- In the first competitive match at the DW Stadium for nearly 18 months there was an emotional atmosphere amongst the fans.
- Phoenix 2021 Ltd Chairman Talal Al Hammad was able greet the fans for the first time and the kick off had to be delayed by 10 minutes.
- Rotherham thought they had earned a point but in the fifth minute of added time Will Keane headed home Max Power’s free-kick to secure Latics’ first three points of the season.
- The Millers manager Paul Warne referred to Latics as a ‘Harlem Globetrotter’ team in his post match comments.
Leam Richardson made three changes to the starting line-up from the previous game league at Sunderland, with Luke Robinson, Stephen Humphrys, and Kell Watts replacing Tom Pearce, Gwion Edwards, and Adam Long.
Latics started brightly in an electric atmosphere, Charlie Wyke broke down the left wing and crossed for the unmarked Keane, but the striker fired his volley wide of the target.
Rotherham responded and Joshua Kayode’s strike from the edge of the penalty area took a deflection and went narrowly wide.
The Millers were well organised and their strong physicality made it difficult for Latics to get a grip in midfield.
The visitors went close again when Jamie Lindsay’s strike from the edge of the area forced a good save from Ben Amos.
Chiedozie Ogebene was causing problems down the right hand side and his deflected shot forced another save from Amos low down to his left.
Probably the best opportunity of the half fell to Rotherham when Amos’ punch only found Lindsay on the edge of the six yard box, but the midfielder blazed his effort over the crossbar.
Wyke then had a chance for Latics just before half-time when he dispossessed Dan Barlaser on the right and hit a low shot from a tight angle, which Viktor Johansson did well to save.
Rotherham started the second half confidently and Tendayi Darikwa did well to divert Ogbene’s dangerous cross behind with attackers lurking.
Latics rejigged the defence on 56 minutes, with Jordan Cousins coming into midfield, Power moving to right back and Darikwa to left back as Robinson was withdrawn.
The hosts should’ve been ahead in the 65th minute, Tom Naylor headed across the box and Keane with the goal at his mercy didn’t make a proper contact and the ball was headed wide.
Soon afterwards the visitors had a great chance to break the deadlock when Barlaser headed Michael Smith’s cross against the crossbar and then the post, much to Latics’ relief.
With five minutes of added time remaining Latics pushed forward for the vital breakthrough.
In the 95th minute Callum Lang was brought down on the left hand side and from Power’s free-kick Keane ghosted past the Millers back line to head past Johansson and cue ecstatic scenes of celebration.
In his post match comments Rotherham manager Paul Warne rather amusingly referred to Latics as a ‘Harlem Globetrotter’ team. Suggesting that he thinks Latics are a team of superstars!
Post match Leam Richardson was rather more circumspect about Latics’ chances of success given the current level of development of the two teams.
“I thought the fans helped us and Rotherham, in my opinion, are going to be in the top three/four. Paul Warne has done a fantastic job and has got them out of the division twice and they’ve been together for five or six years and it shows.”
“We’re at the total opposite end of the spectrum where our lads are totally in the infancy of everything that they are doing and experiencing most things for the first time together.”
This was an important first win on a very emotional day for everyone associated with the club. After the traumas of administration, the arrival of Phoenix 2021 and the likeable Chairman Talal Al Hammad has given everyone a massive boost.
The club is now moving in the right direction but only time will tell how quickly they can achieve the success that everyone craves.