Rotherham United: Winning Warnock's Ward ruse
Quick-thinking Neil Warnock kept Ipswich Town guessing as Rotherham pulled off yet another Championship upset against a promotion-chasing team.
Key striker Danny Ward was due to play at Portman Road until he suffered a back spasm two hours before kick-off.
But manager Warnock named him among the substitutes anyway, knowing the Tractor Boys would then be planning for the introduction of the in-form centre-forward at some stage during the match.
“We had to put him on the teamsheet so Ipswich didn’t think anything was wrong,” Warnock said. “I thought: ‘We can’t put another goalie on the bench!’”
Ward’s replacement, Leon Best, scored the only goal of the match in the 44th minute to make it four wins and a draw in five games for Rotherham, with their last four fixtures all being against sides harbouring hopes of playing in the Premier League next season.
Ward had been the man of the match in the 3-3 draw against Derby County last week and had been earmarked as a big threat by the Tractor Boys.
Best, despite still being short of fitness after groin surgery, lasted until the 84th minute, when he was replaced by Jonson Clarke-Harris, having taken his goal tally to three in two matches.
“You’re a little bit disappointed when you lose someone like Danny, but the lads all chipped in,” Warnock said. “I thought we were superb - the way we defended, the way we challenged all game.
“We’ve got young Grant Ward tackling back on his own goalline, headers coming in, tackles coming in. I thought Campy’s (goalkeeper Lee Camp) handling was very good. He really didn’t have a save to make, but his handling was really confident.”
Victory saw the Millers climb out of the bottom three for the first time since Warnock took charge eight matches ago and they are now up to 20th place, two points clear of danger, after overtaking MK Dons and Fulham.
They have eight matches left when they return from the two-week international break next month and their number of wins this season, 11, already matches that of last year’s successful survival campaign.
Kirk Broadfoot produced another commanding display at the heart of the Rotherham defence where he was partnered by Lloyd Doyley, who also excelled on only his second Millers start.
“It was a difficult game. Coming here, it always is,” skipper Broadfoot said. “Mick McCarthy’s teams are hard to beat. I thought we had a good structure.
“I knew that they would put us under a lot of pressure, it’s the way they play. But I thought we looked dangerous as well. We contained them most of the game. apart from some corners and long throws. Generally, I thought we did well.
“Ipswich had a lot of possession. Most teams at home do in the Championship. They’re a top side fighting for the play-offs, so to come here and get a clean sheet ... we’ll take that every day of the week.”
Best’s strike came from the best move of the game just before the break and gave Rotherham something to hold on to as Ipswich, buoyed by the introduction of winger Liam Feeny, attacked in the second half.
Warnock said: “It was a cracking goal, wasn’t it. “The ball down the line, the ball in, we just broke so well.
“Feeney had an impact when he came on, but I thought in the end Joe Mattock did really well. We said to Joe: ‘You take care of him and we’ll play 10 against 10.’
“If anything, I was just a bit disappointed in the two or three times in the second half when we had great runs on the break and we just picked the wrong ball. I thought there were other goals to be had, but I can’t get too greedy.”