The 2014/15 season was tipped by many to be the season where Rotherham’s consecutive promotions would come to an end – some even predicted the Yorkshire side would do a U-turn and end up being relegated – but the tasty Yorkshire derby against Leeds on Friday night, which resulted in a victory, proves the Millers can avoid the drop.
Blow by blow
Jonson Clarke-Harris’ thunderbolt secured all three points against rival Leeds United in their first meeting in a decade and following a mixed start to the season, Steve Evans’ side are now proving they can get the points needed to survive in the most exciting, yet ruthless, division in the world.
Alex Revell, who was essential for Rotherham’s play-off campaign last season finally got off the mark as they came back from 0-1 down to secure their fourth win of the season.
Mirco Antenucci’s first half finish put Leeds one up at half-time and the Whites looked relatively comfortable, with both sides exchanging decent chances. Antenucci and Rotherham’s Matt Derbyshire both wasted good opportunities. However, it was Souleymane Doukara’s tidy through ball to Leeds’ Italian talisman that helped new boss Darko Milanic to a half-time advantage. The lead was kept safe by Leeds’ keeper Marco Silvestri, who made a good save to prevent Rotherham striker Revell heading in his first goal of the season after a pin-point cross from Ben Pringle.
After the interval it was Rotherham who were determined to get level, when midfielder Paul Taylor stung the hands of Silvestri as the home side turned up the volume. Finally, a few minutes later, after Lee Frecklington’s effort was parried away, Revell was on hand to put away the rebound to get his season off the mark – something Millers’ fans will be very relieved about as goals have been difficult to come by so far this season.
It was the away side, however, who instantly hit back when Doukara thought he had beaten the offside trap to put away a Lewis Cook cross only to be flagged by the assistant. It remained all square, but the opportunity suggested it was a game that could have gone either way. Five minutes later it was Rotherham who found the back of the net after a moment of quality from summer signing Jonson Clarke-Harris, who rifled a 25-yard shot home to send the home fans delirious.
In spite of wasting some good opportunities to put the lid on the game, Rotherham held out and it’s a win that sends the bragging rights to the New York Stadium. Although the Millers haven’t been scoring as freely as they did in their League One campaign – with only eleven goals in twelve matches – they sit relatively comfortable in 15th place. Having gone unbeaten in their last three, fans may start to believe they can climb even further up the table and that looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone shouldn’t be a frequent occurrence.
I’m not even going to suggest that Steve Evans’ and his side could make history by achieving a third successive promotion, but it certainly doesn’t appear that a drop back down to League One is a lingering issue – life looks very bright for a side who, three seasons ago, finished 10th in League Two.
It wasn’t until Steve Evans came along that the club’s expectations and overall level raised significantly, with two consecutive promotions, a new, impressive stadium and some top quality players.
The Millers’ boss is certainly a colourful character and, to be quite honest, he has his critics for his eccentric reactions during games and controversial statements in interviews, but whether you love him or loathe him, the man has a very impressive CV. He also achieving promotion with Crawley Town after guiding them out of non-league Football to League Two, with Paul Raynor taking temporary charge and in turn gaining promotion to League One.
Rotherham have so far achieved four wins, three draws and five losses in the league, which, all things considered, isn’t a bad start. Rotherham fans have remained generally level-headed concerning the team’s final league position come May, but if I was a fan, there would likely be a lingering thought in the back of my mind of achieving an unlikely play-off place. Considering the lack of goals and a few sloppy defeats, it seems that a mid-table would be a fantastic achievement. However, with Friday’s win slowly propping them up the table and with a couple of winnable fixtures coming up against Fulham and Brighton, it will be intriguing to see where the club are at the start of the new year.
The departure of last season’s top scorer, Kieran Agard, to Bristol City certainly did no favours and the side seem to be desperately missing his goals, even with Revell, Frecklintton and Pringle remaining at the club, despite plenty of interest. Agard’s departure to the Robins has heaped a lot of pressure on his former partner Revell, who scored a fantastic brace against Leyton Orient in their play-off winning final in May, so his own, as well as a few thousand others, nerves were probably calmed when he decisively put away his first Championship goal on Friday – Rotherham fans will be hoping it is the first of many.
Rotherham will be hoping to continue their good run when they go toe-to-toe with another in-form side in Fulham, who started life in the Championship poorly up until current temporary manager Kit Symon’s appointment, having since won four of their last five in all competitions.