Christmas at home? No thanks ... the story of Rotherham United 0 Rochdale 1

Christmas at home? No thanks ... the story of Rotherham United 0 Rochdale 1

By Paul Davis | 08/12/2019

Christmas at home? No thanks ... the story of Rotherham United 0 Rochdale 1
A frustrating afternoon at New York. Pictured by Steve Mettam

SPARE a thought for Paul Warne.

He had to watch this match twice.

The manager was due to attend the Chairman's Christmas Ball at AESSEAL New York Stadium on Saturday night.

He used the time between the end of Rotherham United's worrying 1-0 home defeat against Rochdale and the arrival of guests to pore over the video capturing 94 minutes of Millers frustration.

This was a bad loss on a day Warne's men were expected to win. Dale had lost their previous five League One matches and arrived at New York on Saturday riven by injuries and with a bench of kids.

Rotherham started the contest in fourth spot but ended in eighth when they should, really, have climbed to third and be eyeing an assault on the top two.

The boss faced the inevitable question: 'Is the difference in your home and away results a cause for concern?’

He responded: "My managerial answer if I had media training would be: 'No, it's not issue. Points are points.'

"But it is an issue. We have eight-and-a-half-thousand Rotherham fans here. My wife and children come to the home games. If I could flip it and win every home match and never win away I would.

"It is a problem. It's like the elephant in the room. The more I mention it, the greater the problem becomes. As a group, we need to stand up.

Chiedozie Ogbene runs at the Rochdale defence

"Our performance today wasn't a bad performance but on the back of all the other games where we haven't been at our best, it's disappointing.

"I feel for the fans who watch us only at home because at times away from home we've been mesmerising. For whatever reason, if we don't score first at home it just increases the pressure."

The Millers look every inch a play-off side on their travels but like a midtable team at best on their own patch where they have won only three times.

Nineteen points have been claimed away, 11 at home. Had Rotherham managed the same return at New York as they have on the road they would be second.

THE GAME

The silence spoke louder than the words

There were several pauses from Warne when he was invited to give his thoughts on what he'd just seen.

He wasn't lost for something to say, merely mindful that he needed to say it carefully and limit the damage of a desperately-disappointing afternoon.

Rotherham had fallen behind to a stunning 42nd-minute strike and their pressure after the break had created openings but no genuine heart-in-the-mouth opportunities.

"I just felt that if we got one we might have got two or three," Warne said. "Maybe we've used up our rabbit's foot of luck in previous games.

"We never really had a chance in the second half where you thought: 'Oh my god, we've missed it.'

Centre-forward Michael Smith, brought on as a half-time substitute to increase the Millers' goal threat, spent too much time on the right wing hitting crosses to the exact spot in the penalty area where he ought to have been.

Forty-eight balls were played into the Dale box, Warne said he'd been informed, but at least 30 of them must have found the grateful hands of visiting goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.

Meanwhile, throw-ins, such a strength last term when Will Vaulks was hurling them miles, have become a liability.

Warne wasn't suffering alone. He kept his players behind for longer than usual after the match and then called them together again for a 7.30pm debrief before they joined him and the chairman in New York's plush function room.

"My job is to make people smile here and today there wasn't a lot of smiling going on," he said. "I don't want to have regrets at the end of the season. Every win is worth three points. It doesn't matter if it's against Ipswich Town, Rochdale or MK Dons."

Matt Crooks hit the post with an early header, Sanchez held Ben Wiles' follow-up shot and was relieved in the 38th minute when Carlton Morris' back-post header was all power and no precision.

Substitute Jake Hastie

Nineteen-year-old Aaron Morley had both 'p's four minutes later when Callum Camps' dummy set him up to sweep the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.

After the break, Crooks side-footed wide when he should have hit the target, Ogbene headed tamely at Sanchez, and Jake Hastie and Clark Robertson shot too close to the Dale keeper.

Ogbene went down and the spot-kick roars went up in the 70th minute only for nothing to be given.

"I thought Chieo might have had a penalty, which might have been a turning point," Warne said. "In fairness, I'm 80 yards away and I'm biased. It might not have been a penalty but at the time I thought it looked nailed on.

"I was expecting us to score in the second half. I took one of my midfielders off at half-time and went two up. I thought it might have a positive effect because of all the crosses we were putting in.

"I brought Jake on and he put some great balls in. On another day, one of those might have dropped to the right person in the right place. I put Vass (Kyle Vassell) in as another '10' and went three at the back. Sometimes your subs work, sometimes they don't.

"We were desperately trying to get a goal. We don't get one and it sort of adds pressure because we're expected to win.

"They scored a wonder-goal. Other than that, our keeper had only one save to make. We had quite a bit of play. I thought the fans stuck with the team really well. Rochdale had that little bit of magic that we failed to find."

NO SPARKLE

New York's reception area was a quiet place in between the crowd dispersing and the ball guests arriving.

A Christmas tree brightened up one corner, its red and green lights twinkling more than the Millers' performance. It needed more red up top, a grim metaphor for the game that had gone before.

"We asked the lads to be positive, to run forward and play forward, to get crosses into the box," Warne said. "Rochdale got a brilliant goal. Someone has switched off and lost their runner and their player has bent one in from 20 yards.

Matt Olosunde in possession

"We changed the system three times, made three attacking substitutions and went with three at the back. We just didn't have enough quality in the final third and the ball just didn't drop to us.‚Äč

"We have to learn from it. We're still a young team; as, in fairness, are Rochdale. We're trying to improve all the time. Every time you feel like you're getting somewhere you have a little setback. Today feels like a setback.

"My overall emotion is frustration because it was a good opportunity for us to stabilise ourselves in the top six."

With that, he was gone. Off to endure the video before putting on a brave face and tucking into turkey at a bash that will have lacked some of its customary festive spirit.

A long, tough day for the manager. A long, tough day for everyone.

Rotherham (4-4-1-1): Daniel Iversen; Matt Olosunde (Kyle Vassell 73), Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Chiedozie Ogbene, Ben Wiles, Jamie Lindsay (Michael Smith H-T), Carlton Morris (Jake Hastie 60); Matt Crooks; Freddie Ladapo. Subs not used: Lewis Price, Adam Thompson, Trevor Clarke, Dan Barlaser.

Rochdale (4-2-1-3): Robert Sanchez; Luke Matheson, Eoghan O'Connell, Rhy Norrington-Davies, Jimmy Keohane; Jimmy Ryan (Matthew Gillam 66), Aaron Morley; Callum Camps; Matt Done, Ian Henderson (Fabio Tavares 90+2), Rekeil Pyke (Kwadwo Baah 77). Subs not used: Jay Lynch, Lewis Bradley, Harrison Hopper, Ethan Brierly.

Goals: Morley 42 (Rochdale).

Referee: Chris Sarginson (Staffordshire).

Attendance: 8,313 (262).




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