IT is hardly uncommon to see 45-minute performances from teams. It might just be in the imagination but are there more of them nowadays?
Rotherham United have managed a few this season, bad to good and the other way, and I’ve seen them elsewhere - at a Championship game recently I saw a massive contrast in performance from both sides, outstanding to dreadful and vice versa.
This one was a variation on the theme. This was the 45-minute game. But what a 45 minutes it was!
Pulsating might not be a word too many would rush to associate with much that goes on in League Two but it fitted this second half perfectly.
Not how you’d describe the first half, however. Pretty rubbish, actually, if you were seeking some sort of entertainment.
Not lacking in effort and endeavour mind, whereupon we can dig out the old saying that it was heavy on perspiration but short on inspiration.
The sizeable Millers following attending what might be termed ‘a local derby’ began the afternoon belting out songs of hope and optimism based on the past week’s results and the rescuing of a season.
But they barely lasted much beyond five past three. One or two could hardly get going; others struggled to make an impact. Burton, seven without a win beforehand, were dogged and determined.
They were both trying but ‘nowt’ much was happening.
By the time the whistle went, with big Calvin Zola having diverted in John McGrath’s inswinging free-kick five minutes from the break, Millers followers were wondering where the bright, new dawn had disappeared to.
They were quickly to find out and so were Burton.
The Millers launched into an offensive right from the start of the second half. It galvanised their fans behind that goal and led to a thrilling second half, one you couldn’t take your eyes off.
In fact, the chances that Burton had all seemed to come from breaks following Rotherham attacks or attacking set-pieces.
When a manager reckons a draw was about right, it’s usually code for them being grateful to have got a point but they didn’t really deserve it.
Well, Andy Scott and Paul Peschisolido both felt a draw was fair enough yet both could make a claim that they deserved the win - Rotherham for the possession and huge pressure they applied in the second half, Burton for having the clearer-cut chances.
None of those was better than the one eight minutes from time when the giant Zola ran clear from the halfway line (the run began in his own half, thus negating any offside flag) and went round keeper Taylor to an angle. A combination of his foot slipping and the ball taking a bobble meant his shot ended wide of the near post.
A let-off certainly but Rotherham had surely earned it with a second-half performance of purpose, drive and vigour to which Burton’s centre-defence pair of Nathan Stanton and Ryan Austin, in particular, responded with huge defiance.
In fact, Burton could hardly get out of their own area at the start of the second half. It took them eight minutes to do so and the breakaway ended up with a great chance for Bolder who saw the opportunity to lob Taylor, who was well off his line, only to lift it over the bar. In such moments can games be decided.
Two minutes later Rotherham were level and it simply had to be Shaun Harrad, back at the club where he was such a prolific scorer.
A combination of a third game in nine days (after not playing for ages) and his old teammates determined not to give him an inch meant he had barely figured thus far.
But, like all narrow-eyed goalscorers, it doesn’t stop you somehow being in the right place when it matters and doing whatever needs to be done to get that ball in the net.
Can’t say I can ever recall seeing a Millers player score - deliberately - with his chest, which Harrad did as he reacted to a whipped-in corner from Sam Wood which flew past all those at the near post.
It was his third in three games.
A tremendous tackle by Mark Bradley on Maghoma, from another breakaway, was fine defending and there was plenty of that up the other end as Burton defiance denied Rotherham time and time again.
Wood should have had a penalty when his leg was whacked but, honest to a fault, he tried not to go down and no sooner had he gone on to one knee he was trying to get straight back up.
Burton, like Rotherham, sent on their top scorer from the bench and they finished with far more attacking players on the pitch than they started.
In the thrilling, final 20 minutes, with balls pinging around Burton’s box and the home side more threatening than previously, you would have reckoned it wasn’t going to finish 1-1. Taylor had to go down at Zola’s feet and deep into stoppage time he made the sharpest of saves from Bolder’s angled volley.
A fair result? Yes.
A thrilling second half? Certainly.
Are the Millers improving? Take away this first 45 minutes and you’d say definitely.
We may learn more tomorrow at Gillingham - and most of this squad were in short trousers the last time Rotherham won there!
Geoff Eltringham worked hard keeping on top of a combative game which had some feisty challenges. His moment of controversy was the decision to punish Jason Taylor for a strong challenge for a bouncing ball which then ended with the midfielder one-on-one with the keeper. The ref indicated his foot was too high but it seemed really harsh and you can bet there would have been no complaints anywhere had he not blown.