BRINGS DE­SPAIR FOR CA­NARIES

Bowery boosts sur­vival hopes

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

SU­PER sub Jor­dan Bowery came to Rother­ham’s res­cue with a last-gasp goal that sparked cel­e­bra­tions at both ends of the Cham­pi­onship.

The 23-year-old’s 87th-minute header – com­bined with Derby’s late equaliser at Mill­wall – kept the Millers a point above the drop zone and means one victory from their fi­nal two matches will se­cure an­other sea­son of Cham­pi­onship foot­ball.

And with third-placed Mid­dles­brough los­ing 4-3 at Ful­ham, Nor­wich’s fail­ure to hold on to Gary Hooper’s won­der-strike saw Wat­ford clinch pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League with a game to spare.

Rother­ham manager Steve Evans hailed his “fan­tas­tic pro­fes­sion­als”, not just for their re­fusal to buckle but also their spir­ited re­sponse to los­ing three points on the eve of the match.

But for Ca­naries boss Alex Neil, whose side played the fi­nal hour with ten men af­ter Lewis Grab­ban’s crazy punch on Craig Mor­gan and will be con­demned to the play-offs if Bournemouth beat Bolton to­mor­row, there was only a deep sense of frus­tra­tion.

“I’m ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed,” said the Scot. “To have played so well away from home with ten men and then con­cede late on – it’s hard to take.

“To be go­ing into the last two games with a chance of au­to­matic is a great achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing where we were in Jan­uary. But the fact we gave our­selves that chance by catch­ing Mid­dles­brough up and then didn’t take it at the death – I still look at it as a missed op­por­tu­nity. But that just makes me hun­grier to do well in the play-offs.”

Neil added that he was “pleased with all his play­ers – well, the ones on the pitch” and there can be no doubt that Grab­ban’s mo­ment of mad­ness changed the game.

The ex-Bournemouth man was grap­pling with Mor­gan when, out of the blue, he aimed a limp punch at the Rother­ham de­fender’s ribs. Most of the ground didn’t even see it but ref­eree Mark Brown did and – to stunned si­lence – whipped out a red card.

Slick, fast and to­tally dom­i­nant with 11 men, Nor­wich lost all mo­men­tum and the Millers should have cap­i­talised when Danny Ward struck wide with the goal at his mercy.

When Ward then volleyed wide and Freck­ling­ton shot straight at Ruddy, you sensed a stinger com­ing and it was duly pro­vided by Ca­naries sub Hooper who col­lected a pass from Nathan Red­mond be­fore lash­ing an un­stop­pable 25-yard half-vol­ley be­yond Emi Martinez.

“I’ve watched that young man at Celtic Park and I’ve been on my feet when he’s scored goals like that,” said Evans, a huge Bhoys fan. “When Joe Gar­ner scored against us in the play-offs for Pre­ston last year, I said if any­one scored a bet­ter goal then I’d wake up a chicken. Well to­mor­row I’ll wake up a chicken be­cause that was a sen­sa­tional strike.”

Yet the Millers dug in and, but for a jaw-drop­ping miss by Matt Der­byshire who screwed wide from two yards, Evans’ men would have got their re­ward far sooner.

In­stead, they waited un­til the death, sub Adam Ham­mill beat­ing Rus­sell Martin and sling­ing in a left­wing cross that Bowery pow­ered be­yond a help­less John Ruddy.

Ju­bi­lant Millers fans had barely re­taken their seats when news of Derby’s lev­eller at third-bot­tom Mill­wall had them cheer­ing anew - and it wasn’t just the sup­port­ers.

“There’ll be man­agers all over the coun­try say­ing they didn’t pay at­ten­tion to other re­sults,” said Evans. “And their noses will grow as far as the mi­cro­phone. We knew what was go­ing on.”

And Evans says the Foot­ball League’s de­ci­sion to deduct three points for field­ing an in­el­i­gi­ble player served only to fuel his side.

“It’s quite ob­vi­ous that cer­tain peo­ple don’t want us in this league,” he added. “And it’s very sad that points we earned on the pitch haven’t stayed on the pitch. But I said to the play­ers ‘Let’s show some de­sire. If some­body wants a fight, let’s give them a fight.

“I couldn’t ask any more.”

PRICELESS: Jor­dan Bowery heads Rother­ham’s equaliser, which leaves their fate in their own hands

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