Frustration, fretting fans and 4-3-3... the story of Rotherham United 0 Lincoln City 2

Frustration, fretting fans and 4-3-3... the story of Rotherham United 0 Lincoln City 2

By Paul Davis | 11/08/2019

Frustration, fretting fans and 4-3-3... the story of Rotherham United 0 Lincoln City 2
Michael Smith in action against Lincoln. Pictures by Kerrie Beddows

PAUL Warne wasn't hiding from the truth.

This hadn't been the experience most Millers were expecting in the first home League One encounter of the 2019/20 campaign.

In the second half, when a fightback was required, Rotherham United were found wanting.

Warne emerged, finally, from the dressing room after an inquest into a shock 2-0 defeat.

"I just spoke to the players like men and said 'You know, that isn't enough to win a football game'," the manager said.

"I wasn't ranting and raving. That's pointless. I asked them to have a look and tell me what they think. I told them what I thought about certain things."

The wind was up at AESSEAL New York Stadium and it affected an encounter that lacked flow and quality.

In the first half, at times, the Millers were gusting at force 10, dominating newly-promoted Lincoln City and creating enough chances to end the contest before the break.

But their response to finding themselves 2-0 down against the run of play in the 48th minute wasn't the stuff of a team expected to challenge at the top end of the table.

Afterwards, there were storm warnings all over social media. Is 4-3-3 the way forward? What's plan B? Why isn't Michael Smith down the middle? Some opinions were considered, others touched by hysteria.

Warne's view was merely honest.

"The second-half display wasn't great," he said. "We didn't make their keeper work hard enough. I wasn't over the moon with the performance. We didn't do enough to warrant a draw."


The clash turned on two headers.

With the second period seconds old, Shaun MacDonald's bullet header was held on the line by Imps goalkeeper Josh Vickers and a golden chance of a Rotherham equaliser had gone begging.

Two minutes later, no-one was marking Harry Anderson at a corner at the other end and the Lincoln man's forehead did the rest.

"It's a different game if Shaun's header goes in," Warne reflected.

Kyle Vassell

The Millers started well and only 36 seconds had passed when Kyle Vassell shot wide. Lincoln weren't in the game as the first-half attempts of Matt Crooks, two, Ladapo, two, and Matt Olosunde racked up.

Vassell had to score with a header in front of an open net but completely mistimed his connection and Smith twice had sights of goal - one gaping after being played in by Ladapo, the other less so - and wasted them by taking too long to get his shots away.

Three minutes before the break, sucker-punch: Lincoln scored with their first real foray into Rotherham's penalty area as they broke down the right from a quickly-taken free-kick and MacDonald turned Tyler Walker's low, hard cross past his own goalkeeper.

Three minutes after the break, 2-0 Lincoln. Crooks lost Anderson at a set-piece and from there the home side lost their direction.

The wind was flexing more muscle than the Millers, litter scurrying around the New York surface with a burst of pace here, an element of surprise there.

Contrast that to Rotherham who, until a late flurry, were disjointed and one-dimensional as time and again they launched hopeful long balls forward in the direction of their three-man frontline.

"The lads are so keen to do well for this club that I think they got a little bit overawed with emotion and it affected the way they played," Warne said.

"Lincoln, and I don't blame them for doing this, slowed the game down to its death and it frustrated our players.‚Äč When we got on the ball we weren't as cool on it as I would have liked.

"The player whose man it was for the second goal, he reckons he got blocked. The first goal was a block as well. I'm not saying it was a foul, it was a good block.

"I could see it. I was screaming at the time because Dan (Barlaser) was on the edge of the box. Crooksy was off the pitch at the time. (Michael) Bostwick moved Dan out of the way and they ran into that channel. It was a good ball in.

"Unfortunately, Shaun has gone with his wrong foot and it's gone in our goal. Up to then, I thought we'd looked pretty promising. I don't think we played as well in the second half as we did in the first."

Matt Olosunde

In a burst that took too long to arrive, substitute Carlton Morris fired a free-kick over, Clark Robertson's goalbound header was deflected for a corner and Ladapo's 89th-minute headed effort brought a stunning diving save from Vickers.

It was too little too late and three sides of the stadium were half-empty by the final whistle.


No-one was questioning the new-look formation when Rotherham were destroying AFC Wimbledon in the first half and winning in London on opening day.

Against the Imps, there was encouragement before the break and cause for concern after it. It's too soon to judge.

Warne, in the market for a couple of wide men before the transfer window closes next month, will change things if he feels he has to.

"I've got no wingers so my systems are limited, quite obviously," said the boss when the subject of 4-3-3 was raised.

"I understand the expectations on us. But we have players who have played together for only three or four games. Whatever system we play, it's going to take a little bit of time to gel.

"Matt Olosunde had played only one league game before this match. It's not as if we've got the experienced team of last year.

"If we have to look at other systems then we will. At the moment, I think this is the best way to get our best players on the pitch.

"If we had taken the lead today and gone on to win - no disrespect to you - then you wouldn't have asked that question. We didn't score. We didn't do enough on the ball in the second half and that is disappointing."

At the end, the Millers players were soon down the tunnel, leaving Lincoln to celebrate in front of their 2,000-plus fans.

The Imps shared the pitch with the matchday detritus of empty crisp packets and discarded food wrappers still making their weather-fuelled darts around the turf.

Substitute Jamie Proctor

Inside the stadium, a discussion was taking place, with home manager and squad a long time in leaving the changing room.

"It's not about systems whether you win a header in your box or their box," Warne said. "That's got nothing to do with tactics. That's just an endeavour thing. If you don't run past someone, if you don't win the second balls, that's not a tactics things.

"It's a good opportunity after a game to chat. I wasn't emotional, although the gorilla in my head was going crazy.

"We are going to have games at home where teams come to frustrate us. If the opposition get a goal, you have to have the character and the leaders to still get on the ball, move the ball, get it wide and get crosses in. Today we didn't do that. The effort was there but the confidence wasn't, possibly."

No doubt this was a poor start to the home campaign, giving Lincoln a first away win over Rotherham since 1957 and stopping the rot of ten successive defeats at the hands of the Millers dating back to 1999.

4-3-3 ... will Warne's men still be lining up that way when they head to Sincil Bank for the return fixture in February?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

Goals: MacDonald og 42, Anderson 48 (Lincoln).

Rotherham (4-3-3): Daniel Iversen; Matt Olosunde, Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Shaun MacDonald, Dan Barlaser (Ben Wiles 57), Matt Crooks; Michael Smith (Carlton Morris 57), Freddie Ladapo, Kyle Vassell (Jamie Proctor 65). Subs not used: Lewis Price, Jake Cooper, Richard Wood, Jamie Lindsay.

Lincoln (4-2-3-1): Josh Vickers; Neal Eardley, Cian Bolger, Michael Bostwick, Harry Toffolo; Michael O'Connor (Ellis Chapman 90), Joe Morrell; Harry Anderson, Jack Payne, Jorge Grant (Bruno Andrade 71); Tyler Walker (John Akinde 77). Subs not used: Grant Smith, Jordan Adebayo-Smith, Alex Bradley, Aaron Lewis.

Referee: Lee Swabey (Devon).

Attendance: 10,706 (2,320).

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