THEY lost for the fourth match in succession, missed a sitter, turned in their worst performance of 2021 and went down to an offside goal.
There have been better nights for Rotherham United at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
It was wet, it was windswept and there was woe against Nottingham Forest as the Millers’ punishing schedule caught up with them and deepened their relegation concern.
After 754 miles in less than a week, Paul Warne’s tired troops didn’t have the energy to go the extra one against committed, organised visitors who have lost only twice in their last 14 Championship outings.
“It was disappointing,” the manager said. “The best team won. I didn’t think we were at our best.
“After a couple of away games and with three games in six days, we just looked jaded. With hindsight, it is my fault and no-one else’s. I should have changed my team more.”
Long trips to Bournemouth and Norwich City — and exhausting efforts in both matches against top sides — had been the worst kind of preparation for Forest. The players’ hearts were at New York but their legs were still in Hampshire and Norfolk.
“I can’t be critical of the lads,” Warne said. “They’re absolutely dead on their feet. I felt it at half-time.
“There have been times earlier in the season when I’ve come in at the break and gone all Alex Ferguson on them but tonight I could see how jaded they are.
“I was considering making a change at half-time but I thought they might just play their way back into it. It always felt like it was going to be a 1-0 game.”
Defeat meant four losses on the trot for the first time in the campaign and this was the most frustrating of them all.
In a game where Rotherham just needed something, they came away with nothing.
2-1, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0.
The Millers haven’t been losing by much and, until Tuesday, had been playing well.
Michael Smith and Cyrus Christie traded off-target shots in a first half high on endeavour and low on quality until Viktor Johansson’s flying 44th-minute save to keep out Anthony Knockaert’s free-kick.
The Viking followed that up with an even better stop after the interval, twisting in mid-air and throwing out an arm to somehow divert Glenn Murray’s header over the bar, before foiling the dangerous Knockaert again.
An offside decision ruled out Murray’s attempt but the keeper wasn’t to know that as he leapt into action.
Viktor Johansson's wonder-save from Glenn Murray
A contest that could have swung for either side went the way of Forest midway through the second period. Rotherham heads were lowered and this time no flag was raised as Ben Wiles’ skewed clearance was helped on by Tobias Fugueiredo and Ryan Yates finished from close in.
“I was 70 metres away so I don’t know if it was offside or not,” Warne said. “I was hoping for a linesman’s flag. I have not seen it back and have had people telling me it’s off.”
Replays confirmed the goal shouldn’t have stood.
Conditions made life tough for both teams. The swirls and gusts had been affecting proceedings since kick-off and in the second half the heavens opened on a pitch that has already soaked up more than its share of rainfall this season.
“Our styles of play weren’t much different,” Warne said. “In the wind, both teams were throwing it down the line trying to get to the box then throwing it into the box.
“They played us really well. They competed with us really well. In attack, we weren’t winning enough first contacts and their set-pieces were more deadly than ours.”
Within minutes, substitute Freddie Ladapo was only inches away from connecting with Wiles’ cross as Rotherham tried to hit back.
Sadly, crucially, painfully, there was a similar lack of connection when the Millers’ big chance came on 75 minutes. All the striker had to do was put boot to ball in front of a gaping net but his foot never completed its journey.
Lyle Taylor was wide of the target on a late Forest breakaway and Rotherham’s misery was compounded when Smith headed against the bar in stoppage time when he should have scored.
Freddie Ladapo's golden opportunity
“On another day, one of those might go in for you,” Warne said. “It would have been handy if we’d had our home crowd. It might have helped us a little bit. When you are not playing well, that is when you need your crowd more than ever.”
The boss was still reflecting on what he hadn’t done and should have done.
“It’s really difficult, Mate,” he said. “I’d love to sit here and say I’ve got all the answers but I haven’t. There are times you think: ‘This team is going really well. Could they go for another game?’
“But if I had my time again now I would have made more changes.”
THE LINDSAY FACTOR
It was the man who didn’t play who had as much effect on the outcome as anyone.
The Millers are missing Jamie Lindsay.
Their midfielder is out injured and their four-match losing run has coincided with his absence.
Wiles could maybe do with a rest but is needed more than ever now that his teammate’s running power and combative streak have been contained by a hamstring pull.
“We don’t have loads of options in the middle of our pitch where most of our energy is,” Warne said. “We looked a little bit off it.
“The lads still gave everything. There is no criticism there. But I just don’t think we did enough to win a game.
“There were a couple of chances. You can play poorly and pick up a point.
“The way the other results went for us, if we’d have got a point it would have been a great one.”
On a dour, desperate night, the problems mounted.
Rotherham remained in the bottom three, were without skipper Richard Wood — the latest in a long line of injury victims — and the player who wore the armband in his place, Michael Ihiekwe, managed to get himself booked and banned for the next two games.
It didn’t just rain at New York, it poured.
Goal: Yates 68 (Forest).
Viktor Johansson: 8
Pulls off saves he has no right to make — one in this match was unbelievable. The only gripe is that he needs to work on his handling. Dropped balls now and again.
Michael Ihiekwe: 6
Needlessly picked up his tenth booking and now misses the next two games through suspension.
Angus MacDonald: 6
Missed a couple of tackles he should have won. Okay otherwise. Didn’t look the player he was earlier in the season.
Clark Robertson: 6
The pick of the back three. Did his job on a difficult evening.
Matt Olosunde: 5
Not enough danger from him going forward. Stuck to his task defensively.
Dan Barlaser: 5
One of his poorest displays in a Millers shirt. Didn’t influence the match and even his set-pieces were sub-standard for once.
Lewis Wing: 6
Tried to make things happen but his quietest game since his January arrival.
Ben Wiles: 5
Out of sorts. Excellent running power but made some bad decisions on the ball, not least when he got caught on the edge of his own area. Maybe needs a break but can’t get one because of Jamie Lindsay’s injury.
Wes Harding: 7
More like it from the wing-back. A physical, bustling display. The pick of the outfield players.
Matt Crooks: 5
A couple of good passes but didn’t show his January form on this occasion.
Michael Smith: 6
Worked hard right cross the frontline. He will be angry with himself for not putting away that chance in stoppage time.
Freddie Ladapo (for Olosunde 66): 5
Had to score and didn’t.
Ryan Giles (for Barlaser 80): NA
No time to really make an impact.
Kieran Sadlier (for Wiles 80): NA
Not used: Jamal Blackman, Trevor Clarke, Shaun MacDonald, Florian Jozefzoon, George Hirst.
Forest (4-2-3-1): Brice Samba 6; Cyrus Christie 7, Tobias Figueiredo 7, Joe Worrall 7, Gaetan Bong 6; Ryan Yates 8, Cafu 6; Anthony Knockaert 7 (James Garner 87), Filip Krovinovic 7 (Tyler Blackett 87), Luke Freeman 6 (Joe Lolley 66, 6); Glenn Murray 5 (Lyle Taylor 75). Subs not used: Jordan Smith, Loic Mbe Soh, Jack Colback, Alex Mighten.
Referee: Matt Donohue (Manchester): 5
“The schedule has been tough. There has been a lot of travelling but we just have to get on with it because the games are coming thick and fast.
“We’re a very fit group but the time on the road takes its toll
“We dug in deep tonight and should have got a result. It was windy and a bit scrappy but we had chances. If we want to stay up, we need to finish those chances.”
— Dan Barlaser
“It was a tough game. It was what we expected. We had to defend in numbers. Rotherham put you under a lot of pressure.
“It was quite difficult to get a real good rhythm in the game. Sometimes these kind of wins can be the most pleasing ones.
“Rotherham are a good side. Nobody has beaten them convincingly and that was the case again. I thought we were the better team but it was a game that could have gone either way.”
— Forest boss Chris Hughton
Possession: Millers 46 per cent, Forest 54 pc
Goal attempts: Millers 7, Forest 10
On target: Millers 1, Forest 4
Corners: Millers 2, Forest 5
Fouls: Millers 18, Forest 10
A horrible, frustrating night. A rested, vibrant Millers would most likely have taken something from this game.