The replacement ball, the spectator boss and the away wait that still goes on ... the story of Cardiff City 2 Rotherham United 0

Fred Onyedinma tries to make ground for Rotherham United in their Championship encounter at Cardiff City. Picture Jim BrailsfordFred Onyedinma tries to make ground for Rotherham United in their Championship encounter at Cardiff City. Picture Jim Brailsford
Fred Onyedinma tries to make ground for Rotherham United in their Championship encounter at Cardiff City. Picture Jim Brailsford
NOT long into Rotherham United's quest for a first away point of the season, the matchball had to be replaced because it was losing air.

If only the Millers could swap their fortunes on the road so easily.

For a good while, they frustrated one of the form sides in the Championship but it couldn't last, it didn't last.

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By the 56th minute, they were behind. By the end, they were further in arrears against Cardiff City. Five matches on their travels have brought five defeats; six if you add the Carling Cup to the league concern.

Rotherham United's Ollie Rathbone on the ball at the Cardiff City Stadium. Picture: Jim BrailsfordRotherham United's Ollie Rathbone on the ball at the Cardiff City Stadium. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Rotherham United's Ollie Rathbone on the ball at the Cardiff City Stadium. Picture: Jim Brailsford

“That first hour of the game was the best we have been away from home," said manager Matt Taylor, and he wasn't wrong.

It's just that, with injuries biting since the beginning of the campaign and a worrying impotence in attack, it was a low mark his side had to beat.

“It wasn't spectacular but it was structured,” the boss continued. “We lacked a little bit of quality going forward but it was a really positive start to the game.

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“We were in it for longer than we have been in previous away games this season. Certainly from our first four matches games, that was an improvement.”

Already, the warning signs are there. The Millers are next to bottom and after Saturday's setback in South Wales a gap had begun to open up to the teams above them.

“We have to make games a bit ugly and a bit scruffy away from home to put pressure on the opposition,” Taylor said.

“We know we are a bit short of certain types of players who can get you back in a game. Our home form suggests we can compete. Our away from has to improve. Something has to change.”

And not just the ball.

THE GAME

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After the match, the manager held court with the press from South Yorkshire in a tiny room just off the players' tunnel at Cardiff City Stadium; just him, the Millers media chief, another guy operating a club camera and two journalists crammed shoulder to shoulder in there.

There'd been far more room for Cardiff to set up the goal 11 minutes after the interval that swung the afternoon in their favour.

Karlan Grant was left unchallenged on the left for too long and when his quality delivery arrived at the back post it was down to Rotherham's Cohen Bramall and the Bluebirds' Kion Etete as to who got on the end of it.

Stand-in central defender Bramall found himself a full-back trying to do a centre-half's job and Etete's strength allowed the striker to hold off his marker and break the deadlock with a header.

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“I’m disappointed with how we let Cardiff get into that channel,” Taylor said. “I said to the players afterwards, it was like time stood still. It was a ‘killing ourselves’ moment for us. We did not quite cover the space.

“You could say it was a good cross and a good header but it showed we're short of centre-halves. I can't put too much blame on Cohen. We needed to stop it at source. One momentary loss of concentration has allowed them to get ahead.”

The first half had been a scrappy non-event during which the home side, seeking a sixth win in seven second-tier matches, were wasteful in possession. The scrappier it stayed, the more it suited the Millers.

“It was a poor game, we have to hold up our hands in relation to that,” Taylor said. “But we were quite comfortable until the opening goal.

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“Previously, we've lost away when we haven't been in the game and haven't competed enough. We certainly competed enough today and protected Viktor (goalkeeper Johansson) relatively well for long periods.

“We were looking for more from ourselves in an attacking sense but with the bodies we had on the pitch we weren't fluid for long enough.”

Rotherham, lacking seven potential first-teamers and playing with only recognised centre-half, were relieved to see Dimitros Goutas' header flash just wide and Ollier Tanner's shot meet with the same fate.

Between those chances, Ollie Rathbone took aim and the Millers might have been level had Mark McGuinness not flung himself in the way of a low 18-yarder that was heading towards the bottom corner.

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Cardiff were on top but, as the clock ticked down, the visitors threatened more than they had all game as the introduction of Arvin Appiah gave them a sudden spark.

The substitute winger sent a decent curler over the bar and also rattled the crossbar with a free-kick that had a similar amount of bend.

Sadly, the latter of those two attempts came after Perry Ng had wrapped up proceedings in the 90th minute by whipping the ball into the net to end a bout of penalty-box ping pong that had seen Johansson save sharply from Ike Ugbo's header and Lee Peltier block Etete's follow-up.

“Only when Arvin came on did we show we could beat a player one v one and create off the back of that,” Taylor said. “It was a little bit too little, too late.

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“The first goal is the one that really hurt us because that just changes the feel of the game. The ease with how that went in was a real frustration.”

SPECTATOR BOSS

The manager was watching from the directors' box as he served a one-match touchline ban.

Three bookings had brought about his suspension, one caution more that his team's goal tally so far on their Championship journeys to enemy territory.

“It was strange,” he said. “I was only ten rows back from the dugout. I was meant to be out of earshot. I didn't put myself there, they (the officials) put me there, It was nothing to do with me.

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“I wasn't allowed to put anything communications-wise to the bench in terms of my voice but I could do it over the ‘comms’.

“I sat there feeling relatively comfortable for just under an hour with where we were in the game.”

At the final whistle, with his side having failed to force Bluebirds keeper Jak Alnwick into a single save, he was straight out of his seat and off to meet his players in the dressing room.

Around the same time, they were trooping, heads down, off the pitch, even flatter than that matchball had been earlier.

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Cardiff (4-3-3): Jak Alnwick; Perry Ng, Dimitrios Goutas, Mark McGuinness, Jamilu Collins; Ryan Wintle, Manolis Siopis (Ebou Adams 87), Joe Ralls (Callum Robinson 79); Yakou Meite (Ollie Tanner 18), Kion Etete, Karlan Grant (Ike Ugbo 87). Subs not used: Alex Runarsson, Mahlon Romeo, Romaine Sawyers, Jonathan Panzo, Rubin Colwill.

Rotherham (3-5-1-1): Viktor Johansson; Dexter Lembikisa, Tyler Blackett, Cohen Bramall; Fred Onyedinma, Ollie Rathbone, Christ Tiehi, Sam Clucas (Lee Peltier 72), Sebastian Revan (Arvin Appiah 72); Andre Green (Georgie Kelly 87); Jordan Hugill (Sam Nombe 67). Subs not used: Dillon Phillips, Tom Eaves, Ciaran McGuckin.

Goals: Etete 56, Ng 90 (Cardiff).

Referee: James Bell (Sheffield).

Attendance: 20,136 (282).