The fans, the frustration and the quality finish: the story of Rotherham United 0 Watford 1

Head for heights: the strong Hakeem Odoffin beats all to the ball.Head for heights: the strong Hakeem Odoffin beats all to the ball.
Head for heights: the strong Hakeem Odoffin beats all to the ball.
​SPRING is coming but the dark clouds of relegation continue to gather over Rotherham United.

Saturday was mild enough to leave the winter coat at home and before you know it we’ll all be in shirt sleeves.

By then, let’s face it, trips back to Northampton, Exeter, Burton and Shrewsbury will have been confirmed, the yo-yo Millers returning to familiar and more comfortable surroundings.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

All they can do in the meantime to fight off the creeping dismay around AESSAL New York is to go down fighting and they certainly did that here.

Cameron HumphreysCameron Humphreys
Cameron Humphreys

Like so many teams at the bottom, Rotherham United can’t catch a break.

They deserved a point against Watford, maybe even more, but were undone by a deadly, unerring finish from a Colombian talent called Yaser Asprilla.

Any football manager will tell you how hard it is to introduce a new method of playing while integrating new players and trying to get ducks in order off the pitch

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Leam Richardson is trying to do all that in the heat of a Championship relegation battle.

The club needs a re-set as much as the team.

The supporters know that as well as the ga ffer himself but when they see players giving as much for the shirt as they did on Saturday, it doesn’t make sense to kick them while they’re down.

"I thought the fans were excellent. They were right behind us,” said Richardson.

“There’s nothing to gain by being negative. It’s easy to support your football club when you’re winning. I’m a supporter myself. When the challenges are right in front of you, that’s when you support your club.”

THE MATCH

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On a day when the Samaritans were handing out cards out the stadium, Richardson had to impart some more comforting words to his players, smarting from a 19th league defeat and currently 14 points from safety.

"They were on the floor when I came into the dressing room,” he said. "You have to give them a direction and a real belief in what they’re doing and that’s all I can do as the leader of it. I knew the challenge coming in here. I don’t think there’s a single reason not to give a good account of ourselves, not only on a Saturday or a Tuesday but on a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday because we still have points to play for and we still have an end goal.”

Richardson probably wishes he had 11 Sean Morrisons as he works towards that distant end goal.

The battle-hardened veteran defender was a tower at the back, bossing Watford no.9 Mileta Rajovic and setting a standard befitting a man wearing the captain’s armband.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Alongside him the quick and alert Hakeem Odoffin proved again why defence is his best position and there was a decent full debut from loan man Andy Rinomhota.

Rotherham had more shots, more corners and, yes, more of the ball.

Given Watford’s penchant for sacking managers, the vultures would have been circling over Valerien Ismael had he lost this one.

The Millers’ bright start would have had him inwardly dreading a potentially fatal fifth straight defeat and if Sam Nombe, Rinomhota and Odoffin made more of half-chances then that might have come to pass.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

What Ismael could count on was a set of players who didn’t want to be embarrassed by the bottom club and matched Rotherham for effort.

It took two goal-saving challenges from Odoffin to deny the Hornets as they were worked their way into the game.

The visitors were kept waiting out on the pitch by the Millers at the start of the second half, Richardson delivering some final words of wisdom in the dressing room.

Attacking the kop end, Rotherham had a penalty s hout waved away when Rinomohota went down in the box.

Should it have been awarded?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I’d like to think so because we haven’t had one this season, which I find impossible,” said Richardson.

"It’s easy for the officials not to give them because we’re bottom of the league but I never look for excuses.

" I just look for ours lads to work hard and gain what they deserve.”

Asprilla’s crisp, unstoppable, first-time finish from a half-cleared corner just before the hour mark ensured they didn’t.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was a thing of beauty in what Ismael admitted was an ugly win for his team.

At least Rotherham didn’t to quietly.

The management team made b old changes, throwing on Tom Eaves, Jordan Hugill and Sam Clucas all at once to try and dig an escape tunnel.

Seb Revan’s daisy cutter shaved the far post and the irrepressible Morrison planted a free header down into the ground and a whisker over the bar.

The man of the match deserved better.

Morrison’s long throws continue to ask questions of the Watford defence and in one last throw of the kitchen sink Rinomhota saw a goal-bound effort kept out by a desperate block.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Unlucky? You bet. But since when has the Championship been kind to the lesser lights?

“We were up on every stat in the game apart from the result, which the one that counts,” sighed Richardson, who handed a late run-out to Shane Richardson after nine months out injured.

THE REALITIES

The manager will need support and patience from the club hierarchy if he is, as expected, going to be around for a major re-build back in League One and then try and bring Rotherham back to compete again against outfits with more free-flowing money taps.

In the meantime there are more more than ten matches to negotiate, more than ten chances to give some optimism for next season and for Richardson to slowly introduce the more possession-based, front-foot football he wants to encourage.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"As a manager, you have a vision of how you want things to look and that evolves over time. It doesn’t evolve overnight,” he added.

"In the Championship for a few hours you get judged as equals against Leeds United, Leicester City, Southampton and the rest.

"It’s so hard to get here and when you do you want to stay here.

“I have been in worse situations than this and come through it.”