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Millers enjoying Hillsborough run

Rotherham head to a happy hunting ground in Hillsborough at the weekend, looking for a fifth successive win at Sheffield Wednesday’s home.

It’s an unlikely record given the two clubs’ historical standings and the Owls’ relative dominance in meetings between the two over the years.

But it is one the Millers can enjoy, with all four of those successes tasting very sweet.

Here’s a look back at them, with a special contribution for the 1981/82 meeting from former Sheffield Star journalist Les Payne.

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Rotherham 2 (AET Rotherham win 5-3 on penalties) - Carling Cup (16/8/2007)

Two divisions were separating the sides when the Millers travelled across the border for a second successive League Cup meeting with the Owls.

The Millers were a club in disarray, playing a first season at Don Valley and beginning their League Two campaign on minus 17 points, and a long evening looked on the cards when Etienne Esajas put Wednesday head in the 14th minute with an impressive individual goal.

But Mark Robins’ side needed only nine seconds to equalise when Alex Rhodes latched onto Pablo Mills’ long ball, direct from the restart.

It stayed like that until well into extra-time before the game swung dramatically in Wednesday’s favour when Marc Joseph was sent off for hauling down Leon Clarke, with Esajas curling his second of the game in from the resulting free-kick in the 116th minute.

The Millers’ response was not quite as swift this time, but they still only needed three of the remaining four minutes to level as Reuben Reid slammed home a loose ball in front of the Leppings Lane end to force penalties.

And Esajas turned from hero to villain as he missed Wednesday’s fourth spot-kick, hitting the post, and it was left to Reid to dispatch the winning penalty and send the Millers through to the second round where they beat Wolves, before eventually losing in the quarter-finals at Stoke.

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Rotherham 2 - Division One (24/08/2002)

Just six months after their last visit, Ronnie Moore’s men were back at Hillsborough early on in the 2002/03 season and full of confidence having beaten Millwall 6-0 in their opening away game of the campaign.

That confidence looked to be misplaced, though, after a particularly strong Owls start, with the hosts surging into an eighth-minute lead through Craig Armstrong.

But any fleeting hopes the home fans had for revenge were soon snuffed out as the Millers responded superbly and levelled in the 29th minute through Alan Lee’s penalty.

Despite a host of missed Rotherham chances after the break, it looked to be heading for a draw as the clock ticked down, before Hillsborough broke its own record set in the 2001/02 game for the quickest emptying of all time as lightning struck twice.

A hopeful ball up front fell at the feet of Darren Garner, and back in the side after a horrific injury, the midfielder made up for 18 months of hell by sending an unthinkable 30-yard shot curling into the top corner to steal the win for the Millers.

That set the tone for a fine campaign for Moore’s men, who comfortably finished in mid-table while the Owls suffered relegation.

Ronnie didn't need much encouragement to let everyone know the score
Sheffield Wednesday 1 Rotherham 2 - Division One (23/02/2002)

The Millers were holding their own in their first season in the second tier for two decades when the highly-anticipated trip to Hillsborough came along, with Moore’s men sitting above their hosts in the table on goal difference.

After an even first half, the game burst into life shortly after the break when Alan Lee added to his cult status by heading the Millers in front following good work by Chris Sedgwick.

The Owls did well to weather a storm, which could have seen Mark Robins twice extend the visitors’ lead, and they restored parity in the 70th minute when Shefki Kuqi headed home from a corner.

And it stayed that way heading into injury time as it looked like nothing would be able to separate the two.

But the Millers would have the final say and Richie Barker, who began his career at Hillsborough, went into club folklore when he headed home a free-kick in the 90th minute past a sprawling Kevin Pressman to earn a famous win.

After the game a search party was sent out for the ‘Rotherham Owls’ banner which was lauded in front of Leppings Lane, but mysteriously disappeared when Barker’s header dropped in.

Both teams avoided relegation that season, with the Millers relying on goal difference to stay up.

Sheffield Wednesday 0 Rotherham 1 - Division Two (28/2/1982) 
By Les Payne

It was a famous goal which sparked a little ditty from the Rotherham United fans.

Should anyone need reminding it went: "Who put the ball in the Wednesday net?"... All Millers fans of the time know the answer! Yes, Joe McBride.

Any Millers winner at Hillsborough (and there's been quite a few) has a special place in the heart of any fan and this one did as much for the peculiar manner of it.

Wednesday fans always claim this one, just a couple of days after Christmas 1982, was a fluke and all down to a divot which diverted the ball into the path of McBride.

A divot? Well, it seemed the logical reason why the ball evaded the grasp of Owls keeper Bob Bolder to give McBride the easiest of goals. But there was no divot involved at all. Just an awkward second bounce. Let's see if I can explain.

Millers midfielder Gerry Gow curled a looping ball towards the Wednesday area and, from a section of the press box in that half of the field, I had a good view of what happened next.

The pass was a shade long and keeper Bolder came off his line as McBride closed in.
It was a routine pick up really but Bolder had to go almost to the edge of his area to get there before McBride. 

The keeper stooped and his intention, clearly, was scooping the ball up still on the move whilst at the same time avoiding the incoming Millers left winger.

Now, as many cricketers will tell you, when you are in the outfield, perhaps coming in off the boundary to field a ball, it is very often the second bounce that can deceive you. The ball spins away in a manner it may not have done first bounce.

Joe McBride added himself to the list of Millers heroes - but it wasn't a divot
Well, Gow's pass had already landed once and as it dropped on the second bounce Bolder went to scoop it up as it hit the turf, ie sort of on the half-volley.

However, as Bolder looked to take the ball and move away from the advancing (and very close) McBride all in the one movement, the ball just spun to Bolder's right as he looked to pick up two-handed whilst moving slightly to his left.

We are only talking a matter of inches here but it was enough. Bolder's forward momentum meant he was momentarily stranded as the ball spun wide of his grasping fingers and nicely into the path of a surprised McBride.

All he had in front of him was a completely empty net and, behind it, the agonised and shocked faces of thousands of Wednesday fans on the Kop.

Few could work out how the ball had ended up at his feet when it seemed a straightforward goalkeeper collection.

"It must have hit a divot," was the guesstimate of Wednesday fans - and that became the standard explanation. Understandable perhaps. But there was no divot!

Bolder was just a touch unfortunate with the spin as he attempted to pick up and avoid McBride whilst going one way and the ball spun inside him - and we're not talking Shane Warne here, it was just a slight deviation with the ball brushing his fingers.

But Millers fans didn't mind. After four successive defeats at Hillsborough, it brought a 1-0 win for a side struggling at the time and destined to be relegated from what's now the Championship. Wednesday were doing reasonably well in the top half and were to finish sixth.

McBride scored 11 goals that 1982/83 season to be joint top scorer (with John Seasman) but none are as well remembered as that one - or, probably, as misunderstood.

So, altogether now... "Who put the ball in the Wednesday net? Joey, Joey.
"Who put the ball in the Wednesday net? Joey, Joe McBride". 

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