Christmas gifts and the reality of the Championship ... the story of Rotherham United 0 West Brom 4

IT'S one of the features of Christmas that sometimes you have to entertain guests you'd prefer not to have in your home.
Millers v West Brom action. Pictures by Dave PoucherMillers v West Brom action. Pictures by Dave Poucher
Millers v West Brom action. Pictures by Dave Poucher

You know, the posh neighbours, the ones with money, the ones like West Bromwich Albion.

Rotherham United have put up thrilling resistance at AESSEAL New York this season against some of the Championship's biggest clubs.

But Albion, one of the most expensively-assembled sides in the division, a team in the top flight last term, were simply too much for Paul Warne's men in the final fixture before the Yuletide festivities.

"West Brom are a very good side," Warne said. "I don't think we could have played any better. It seemed like we had as many efforts on goal as them.

"The lads never gave up, which is testament to their character. There are some unbelievable sides in this league and when you take on an unbelievable side the difference between being good and great is that the great take their chances.

"They took theirs and we didn't take ours. I don't feel ashamed at losing at home to West Brom."

Michael Smith

Rotherham actually had more goal attempts than the third-placed Baggies, 19 to 11.

But these rich visitors ... you still feel obliged to hand over a couple of gifts when they ring the doorbell even when they don't need them.

That's just what the Millers did, with two of Albion's goals stemming from needless errors.

Rotherham were well beaten, but they weren't destroyed, they weren't disgraced, they were simply outclassed by a set of players too good for this division.

Essentially, this was a Championship encounter between a Premier League outfit and a League One promotion team.

THE MATCH

All rise for Dwight Gayle ...

The Millers wall jumped at a sixth-minute free-kick, the striker slid the ball under it and West Brom were on their way.

The Millers fall behind

Five minutes later, Ryan Manning smacked the post with a 20-yard curler, Semi Ajayi's follow-up was cleared off the line by Craig Dawson and from then on the points were always out of Rotherham's grasp.

"Goals change games," Warne said. "I know it's a cliché but it's a cliché because it's right. If you get back to 1-1, you get a bit of belief in your play."

On 20 minutes, Ajayi played an ill-judged, cross-field defensive pass which was always too high and too hard for Joe Mattock and seconds later the brilliant Harvey Barnes was tucking away Albion's second as he latched on to a Jay Rodriguez shot which had come back off the woodwork.

The sold-out away following were singing about jingle bells. However, it was alarm bells Millers fans were hearing when Gayle struck again on the stroke of half-time, cleverly clipping in Matt Phillips' free-kick from the right.

To their credit, Rotherham stemmed the flow of Baggies attacks after the break and never stopped trying to go forward, but not before Marek Rodak had made a 54th-minute present of Gayle's hat-trick

The West Brom man could hardly believe his luck as the goalkeeper, in trying to prevent a corner, flipped the ball straight into his path in front of an empty net. May all his Christmases be Dwight.

Clark Robertson saw his header cleared off the line and then Ryan Manning missed from the penalty spot for the first time in five attempts in Millers colours when Richie Towell was felled in the 76th minute by Tosin Adarabioyo.

"Ryan sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, he hit it clean and it hits the post and doesn't come back to us," Warne said. "For one of their goals, the ball hits the post and comes back to them. I just think it sort of summed us up: we were just on the side of unlucky.

"When we did pass and move, we looked a good side. I don't think we deserved to lose 4-0 but there is no disputing West Brom were the better team. I am not disappointed because the lads played as well as they possibly could."

HALFWAY STAGE

Twenty-three games played, 22 points. More pertinently, 20th place, three points clear of the relegation reckoning.

Is there anybody who wouldn't have accepted that following the 5-1 opening-day defeat at Brentford back in August?

"I definitely would have taken it after Griffin Park!" Warne said. "One point a game, it is the first time we have slipped under that since the first game of the season.

Semi Ajayi

"The lads give me everything each week and try to improve so I am really pleased with what they are doing. I still think we should have more points in the bag, which I hope doesn't come to bite us. I am pretty pleased with the team."

Saturday's loss was the reality of Rotherham competing in the Championship. Some of Albion's players individually earn more in a week than Warne's entire starting 11.

Games such as these won't define the Millers' season. Bolton are up next and it is in matches like the Boxing day showdown at the University of Bolton Stadium where Rotherham must make their mark.

"I don’t want to build that up too much because I want to sleep!" said Warne as he reflected on his side's next three fixtures. "Us losing at home to West Brom, I wouldn't have thought it was a coupon-buster, put it that way.

"When we go toe to toe with Bolton, Bristol City, Preston, it is a little bit of a more level playing field for us."

There's still time for Christmas to be merry.

Rotherham (4-4-1-1): Marek Rodak; Zak Vyner, Semi Ajayi, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Anthony Forde, Will Vaulks, Ryan Manning, Joe Newell; Richie Towell; Michael Smith: Not used: Lewis Price, Richard Wood, Matt Palmer, Ben Wiles.

Subs: Ryan Williams (for Mattock, 65 minutes), Jon Taylor (for Newell, 72), Jamie Proctor (for Smith, 80).

West Brom (4-3-3): Sam Johnstone; Tosin Adarabioyo, Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hegazi; Kieran Gibbs; Jake Livermore, Gareth Barry, Matt Phillips, Harvey Barnes, Jay Rodriguez, Dwight Gayle. Not used: Boaz Myhill, Bakary Sako, Tyrone Mears, Rekeem Harper.

Subs: Chris Brunt (for Barry, 58), James Morrison (for Phillips, 78), Hal Robson-Kanu (for Gayle 82).

Goals: Gayle 6, 44, 54, Barnes 20 (West Brom).

Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland).

Attendance: 10,593 (2,597).