'Mental' fans, Clark Robertson's strike, Millers coming good and Robbo's absent dad ... the story of Blackpool 1 Rotherham United 2

By Paul Davis | 12/10/2019

'Mental' fans, Clark Robertson's strike, Millers coming good and Robbo's absent dad ... the story of Blackpool 1 Rotherham United 2
Clark Robertson scores. Pictures by Trevor Price

THE promotion song was sung for the first time since the last promotion season.

For the second Saturday in succession, Rotherham United were beating a top-four team.

The communal voice of nearly 2,000 away followers filled Bloomfield Road as the Millers closed out victory at high-flying Blackpool.

"Ee eye, ee eye, ee eye oh,

"Up the Football League we go."

In 2017/18, the chant had ended in play-off-final glory at Wembley. Who knows where 2019/20 will take Paul Warne's men but they're suddenly making the rest of League One take note.

1,801 fans sent their rousing chorus loud and proud into the seaside air as goals from Michael Smith and Clark Robertson moved them to within two points of the top six with a game in hand.

It should have been 1,802.

Robertson's dad, Michael, travels from Aberdeen to every Millers game to watch his son home and away. Only Clark had been due to be in on the bench this weekend and was called into the side only minutes before kick-off to fill in at left-back when Joe Mattock hurt his quad in the warm-up.

Robertson senior wasn't there as Robertson junior settled the contest with a stunning strike.

"There might be one or two tears in Aberdeen tonight!" grinned Clark minutes after the final whistle. I've already had a message from him in the family group chat! I didn't think I was playing so I told him to stay at home.

"I think he's been watching the Sky Sports goals show so he's seen a video of my goal already. He would have loved to have been here. He'd been to every one of my Rotherham matches until this one."

The Millers were buckled by Blackpool pressure in the opening period but didn't break. It was a different story after the interval as they seized control and scored from two set-pieces to render a Seasiders penalty deep, deep into stoppage time meaningless.

Warne, returning to the scene of the 2-1 victory that had kick-started Rotherham's promotion surge two seasons ago and where he scored his first ever goal as a player, had the back-to-back league wins he had been craving as his team jumped three places to tenth.

"Blackpool were causing us all sorts of problems in the first half. They were by far the better team," the manager said. "After an hour, though, I thought we were quite comfortable. As the game went on, our goalkeeper did less and less."

"It is a good ground for me. I harp on all the time about scoring my first ever league goal here and everyone goes on about the game two years ago when I was 45 minutes from the sack supposedly, although the chairman never told me that.

"To win important matches is great. We will definitely play better than that this year. We weren't at our best. Away from home, you are not here to entertain the crowd but to get points and that's what we did. I am really proud of the lads."

It's a good ground for Warne, a good ground for Rotherham. 22 years have elapsed since they tasted defeat there

There were signs at the side of the road on the way into Broomfield Road declaring 'Blackpool, a great place to visit'.

No-one in red and white was disagreeing.

THE MATCH

Message to Millers fans ... You know that list of players who don't celebrate goals against their old clubs? Robertson isn't on it.

The away contingent exploded when the former Blackpool man's 87th-minute volley flew in and so did Robbo's head. Player and supporters knew at that moment that the game was won.

"As soon as it went in ... it was just the emotion of scoring a goal. You do get carried away," he said. "I had three great years here and played some of my best football here.

"I didn't have time to think about what I was doing. All our fans were going mental. I just thought I'd go and celebrate with them.

"I'd been kicking the ball around on the pitch as if I wasn't starting and then when I walked back down the tunnel the gaffer said: 'Joe's not fit. Get yourself ready.' I was thrown in.

"It's almost as if it was meant to be, me coming back here and scoring the winner. I'm delighted. I was pretty relaxed about playing here. I didn't have time to think about it! I just went out and tried to play myself into the game. I thought I did well."

Loan keeper Daniel Iversen - a Blackpool target in the summer - kept Rotherham in the contest in the first half, saving from Matty Virtue, Liam Feeney and Armand Gnanduillet.

Matty was also denied an opener by Virtue of the woodwork, while Rotherham's only effort of note was a looping 45th-minute header by Michael Ihiekwe from Dan Barlaser's free-kick that bounced off the top of the bar.

Six minutes after the restart, Rotherham were ahead as Robertson headed Barlaser's free-kick back across goal and Michael Smith directed the ball in from close range for his third goal in two games.

The Millers, aided by the searing pace of substitute winger Chiedozie Ogbene on his comeback from hamstring trouble, had looked the more dangerous side for a long spell by the time a half-cleared set-piece fell perfectly for Robertson to apply his superb finish.

Cue delirium.

"When we win promotion,

"This is what we sing."

Robertson's dad, meanwhile, was in Scotland but his mind was on the Lancashire coast.

"I still managed to get my Saturday fix of football by watching my other son, Ryan, playing for Keith in the Highland League," he told the Advertiser. "Needless to say, I was tuned into the Millers commentary and heard Clark score!"

This was nothing like the free-flowing victory eight days earlier, a 4-0 home demolition of Coventry City. Rotherham stood firm to prove they can beat strong sides in more ways than one and that, after an inconsistent start to the campaign, capability and character are clicking.

Gnanduillet grazed the bar again for Blackpool as the clock ran down and Iversen made the save of the match in the ninth minute of added time to thwart Feeney only for Ihiekwe to trip Curtis Tilt in the race for the loose ball and Gnanduillet to score from the spot. Too little, much too late.

Dan Barlaser

"I think Blackpool are really good," Warne said. "That's why they were fourth and we weren't. They have really strong centre-halves, the centre-forwards cause problems and the wingers are a real threat.

"Fundamentally, football is an invasion game and we had to get in their box. I didn't think we won headers at either end in the first half. Our second-half performance was a lot better. I thought my goalkeeper deserved a clean sheet and the penalty late on was unfortunate.

"I didn't think we were excellent. But at least we know we can compete with the teams higher than us and that gives us a boost."

ROBBO

Robertson was loving it at the end as the Millers players went over to the away throng packed down one side of the stadium.

He hugged Jake Hastie and waved to the fans, he hugged Ogbene and waved some more, then he turned away and walked straight into the arms of Warne for the biggest hug of all.

Stewards started giving him a wide berth as it became evident he was in the mood to share a hug with anyone.

"It's probably the best goal I've scored so far in my career," he said. "It sat up and I hit it sweetly. As soon as I did, I knew it was going in. It was a great feeling."

Warne added: "Robbo did really well. Everyone loves Joe Mattock at left-back and he has been a brilliant servant for the club.

"Joe would have been playing against Blackpool's best player in Feeney so for him to go down before the game was the worst possible news.

"Robbo came in and he kept Feeney really quiet."

This was a great day, a memorable day as supporters finished their ode to bright things ahead.

"We are Rotherham, we are Rotherham,

"Warney is our king."

No-one does a manic fist-pump better than the boss and three in quick succession brought the afternoon's final stirring cheer.

It was also an important day, maybe a telling day. Successful campaigns are built on results like this.

Amid the elation, the satisfaction, the sweat, the optimism, only one thing was missing.

Mr Robertson.

Blackpool (4-2-3-1): Jak Alnwick; Ollie Turton, Ben Heneghan, Curtis Tilt, James Husband (Calum MacDonald 85); Callum Guy, Jay Spearing (Nathan Delfouneso 63); Liam Feeney, Matt Virtue, Sean Scannell (Ryan Hardie 77); Armand Gnanduillet. Subs not used: Christoffer Mafoumbi, Ryan Edwards, Michael Nottingham, Evan Bange.

Rotherham (4-4-1-1): Daniel Iversen; Matt Olosunde (Billy Jones 83), Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Clark Robertson; Ben Wiles, Jamie Lindsay, Dan Barlaser, Jake Hastie (Chiedozie Ogbene 58); Matt Crooks (Trevor Clarke 63); Michael Smith. Subs not used: Lewis Price, Shaun MacDonald, Julien Lamy, Carlton Morris. 

Goals: Smith 51, Robertson 87 (Rotherham); Gnanduillet pen 90+9 (Blackpool).

Referee: Chris Pollard (Suffolk).

Attendance: 9,932 (1,801).


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