The effort to win, the inevitability of defeat, the pear drop and the impact of the new boy ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Swansea City 3

The effort to win, the inevitability of defeat, the pear drop and the impact of the new boy ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Swansea City 3

By Paul Davis | 31/01/2021

The effort to win, the inevitability of defeat, the pear drop and the impact of the new boy ... the story of Rotherham United 1 Swansea City 3
Michael Smith in action against Swansea. Pictures by Kerrie Beddows

 

PAUL Warne had something in his mouth and something on his mind.

Could Rotherham United really have done any more to try to beat a Swansea City side going for Championship promotion and arguably the best side seen at AESSEAL New York Stadium this season?

The manager was contemplating that thought as he came into the media room with a sweet rolling behind his teeth.

His team, third from bottom but on a run of of three matches without defeat coming into the contest, had given their all against the second-second placed visitors now unbeaten in their last nine games.

Sometimes, you just have to accept the situation for what it is.

"Unfortunately, we came up against a team who were better than us," Warne said.

"That happens quite a lot in this division.

"We can only be the best version of ourselves and I thought for large parts of the game we were."

The boss put his team of together on a relative pittance. Swansea had midfielder Conor Hourihane on loan from Premier League Aston Villa to run Saturday's game. They also had striker Andre Ayew, signed for £18 million in 2018 and on wages which exceed those of Rotherham's starting 11 combined.

The Millers gave it their best shot.

"There was no part of the game where we were just sitting behind the ball and not trying," Warne said. "That isn't the way we play. I threw the kitchen sink at them with 15 minutes to go.

"Swansea are an excellent team. I have full respect for them and the way they play.

"They have got good players and they have strengthened again in the transfer window. You can just see Hourihane's quality. He is like the best kid at school."

It was a game to compete in and move on from. Contests against the top-six sides won't decide Rotherham's fate this term. Derby County are up next at New York and that's one of the games that will.

THE MATCH

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Three moments of supreme execution. Three goals.

It's not easy to play against.

The Millers fell behind to Hourihane's sumptuous strike , the ball guided beautifully beyond Jamal Blackman in the 28th minute, and were further in arrears ten minutes later when Matt Grimes matched his teammate with a perfect 20-yard volley after Blackman had punched away a corner he might have been able to catch.

Rotherham had been in the game but suddenly seemed out of the reckoning and the manager, refusing to take defeat lying down, made attacking changes at the interval, bringing on loan wing-back Ryan Giles for his home debut and centre-forward Freddie Ladapo.

"We looked a bit jaded in the first half and didn't have enough injection of pace to win second balls for my liking," Warne said.

"We changed it second half. We put Freddie up front, man-marked them in the middle a little bit more and had a bit more impetus."

Ladapo missed a golden opportunity, snatching at his shot and screwing the ball off target when he had a clear sight of goal but made amends on 65 minutes, stretching at the back post to steer in a difficult header after Wes Harding's long throw had been inadvertently flicked on by the Swans' Jake Bidwell.

"Freddie took it really well," Warne said. "He thrives off goals. It was a great leap."

Freddie Ladapo scores

Meanwhile, it turned out that a pear drop, taken from his office at New York where he keeps a little stash, was the boss's choice of after-match confectionery.

Tasty as it might have been, it didn't have the tang of the Swans' match-clinching third goal. Steve Cooper's men broke from the middle of the park, Bidwell supplied the cross from the left and substitute Jay Fulton's first touch of the game was sugar-coated and lethal.

"They rode the storm really well when we got back in it at 2-1," Warne said.. "We didn't create enough clear-cut chances.

"We got caught by an amazing finish and that is disappointing because with 20 minutes left I thought we would get something."

Clark Robertson headed against the bar as the Millers tried to come again but, with the result no longer in doubt, attacking changes gave way to sensible ones, Michael Smith and Matt Crooks coming off to save their legs for the crucial Rams clash on Tuesday.

Skipper Richard Wood, on a yellow after pulling back the speedy Lowe, had already been replaced to avoid the risk of a sending-off.

Warne was left to reflect on the kind of quality only the richer clubs in the division possess.

"It wasn't like our goalkeeper made four great saves to keep us in it," he said. "They didn’t cut us open. We contained them really well, They were just really good finishes. 

"Both teams have tried to play the best they can. They have edged it on good finishing. They deserve their win."

THE NEW BOY

Pace and poise oozed from his strong, powerful frame.

New signing Giles is not the tallest but he is one the fastest and his introduction almost turned the game in Rotherham's favour.

The 21-year-old, freshly arrived from Wolverhampton Wanderers, had the legs to run past his man and the feet to keep the ball stuck to him and there was real danger in his crosses which came from the left flank with exciting regularity.

Loan signing Ryan Giles

He could become a key player in the Millers' survival fight.

"I have tried to sign him about three times," Warne said. "I joked when we signed him that we had already printed his name on a shirt a few times in the past!

"I like my wing-backs to take on the full-back and put crosses in. If they lose the ball I tell them not to worry about it and just try to win it back.

"He was blowing a bit. I don't think he is used to the workload you have playing wing-back for us!

"I thought he was positive. His set-pieces are a weapon but they can get better. He just gives us a bit of natural balance. I was really pleased with him."

Rotherham ended the match three points away from safety but with games in hand on all the teams around them.

Despite the loss, there was more evidence that they may have enough to stay up. This was just one of those matches, against one of those teams, where no amount of effort, heart or organisation would be enough.

"You go into these games as a massive underdog and you just hope their best players don't turn up," Warne said. " That's the honest truth.

"If Swansea play at their absolute best and we play at our absolute best, nine times out of ten they win."

The pear drop was still going strong by the time the boss finished speaking.

Sucking on his sweet. Sucking up a defeat that couldn't be avoided.

***************

THE GOALS
Hourihane 28, Grimes 38, Fulton 75 (Swansea); Ladapo 65 (Rotherham).

THE MILLERS

Formation: 3-5-1-1

Jamal Blackman: 6

A question mark about the second Swansea goal. Nothing he could do about the other two. One decent first-half save from Jamal Lowe

Michael Ihiekwe: 5

Poor by his standards. Wayward with his passing and didn't always convince in the air.

Richard Wood: 6

Up against good, quick opponents in Lowe and Andre Ayew. Did the basics okay but was troubled by the Swansea duos's pace and taken off early in the second half to avoid the risk of a second yellow card.

Angus MacDonald: 6

The pick of the three centre-halves. Generally sound.

Matt Olosunde: 5

A dip in form after a series of excellent games and was substituted at the break.

Jamie Lindsay: 7

You can always guarantee 100 per cent effort from this man. Never stopped putting himself about.

Shaun MacDonald: 5

Taken off at half-time to allow younger legs to get at Swansea more. A tough ask to start two games in four days after being out for three months.

Ben Wiles: 8

Forgive him the odd mistake. Always direct, always looking to make something happen, always helping out in defence, always prepared to go the extra yard. A strong, all-round display.

Wes Harding: 6

Back on his favoured right flank. The wing-back didn't get forward as much as Rotherham needed him to. Manager Paul Warne on the touchline was urging him to push on.

Matt Crooks: 6

A hugely-important player for the Millers. More often than not, when he does well, so do the team. He was a touch off it on this occasion but got through a lot of running.

Michael Smith: 7

Worked hard, kept hold of the ball well and showed his usual physicality and mobility. The Swans' three-man backline knew they'd been in a game.

The subs

Ryan Giles (for Matt Olosunde H-T): 8

Made a big difference when he came on and almost turned the game in the Millers' favour. Showed great pace on his home debut and delivered several really telling cross. There's quality in that left foot.

Freddie Ladapo (for Shaun MacDonald H-T): 7

Starved of game-time recently. Staked his claim for more minutes with a well-taken goal but fluffed an earlier chance when he should have scored.

Clark Robertson (for Richard Wood 58): 7

The best of all Rotherham's central defenders with the ball at his feet. Unlucky not to score with a header. Looking good now he's over his foot injury.

George Hirst (for Michael Smith 76): N/A

A couple of neat moments but he didn't impose himself. A goal would do him a world of good. Still waiting for his first in a Millers shirt.

Florian Jozefzoon (for Matt Crooks 80): N/A

The game was gone by the time he came on. Never really got going.

Not used: Viktor Johansson, Josh Vickers, Trevor Clarke.

THE REFEREE

Tony Harrington (Cleveland): 6

SWANSEA (3-5-2):

Freddie Woodman 6; Ben Cabango 6, Ryan Bennett 7, Marc Guehi 8; Connor Roberts 5, Yan Dhanda 5 (Jay Fulton 74), Matt Grimes 8, Conor Hourihane 9, Jake Bidwell 7; Jamal Lowe 7 (Jordan Morris 84), Andre Ayew 7. Not used: Ben Hamer, Ryan Manning, Joel Latibeaudiere, Oli Cooper, Dan Williams, Cameron Evans, Jordan Garrick.

OPPOSITION VIEW

"It's always good to score three goals away from home. All three were brilliant as well. They were class finishes from good moves. It is how we want to play the game.

"Rotherham made a lot of attacking changes and put even more balls into the box. We had to be strong and resolute. It was a very satisfying afternoon.

"We are disappointed with the goal we conceded. It was the only real chance Rotherham had in the game.

“When you concede, it can go either way. You can let it bother you or you can quickly dust yourself off. We dusted ourselves off. It was timely because I thought the game died off then and we saw it out comfortably."

- Swans boss Steve Cooper

THE STATS

Possession: Millers 48 per cent, Swans 52 pc

Goal attempts: Millers 13, Swans 7

On target: Millers 2, Swans 5

Corners: Millers 7, Swans 7

Fouls: Millers 9, Swans 10

FINAL WORD

No disgrace in losing to arguably the best side seen at New York this season.




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