Sports

Rotherham lift Papa John’s Trophy after fightback sinks Sutton in extra time | Papa John’s Trophy

An hour or after a topsy-turvy final that culminated in a punishing period of extra time, the adjectives kept on coming. Exhausting, exhilarating, terrifying, disgusting, and then consider that those were the words of the winning Rotherham manager, Paul Warne.

“One of the lads, I saw him put 12 tickets into an envelope at breakfast this morning and I was thinking: ‘I’m going to have to tell him he’s not even in the squad.’ Then I didn’t feel I could eat. I’m absolutely drained.” Then the footage of him moonwalking in the dressing room made him cringe on the television screens.

This is not the competition that will define whether Rotherham deem this a successful season but after Jordi Osei-Tutu’s 96th-minute equaliser averted a shock defeat and ensured a dramatic game went beyond normal time, they put their foot down to secure what they hope will not be the only silverware of the campaign. A stunning strike by Chiedozie Ogbene, who recently scored for Republic of Ireland against Belgium, registered Rotherham’s third goal of the afternoon to set them on their way to lifting the EFL Trophy before Michael Ihiekwe sealed the comeback.

At full time, the Rotherham captain, Richard Wood, embarked on a familiar route, making his way to the middle tier to hold the trophy aloft after a warm embrace with his chairman, Tony Stewart. Wood scored twice on Rotherham’s last visit here to seal promotion to the Championship, a destination they hope to return to in August. For Sutton however, who twice took the lead, first through Donovan Wilson and then the former Arsenal trainee Craig Eastmond, it was a galling defeat. “I am gutted because we were a whisker away from walking up those steps as victors,” said the Sutton manager Matt Gray. “Even before the game, I knew that extra time would be tough for us.”

With their promotion quest put on the back burner for the weekend, Rotherham arrived as clear favourites but the League One leaders were faced with a team with seemingly no care for expectations. At the start of the season the Sutton chairman of 26 years, Bruce Elliott, present for the club’s last trip to Wembley when they lost to Bishop’s Stortford in the 1981 FA Trophy final, set out a 50-point target, which they surpassed with three months to spare.

The precursor to kick-off was surreal as Paul Chuckle and Tim Vine, celebrity fans of Rotherham and Sutton respectively, whizzed round the pitch on Papa Johns-branded mopeds before delivering the match ball on to a plinth. The match itself was equally entertaining. Sutton had the first real sight of goal, Will Randall dragging wide after a surging run by David Ajiboye. Warne acknowledged his team were rusty until Ben Wiles equalised with a spectacular effort from distance but they trailed again three minutes after the interval when Eastmond scooped in from close range.

Sutton’s Isaac Olaofe reacts after Jordi Osei-Tutu’s late leveller for Rotherham. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA

The Sutton substitute Isaac Olaofe rattled the side netting in search of a killer third goal and Dean Bouzanis was kept busy in the Sutton goal. Warne went for broke: “In the end it was like Texas Hold’em, all our chips were in. Let’s just go for it.”

Both teams had won one of their five previous matches but Warne conceded picking holes while they remain a point clear of third-placed MK Dons with seven league games to play was akin to “millionaire problems”. Warne said: “I said to them this morning. In 10 years’ time, if you put a Batman signal up in the sky, I’ll drive to wherever you are, if you need any help. The sad thing is I know they’re like marbles. Come the summer, you drop them and they all just go in different directions.”

The substitute Freddie Ladapo shot straight at Bouzanis after latching on to a defence-splitting pass and Smith fired over but six minutes into seven minutes of stoppage time another substitute, Osei-Tutu, thrashed in to take the game to extra time. From there, Rotherham ratcheted through the gears.

Ogbene dispatched a thunderous strike into the top corner before Ihiekwe headed in to clinch victory. “I didn’t know there was extra time,” Warne said. “I thought it was going straight to pens, embarrassingly. I started saying to Matt: ‘Have you got any decent penalty-takers?’”

Related Articles

Back to top button