The song, the air travel, the grim reality ... the story of Rotherham United 0 Southampton 2

THE song spilled from the home stands of AESSEAL New York Stadium as the clock counted down to 3pm.

Rotherham United have struggled to get the crowd going with events on the pitch this season and the idea now is to lift them with a new idea off it.

The club anthem was played over the PA system just before kick-off and thousands of Bachelor Boys and Girls took over from there.

“When I was young my father said ...”

Goalkeeper Viktor Johansson was in fine form for Rotherham United once more, this time against Southampton. Picture: Jim BrailsfordGoalkeeper Viktor Johansson was in fine form for Rotherham United once more, this time against Southampton. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Goalkeeper Viktor Johansson was in fine form for Rotherham United once more, this time against Southampton. Picture: Jim Brailsford

It was good, really good.

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Sadly, the mood lasted for only four minutes. By then, Southampton - the form team of the Championship - were in front and a difficult task for the Millers in trying to topple a side undefeated since October had just become a near-impossible one.

“It was a tough afternoon for the boys,” said boss Leam Richardson with some degree of under-statement.

Rotherham began Saturday in bottom spot and ended it cut even further adrift from survival. The Saints started fourth and ended second.

Rotherham United's Sam Clucas up against Southampton's Will Smallbone. Picture: Jim BrailsfordRotherham United's Sam Clucas up against Southampton's Will Smallbone. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Rotherham United's Sam Clucas up against Southampton's Will Smallbone. Picture: Jim Brailsford

Richardson, still fresh to the hot-seat, can't say it publicly but knows, really, that the rest of the campaign is about damage limitation and laying the groundwork for life in a different division next term.

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“I've been here for only a number of weeks and I'm still learning about the environment, the individuals, the thought processes of people, how they react to elation and disappointment,” he said.

“We either feel sorry for ourselves and don't do something about it or we get our chests out, meet the challenges head on and give a good account of ourselves every single week.”

Seventeen matches to go, 12 points the gap to safety.


The head coach switched his focus from the campaign as a whole to this game in particular but remained on the theme of never giving up.

“You either meet the challenge head on or you back off and become that person who is: ‘Should I have? Could I have? Would I have?’

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“I'd rather go and be proactive. If you're going to lose a fight then go and lose it being the best version of yourself. Come up the pitch five yards, have contact with people. It's 11 v 11.

“Are we going to have the better players on the pitch today? Possibly not. They've got international players and have just sold one (Carlos Alcaraz to Juventus) for £40 million.

“What we can do it outwork them, outrun them, outfight them. Then we can have small ‘wins’ ourselves from our set-plays and restarts.”

The Millers had an early sight of goal when Jordan Hugill’s first-time connection on Peter Kioso's cross went just over, Seb Revan jinked into the area close to half-time and tested Gavin Bazunu with a low shot ad Ollie Rathbone brought another stop from the goalkeeper when it was too late to matter.

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Between those efforts, the game belonged to the visitors. Viktor Johansson had to save sharply from both Armstrongs, Stuart and Adam, and superbly from Will Smallbone to keep down the score while only the post denied Ryan Fraser from 22 yards.

It wasn't a fair contest. Essentially, this was Premier League versus League One played out in the setting of the second tier.

The Saints, with their top-flight history and budget to match, had flown up from the south coast. Even their media team took the plane.

The team are flying in the league as well and stretched their club-record unbeaten run to 23 matches.

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Revan headed out weakly from a corner and Jan Bednarek headed back strongly to open the scoring. In the 38th minute, Hugill, not for the first or last time, shed possession and Fraser scampered away to provide a back-heeled assist to Adam Amstrong whose shot squirmed through Johansson.

“Southampton were exactly what we expected,” said Richardson after a result that was exactly what was expected. “They're a team full of quality and probably the best team in the league right now.

“The disappointing thing was the way we started the game. We conceded early on, which gave them a lift.

“Second half, it was more like us, without creating that mass of chances. I thought we were one pass away from a goal to get us back in it.”

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Talking of passes, the Saints put together more than 700, with what seemed like maybe 600 of them coming from Smallbone.

Richardson set out the path between now and the summer, talking once more about challenges in a season full of them.

“You've got Monday to Friday to get really strong habits, to mould the club, to help the club evolve and be competitive no matter what the challenge is,” he said.

“I can accept it if people make a mistake, if it's a technical error, but I can't accept people not working hard. You have to make the recovery runs, win your races, your tackles.

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“The lads can't be faulted for effort. but you should never be okay with conceding late on at Middlesbrough (1-1 draw in the last away outing) or losing 2-0 to Southampton.”


The head coach gave a revealing insight as he spoke after the game in New York's media suite.

However these things are measured, the data shows Stoke City to be the division's hardest-working in the division, he said.

The stats lie, he reckoned. In his opinion, Southampton break sweat more than anyone.

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Their front three of Adam Armstrong, Fraser and Che Adams continually ran back and nipped at Millers midfielders to regain the ball.

The Millers were better after the interval than they had been before it, yet there was always another gear the visitors could have found if necessary.

They controlled Rotherham's huff, shut down down their puff and played out the second period in cruise control.

The final whistle sounded at a beaten stadium that had been emptying for the previous 15 minutes.

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There was no music now. Well, maybe just a few opening bars from the Fat Lady. Neither was there rancour or raised voices.

Supporters drifted away in grim, quiet resignation to their team's fate on the day; in grim, quiet resignation to their team's fate for the season.

Rotherham (3-5-1-1): Viktor Johansson; Hakeem Odoffin, Sean Morrison, Lee Peltier; Peter Kioso (Arvin Appiah 84), Jamie Lindsay (Ollie Rathbone 62), Christ Tiehi, Sam Clucas, Seb Revan (Femi Seriki 74); Cafu (Tom Eaves 88); Jordan Hugill (Sam Nombe 62). Subs not used: Dillon Phillips, Cameron Humphreys, Andy Rinomhota, Charlie Wyke.

Southampton (4-3-3): Gavin Bazunu, Kyle Walker-Peters, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Jan Bednarek, Ryan Manning; Flynn Downes (Joe Rothwell 74), Stuart Armstrong (Shea Charles 89), Will Smallbone; Adam Armstrong, Che Adams (Sekou Mara 81), Ryan Fraser (David Brooks 74). Subs not used: Joe Lumley, Jack Stephens, Sam Edozie, Jayden Meghoma, Tyler Dibling.

Goals: Bednarek 4, Adam Armstrong 38 (Southampton).

Referee: Sunny Singh Gill (Middlesex).

Attendance: 11,179 (2,413).