Doherty returns to secure Blues a point
Wycombe Wanderers 2, Rotherham United 2.
GARY Doherty marked his comeback from a long injury lay-off as he headed home a late equaliser against high flying Rotherham.
The former Ireland international was only on the field because of an injury to Dave Winfield, but he nipped ahead of his marker to bring Blues level after they had surrendered the lead.
Joel Grant had fired Wanderers into an early lead as they sought to complete the double over Steve Evans’ men, but the Millers stepped things up a notch after the break as Daniel Nardiello’s brace put them in front.
A point apiece was probably a fair result as Blues dictated without dominating the first half before Rotherham improved after the interval, until Doherty – making his first appearance since a back injury sustained in November – ensured a share of the spoils.
Wanderers have made a habit of scoring early on and Rotherham were the latest opponents to be caught cold at a freezing Adams Park as Blues went in front after six minutes. Matt McClure hustled defender Claude Davis into making a mistake and Dean Morgan nipped in to steal the ball before squaring for an unmarked Grant to roll in from five yards.
Blues were able to keep their promotion-chasing opponents at arm’s length and showed vast improvement from the sometimes weak defensive display they showed at Rochdale on Saturday.
They didn’t create a host of chances themselves, with Josh Scowen breaking from midfield and skating past a couple of challenges before his shot from the edge of the box was quickly stopped at source by skipper Johnny Mullins.
Less than 20 minutes were on the clock when top scorer McClure had to limp off injured with a foot problem, being replaced by Jo Kuffour, and while Wanderers were still readjusting the ball broke for David Noble, whose firmly-hit effort was clutched by Jordan Archer at the second time of asking.
It was a game of few clear cut chances and the visitors knew they had to make the most of what little they could carve out if they were to get back into the game and the automatic promotion hunt. Nardiello could only head off target after a fine right wing cross before Michael O’Connor completely miscued when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the box, blazing wildly high and wide.
Wanderers dictated the pattern of play but all they had to show for their efforts was a Winfield header from a corner that went wide without causing too much worry for the 178 visiting fans after he climbed above Davis to reach Scowen’s delivery.
The start of the second half was delayed as referee Steve Bratt was replaced by fourth official Jake Hillier.
But Rotherham didn’t have to wait long before they drew level. Just as in the first half fans were treated to an early goal, as Nardiello rose above Sam Wood to loop a header over Archer and into the net from a pinpoint left wing cross from Liam Ridehalgh.
Despite that, the game failed to spark into life until a controversial moment involving Morgan. Rotherham kicked the ball out of play so Charles Dunne could receive treatment and from the resulting throw it was launched all the way downfield.
Morgan, rather than returning the ball to Blues’ opponents, latched onto what had suddenly become a perfect through ball but he was foiled as Andy Warrington – the only Rotherham player in that half of the pitch – came out to make a brave save at his feet before telling the Wycombe striker exactly what he thought of his actions.
It may well have worked to Wanderers’ disadvantage, as they fell behind minutes after Morgan’s indiscretion. Blues switched off at a quickly taken free kick that led to Ben Pringle scampering free down the left before crossing low to the far post for Nardiello to poke home and complete the turnaround.
The Millers had stepped things up a gear since the break but they were lucky to escape as Kuffour escaped down the right before crossing for Morgan who, leaning backwards, blazed over from six yards.
Gareth Ainsworth brought himself off the bench in a bid to rally the troops and he appeared to have been dealt another slice of ill fortune as injury forced him to make his third and final change at the back, as Doherty made his first appearance since November as he replaced Winfield.
It turned out to be just what Wanderers needed to draw level. Dunne’s free kick whistled inches over the bar courtesy of a slight deflection, which brought about a corner that Doherty glanced into the net after getting in front of Warrington.
Rotherham almost snatched a late winner in four minutes of stoppage time when substitute Kayode Odejayi was left unmarked at the back post from a free kick, but his downward header was somehow kept out by Archer.
Wanderers: Archer, Harriman, Winfield (sub Doherty), Dunne, Wood, Andrade (sub Ainsworth), Lewis, Scowen, Grant, McClure (sub Kuffour), Morgan. Substitutes not used: Harrison, Oli, McCoy, Morias.