Rotherham United were promoted back to the Championship at the first time of asking following a hard-fought win over Shrewsbury Town at Wembley. Two goals from defender Richard Wood, either side of Alex Rodman’s equaliser, sealed a direct return to the second tier and consigned the Shrews to another season in League One.
Rotherham United Promoted After Wembley Success Over Shrewsbury
The Millers started the fastest in the game, forcing Shrewsbury into a number of nervy fouls. They had a penalty appeal against Toto Nsiala turned down when the ball struck his hand after just seven minutes, but from the resulting corner, the referee did point to the spot. Omar Beckles hauled down Richard Wood and David Ball stepped up to take the penalty. However, Ball was thwarted by 21-year-old Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson, who guessed right to palm away his effort.
Shrewsbury, Wembley losers just 49 days ago in the Checkatrade Trophy final, came into the game as the half wore on. Alex Rodman had a shot blocked before Carlton Morris headed narrowly wide from Rodman’s cross.
The opening goal went to Rotherham though. They changed their shape for this corner, with their attacking players starting from outside the box and running in. It paid dividends, as Richard Wood met Joe Newell’s cross to power a header high into the Shrewsbury goal.
The Millers held out until half-time, but it took just 13 minutes of the second-half for the Shrews to draw level. Alex Rodman finished off a beautiful free-kick routine, poking beyond Marek Rodak. Shaun Whalley had played the set-piece short to Mat Sadler, whose first-time pass found Rodman, who kept his cool to send the Shrewsbury fans into delirium.
The best chance following the equaliser fell to Rotherham’s Caolan Lavery. The substitute timed his run perfectly and bore down on Henderson’s goal but skewed his shot wide of the post.
The last chance of the game came deep into injury time. Rotherham substitute Ryan Williams tore down the right wing and flashed a shot across goal, but Henderson stuck out a hand to miraculously tip the ball around the post, sending the game to extra time.
Little happened in the opening exchanges of the extra period. However, Rotherham regained their lead with two minutes of the first period of extra-time left. Richard Wood crept around the back from another Newell delivery and slid the ball beyond Henderson. That was Wood’s third goal in the play-off campaign.
Shrewsbury applied the pressure late on. Stefan Payne won a number of free-kicks, giving them the opportunity to pump the ball into the box. Marek Rodak, though, was equal to the deliveries.
Quality vs Desire
On paper, Rotherham had the far better team going into the match. They have players with an extraordinary amount of League One experience and a number who have had spells in the Championship. What they were up against was a team who many expected to be relegated at the start of the season. However, once they surprised many (and probably themselves) with their start to the season, it’s their desire to win that got them to Wembley today.
Both of those elements were on show today. Although Rotherham had less possession, they made far more use of their time with the ball. They recorded 18 shots on goal in normal time, compared to Shrewsbury’s six. The Millers also had 11 corners, while Shrewsbury only had two. There was far more attacking intent from Rotherham, while Shrewsbury were happy to sit back, soak up the pressure and hit on the counter-attack.
This worked in their favour for a lot of the game. Rotherham rarely got in behind their backline, only doing so firstly after a change of tactics. They had had a succession of corners prior to their opening goal where Richard Wood and Omar Beccles had tussled. The first of which resulted in a penalty for the Millers, but David Ball’s poorly-placed effort was at a comfortable height for Dean Henderson to palm away.
In response to this, Rotherham instead had their players attacking the corner start from outside the penalty area, looking to run onto the ball. Shrewsbury had no response to this, and Wood got his head to Newell’s delivery to send Rotherham in front.
The Underdogs Were Limited
Shrewsbury were always going to be limited in their chances because of the way they played. This meant they had to take every opportunity they were given, and they certainly did this. They equalised 13 minutes into the second half courtesy of a stunning free-kick routine. Shaun Whalley’s pass to Mat Sadler was turned towards Alex Rodman. After taking it under control, he poked the ball over the advancing Marek Rodak.
Extra-time was called upon and Shrewsbury’s game plan didn’t change. They continued to sit back and soak up the pressure. However, their resistance was broken with two minutes of the first extra period left. A lapse in concentration from Lenell John-Lewis allowed Wood to slip around the back unmarked and divert a free-kick into the bottom corner.
Despite the incredible efforts of Shrewsbury throughout the season, they stumbled at the final hurdle. Rotherham’s quality shone through on the day but expect the Shrews to challenge for a similar position again next season.