wed­nes­day piled for­ward, win­ning a free-kick on the left flank three min­utes into added time, which tow­er­ing striker At­dhe Nuhiu headed past Emil­iano Martínez.

And Martínez was pick­ing the ball out of the net again in the fi­nal sec­onds, as Kieran Lee surged through the Millers’ back line un­marked to slot a 98th-minute win­ner be­yond the Ar­se­nal loa­nee.

Evans lamented the amount of added time, but was in no mood to let his de­fend­ers off the hook af­ter their late col­lapse.

“It’s dis­heart­en­ing,” Evans ad­mit­ted. “I’d love to be 2-1 down in a derby when some­body adds seven min­utes from some­where. But the ref­eree’s not to blame, he could have added 15.You have to deal with it.

“The de­fend­ing is poor for each of the goals.We get back in front then give two very, very sloppy goals away.

“Not mark­ing a man on the right side at a free- kick, then not match­ing a run­ner. If you do that, you get pun­ished.”

But Evans dis­missed the sug­ges­tion that Stu­art Gray’s at­tack­ing changes had been de­ci­sive in Wed­nes­day’s dra­matic late win, and in­sisted that his side had de­served the three points.

“I don’t think the sub­sti­tu­tions changed the game, I think bad de­fend­ing changed the game,” Evans said.

“They have turned up with bal­a­clavas, and they’ve hit us with a cou­ple of base­ball bats on the way out. They didn’t de­serve to win the match, and I don’t think any of their staff will say any dif­fer­ent.

“There was only one team that de­served to win it, and un­for­tu­nately that team lost.“

But Gray was adamant that his bold sub­sti­tu­tions had been de­ci­sive in Wed­nes­day’s come­back.

“I’ve said be­fore, if you’re go­ing to put sub­sti­tutes on, they have to have an im­pact,” Gray re­flected.

“And credit to the three lads that I put on, they have had a big im­pact on the game.

“We’ve prob­a­bly just put Rother­ham on their back foot a lit­tle bit.

“They went a lit­tle bit deeper and just al­lowed my full-backs to get for­ward and just cre­ate. Our ball re­ten­tion was just a lit­tle bit bet­ter and we just con­trolled the pos­ses­sion of that last ten min­utes.

“We looked like the only ones who were go­ing to score, and when we did fi­nally score, what did we do? We let them kick off and go up the other end and score, which was dis­ap­point­ing.

“But credit to the boys to keep go­ing.”

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age Ltd

CON­TEST: Sh­effield Wed­nes­day de­fender Sam Hutchinson beats Rother­ham mid­fielder Lee Freck­ling­ton to the ball

JOY: Owls mid­fielder Kieran Lee and team-mates cel­e­brate the win­ner

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