War­rior Wood is day­dream be­liev­ing for Millers

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - Richard Sut­cliffe AT WEM­B­LEY Email: richard.sut­cliffe@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @RSootyYPS­port

SO ATTUNED is Richard Wood in the art of head­ing a foot­ball that he even does it in his sleep.

Over the years, many a star­tled team-mate has been left reach­ing for the light switch on overnight away trips af­ter the Rother­ham United cap­tain has leapt up in the night, headed an imag­i­nary ball with a shout and then gone straight back to sleep.

It is not known if Lewis Price, the club’s back-up goal­keeper who has been Wood’s room-mate for much of this sea­son, had an undis­turbed night or not ahead of Wem­b­ley.

But, af­ter the Os­sett-born de­fender’s pro­mo­tion-clinch­ing hero­ics yes­ter­day, surely no-one in the Rother­ham camp will com­plain again about Wood’s noc­tur­nal habits.

He has earned that grace, and not just for the two goals that ul­ti­mately proved too much for Shrews­bury Town.

Wood was quite sim­ply su­perb. Be it the man­ner in which he re­pelled the best that Paul Hurst’s Shrews could throw at the Millers dur­ing their one spell on top early in the sec­ond half or be­com­ing perhaps the most un­likely goalscor­ing hero in a play-off fi­nal since Peter Shirtliff 31 years ago.

Shirtliff, an­other York­shire­born de­fender, only net­ted 15 goals in a ca­reer that in­cluded more than a decade at Sh­effield Wed­nes­day but two of those came on the night Charl­ton Ath­letic ended Leeds United’s hopes of clinch­ing pro­mo­tion via a dra­matic 2-1 vic­tory.

Wood’s own dou­ble was equally un­likely, even al­low­ing for the fact it was the Millers’ cap­tain who had made the cru­cial break­through in the semi-fi­nal sec­ond leg vic­tory over Scun­thorpe United with a trade­mark bul­let header.

No won­der the 15,000 fans who poured down the M1 re­gard their 32-year-old cap­tain as “magic”.

His dou­ble meant a dream end­ing to what had the po­ten­tial to be a very dif­fi­cult sea­son for a Rother­ham side still car­ry­ing the wounds of a truly hor­ri­ble rel­e­ga­tion from the Cham­pi­onship. Paul Warne, in his first man­age­rial post, de­serves huge credit for in­spir­ing such a turn­around. He, though, typ­i­cally wanted the credit to go to his play­ers and, in par­tic­u­lar, Wood.

“He is a war­rior,” said the Millers chief. “He is my only player over 30. Then it is Bally (David Ball) at 27 and then a load of young ones.

“I call him the wreck­ing ball be­cause every time the ball goes in the box, he is pre­pared to head peo­ple to get it in the goal. He is a unique cen­tre half in to­day’s foot­ball.

“Woody is worth more than the sum of his parts. He is worth a lot to me, on and off the pitch. He is a re­spect­ful bloke and I love him to death. Ba­si­cally, he epit­o­mises what my­self, as man­ager er, and the club are try­ing to stand for. It gives me great sat­is­fac­tion he scored both goals.”

As for the sleep-head- ing an­tics of his goals- cor­ing hero, Warne add - ed: “We have had a sleep doc­tor in to help a few of our play­ers out. Luck­ily y, I don’t share with him m Now I am a man­ager, get a room of my own. A perk of the job.”

The clos­est Wood had d been to Wem­b­ley be efore the fi­nal was whe en watch­ing a pro­duc­tion of o Mada­gas­car at the nea arby Arena a few years ago o.

Yes­ter­day, he prove ed to be the foot­balling lio on with the big heart, as u nder­lined by the desi ire he dis­played to open th he scor­ing just af­ter the ha alfhour mark.

Hav­ing twice be een man­han­dled to the t ground by Omar Beck­les – the first, yield­ing an early penalty that Ball had saved and the other bizarrely deemed to be le­gal by ref­eree Robert Jones – Wood was not going to al­low him­self to be shack­led this time around as Joe Newell’s cor­ner floated invit­ingly across the six-yard box.

Beck­les, re­al­is­ing too late that his man was away, tried a last gasp shove in the back but Wood would not be de­nied as his pow­er­ful down­ward header gave Dean Henderson no chance.

The Shrews­bury goal­keeper, se­lected by his peers in the PFA League One Team of the Year, had al­ready proved his cre­den­tials with that ninth-minute penalty save from Ball.

It was the sec­ond time Henderson had de­nied a Miller from the spot this term, Ki­ef­fer Moore hav­ing his ef­fort from 12 yards saved at the New York Sta­dium back in Novem­ber.

Shrews­bury went on to win that game 2-1 but Wood’s opener set­tled Rother­ham nerves to such an ex­tent that the fi­nal re­ally should have been over long be­fore the end of nor­mal time.

Hav­ing been pegged back by a de­light­fully ex­e­cuted train­ing ground move that Alex Rod­man fin­ished with aplomb, the Millers re­grouped and, even­tu­ally, re­asserted their con­trol.

Caolan Lav­ery should have done a lot better af­ter be­ing re­leased by Will Vaulks with just Henderson to beat and the Town de­fence hav­ing gone AWOL, the Sh­effield United loa­nee could only curl his shot wide.

Later, Lav­ery shot straight at Henderson when again well placed and then Michael Smith, af­ter hav­ing seem­ingly evaded the Shrews goal­keeper, could not get the ball out from un­der his feet with the net gap­ing.

Ryan Wil­liams then be­ing de­nied by a stun­ning one-handed save from Henderson meant ex­tra-time and, ul­ti­mately, Wood’s big mo­ment.

An­other pin­point de­liv­ery from Newell, this time from a free-kick, left the Shrews­bury de­fence scram­bling. Wood, again hav­ing stolen a march on his marker, slid in and pro­duced a right-foot fin­ish that would have made any striker proud.

It might not have been the type of trade­mark header that the vet­eran de­fender un­wit­tingly prac­tices in his sleep but Rother­ham were in dream­land once again.

PIC­TURES: PA

JOY: Play­ers cel­e­brate cel­e­brate, left and cen­tre. cen­tre Right: Paul Warne (sec­ond right) and chair­man Tony Ste­wart (cen­tre right) cel­e­brate with Matt Hamshaw (right), (right) Mike Pol­litttt (cen­tre left) and Richie Barker (sec­ond left) .

PIC­TURES: PA AND GETTY IMAGES

TH HICK OF THE ACTION: Richard Wood wheels away in cel­e­bra­tion af­ter head­ing Rother­ham nited into the lead in the play-off fi­nal at Wem­b­ley. In­set left, he is then pow­er­less to stop Alex o odman equal­is­ing for the Shrews be­fore, in­set right, set­tling mat­ters in ex­tra time by slid­ing in to sc core the winning goal.

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