Match-winner Joe Newell had to endure ‘sledging’ from a former teammate seconds before stepping up to seal Rotherham’s United’s South Yorkshire derby victory with the last kick of the game.
The winger despatched a 103rd-minute penalty at sold-out AESSEAL New York Stadium on Saturday as the League One Millers scored two stoppage-time goals to come from behind and beat neighbours Doncaster Rovers 2-1.
And he revealed that Rovers midfielder Tommy Rowe had done his best to put him off while he was waiting to take the decisive spot-kick in front of a packed home kop.
“I had made my mind up where it was going before my run-up,” Newell said. “But then I had Tommy Rowe, who I know from our Peterborough United days together, getting in my ear.
“He was saying, without the swearwords: ‘You’re going to miss, you’re going to miss. I know you’re going right.’ I had a look at the keeper to see if he was listening. I don’t know if he heard it, but he looked as if he had. I thought: ‘I’m definitely going left now.’”
Newell went left, sent Marko Marosi the wrong way and competed an amazing comeback after his team had trailed 1-0 going into time added on.
His kick wrapped up a seventh straight win for fourth-placed Rotherham, whose unbeaten run now stands at 14 matches, and the player was happy to assume responsibility even though he’d never taken a penalty in his career.
David Ball and Anthony Forde are the club’s designated takers, but both had been substituted earlier in the clash.
“I knew it would be down to me because Bally was off,” Newell grinned. “He would have missed anyway! I was happy he was off, to be fair, because days like this are special and live long in the memory.
“I might have a word with the gaffer now. I think I should be first on the list in the next game! I don’t do a lot of practising really. If the keeper had gone the right way, I think he might have saved it. I was focused to just keep it low and get it on target.”
Referee Geoff Eltringham pointed to the spot after Caolan Lavery had dispossessed Joe Wright and headed for goal. Marosi foiled Lavery but then upended Michael Smith as Smith came sprinting in to challenge for the loose ball.
“I think it was a penalty,” Newell said. Lavs had done really well to chase Doncaster down and we’re all getting used to Smudge running his socks off.”
Rovers boss Darren Ferguson had no argument. “It was a penalty,” he said. “It’s a mistake by my centre-half in the last ten seconds of the game.
“Marko has done really well initially to stand up as long as he could. But he doesn’t have to go for it. As soon as he does, everyone in the ground knows the boy is going to go down.
“But it is a penalty. I can’t have any complaints about the decision.”
Rotherham manager Paul Warne was full of admiration for Newell’s nerve, even though he was as surprised as anyone when the 24-year-old grabbed hold of the ball.
“It was news to me that he was going to take it,” the boss confessed. “It is Bally and Forde, although Will (midfielder Vaulks) wants it. Will worries me because he will either hit big or miss big.
“Newelly is a safe pair of hands. His heartbeat doesn’t go above 80 at any time, so he doesn’t get stressed like the rest of us.
“He has got bigger cojones than me. I would never have taken it.”