BASEBALL BATS BRUISE MILLERS
Owls star Lee steals vital win in derby
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.”
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