ANALYSIS: Rotherham United succumb to high flying Magpies
Organisation and determination only get you so far against a team with an embarrassment of talent and riches, and in the Millers’ case it was 45 minutes.
Newcastle United’s powerful second-half exhibition led to the sort of scoreline you’d expect when the division’s high scorers take on the division’s leakiest defence. But manager Rafa Benitez, his players and their massed ranks of supporters in a crowd of more than 52,000 still had to endure a heart-stopping moment that could have changed the course of the afternoon.
Their goalkeeper Karl Darlow had Anthony Forde to thank for staying on his feet instead of going to ground when he clipped the winger’s heels late in the half. It was the stroke of luck the top teams always seem to have, the Magpies instead avoiding a penalty and a red card and Darlow atoning with a scrambling wonder-save from Jerry Yates’s follow-up.
Even if Rotherham had got a goal up against ten men, there is of course no guarantee their threadbare side shorn of Kirk Broadfoot, Lee Frecklington and (for the most part) Danny Ward would have come through to bag their first win at Newcastle since 1953.
It would still have made it interesting instead of the procession it became in the second half.
The scoreline was harsh on midfielder Will Vaulks. He did a great man-of-man job on Jonjo Shelvey but once the Newcastle string-puller’s raking ball paved the way for Darryl Murphy’s opener, fired in on the turn just before half time, there was only one winner.
That goal didn’t just alter Paul Warne’s interval team talk, it altered the psyche of the Rotherham players and their sluggish start to the second half was punished when Matt Ritchie seized on a parry from Richard O’Donnell to slot their second.
Rushed in for a quickfire debut in place of Lewis Price, who had family issues to attend to, it was a tough baptism for O’Donnell. His consolation is that he won’t have to face up to sides with Newcastle’s attacking riches every week.
With Deandre Yedlin running riot down the right and Shelvey warming to it, the deal was sealed by Ayoze Perez’s near-post header, despite a hint of handball, before Ritchie picked his spot for his second of the day.
It’s a shame there was nothing for the travelling army of 3,200 supporters something to cheer.
Scott Allan came and asked questions and substitute Ward was only a yard away from an 11th of the season but as many expected, St James’ Park is no place to go searching for an elusive first away win.