In a week where Rotherham United mourned the loss of a man who did more to put the club on the map than most, the players responded by showing exactly what they are about on the pitch.
The much-loved children’s television star Barry Chuckle sadly passed away last Sunday after a short illness and there were touching tributes for the honorary life president before kick-off and throughout the match.
But the Millers, playing their first home game back in the Championship, paid the most fitting homage possible by snatching a late win against Ipswich.
After being dominated for much of the game, Michael Smith slammed home a loose ball after a free-kick in the 90th minute and he and his team-mates celebrated so hard that the club mascot’s head was knocked off. Never mind ChuckleVision, Millers Bear had double vision.
It was a victory that Barry and any Rotherham fan will be proud of and one that might just have to become the norm this season.
Warne said: “I am just really pleased for the group because it gives them a lot of belief in themselves, if you stay in a game and you get a set-piece you might just nick it.
FT| Millers 1 v 0 Ipswich.
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) August 11, 2018
“There will be a lot of games like that, last year we dominated possession, we dominated the chances, this is a massive step and the lads will enjoy the feeling of winning.”
After a harrowing reminder of how tough life in the Championship will be last week at Brentford, another torrid afternoon looked on the cards as Ipswich – managed by Paul Hurst – barely gave Warne’s side a kick in the first half.
Had it not been for some last-ditch defending and impressive goalkeeping from Marek Rodak the game could have been over.
But the Millers – led by an imperious Semi Ajayi – stood firm and after Rodak produced some more saves, they began to build some momentum in the final 15 minutes.
Off the mark. ✅
— Sky Bet Championship (@SkyBetChamp) August 11, 2018
And then, as the clock approached 90 minutes, the golden moment came. Ryan Williams won a free-kick, Anthony Forde whipped it in and after Ipswich could not clear Smith pounced to convert the loose ball and send the AESSEAL New York Stadium into pandemonium.
For Ipswich, it was a game they might have been disappointed to draw, but ended up losing. As Barry would have said, ‘Oh dear, oh dear’.
It was your classic smash-and-grab and it had echoes of the famous win over Middlesbrough in Neil Warnock’s Great Escape, with Warne describing it as magical.
He added: “We will always be a threat, especially when we shoot towards that end, you always fancy something magical to happen.
To me…. Paul (Chuckle) Elliott and his wife Sue attend the Rotherham United v Ipswich match at the Aesseal New York Stadium today | Shot for @jmp_uk. #footballer #sportphotography #actionphotography #futebol #footballseason #soccer #footballplayer #ilovefootball #tekkers #sportsphotography #canonphotos #speedkills #championship #futbol #gohardorgohome #canoneos #sportsman #sportphoto #mondaymotivation #canonrebel #futbolista #sportphotographer #futbolsport #mansfield #rotherham #rotherhamunited
“It felt like a celebratory game anyway – with Barry Chuckle’s passing and the majority of the fans haven’t seen the team since Wembley, it was a sunny day, first home game back in the Champ, it sort of added to everything.
“The game definitely had drama.”
From Rotherham United, to you Barry.
From the notebook
– It was ironic that in an afternoon of not awarding seemingly obvious free-kicks to the Millers, the one time referee David Webb did blow his whistle it seemed soft. Even better that it led to the goal.
– What a performance from Semi Ajayi, who looked back to the player that led Warne to suggest he could be worth £10million.
– Kyle Vassell showed that he will be a threat in this division. With his pace, power and work-rate, the striker endeared himself to the fans with an impressive home debut.
– A little moment of achievement. The three points means Rotherham end a run of 38 consecutive Championship games bottom of the table.
– A moment of class from Paul Hurst after the game. Asked if he was sick of the sight of Rotherham he responded: “I’ll never be sick of the sight of Rotherham, my time spent here was a good one and I wish them well every time I’m not playing against them.”
– Looks like the Millers didn’t leave Wembley with just the Sky Bet League One play-off trophy. They also came home with the giant flag with the club’s badge on and unveiled it before kick-off.