A grim afternoon began with a minute’s silence to mark Remembrance Day impeccably observed by both sets of supporters.
There followed moments of stunned silence from Rotherham United fans unable to comprehend how poorly their side were playing as they fell 3-0 behind before the break.
Only these spells of quiet weren’t afforded the same kind of reverence. They quickly gave way to loud, sustained condemnation, culminating in a cacophony of boos as the players sought the sanctuary of the dressing room at half-time.
And Millers manager Neil Redfearn understood it.
“If it’s not right then supporters will let you know,” said the boss, still seeking his first win after six games in charge. “ I said to the players at half-time that the supporters are spot on. It’s not acceptable. We have to compete better than that.”
If you give your all and lose to a better team, there is no disgrace. But the first 45 minutes at AESSEAL New York Stadium from the Championship’s bottom club were a case of white-flag surrender.
Redfearn, like everybody else, was shocked.
Less than a month into the job, he has talked of the size of the task he faces in turning round a squad he inherited from Steve Evans and says isn’t equipped to stay in the second tier.
That torrid opening spell as players - experienced players - let him and themselves down made him realise his job is even tougher than he first thought.
The warning signs were there after 43 seconds when Farrend Rawson missed the ball completely and Danny Collins’ attempted back-header fell to Freddie Sears.
Ipswich should have scored but were denied by a smart Lee Camp save - and that’s a phrase that could be repeated throughout the first half.
A Brett Pitman header after eight minutes set the visitors on their way, Jonathan Douglas smacked in a second 14 minutes later while Daryl Murphy shot home when a corner wasn’t cleared in the 42nd minute and still found time to hit the bar before the half-time whistle.
Town boss Mick McCarthy spoke of his side “running riot” in the first half, and Redfearn lamented: “It was really tentative and nervous and I can’t understand why we needed to play like that.
“We have just been to Middlesbrough where you have got a reason to be nervous against a top side and defended well and made it difficult for them.
“Today, we were really negative in midfield. We didn’t get close to them, we didn’t work hard enough, we didn’t do the ugly stuff well.
“It must have been the 35th minute before we had a centre-half win a header, Murphy had his own way too much. He bullied us at the back. We just looked like we were going to concede.”
Taking much of the flak was Paul Green. The 32-year-old midfielder has had a wonderful career, but here he was found wanting. A needless, ill-judged back-pass and then poor control played major parts in Town’s first two goals, and he was booed by sections of the home support.
He was moved out of his central position to the right midway through the first half as Redfearn looked to stem the tide and put out of his misery at the interval as the Millers made substitutions.
I’m going to to do something really unfashionable now ... I’m going to defend him. Green has become a target for some followers this season. Yes, he may not quite have the thrust of old and fluffs too many chances, but at least he gets into positions to miss them, and he is a totally honest pro who always gives his all.
Booing at half-time and at the end is understandable. Fans pay good money to watch and have every right to vent their displeasure. But when has abusing an individual player ever made him perform better?
At the height of his vilification on Saturday, Green went up for a header he didn’t have to contest, where he had a chance of being hurt, and won it. On a day of poppies and tributes to valour, here was courage in a sporting sense. It takes a brave man to not hide.
Redfearn got the response he wanted after half-time, but by then his side were 4-0 down, Murphy besting Rawson with the minimum of effort just three minutes into the second half to slot the ball home.
Chairman Tony Stewart didn’t take his seat after the break and missed the best Millers action of the day as teenage debutant Brandon Barker curled in an exquisite 20-yard effort in the 56th minute and Matt Derbyshire produced a sumptuous volley from Grant Ward’s pass three minutes later.
At 4-2 there was genuine hope of an amazing comeback and substitute Jonson Clarke-Harris went down in the box under challenge from Cristophe Berra. Contact may have been initiated just outside the area and the referee gave nothing, but it would have been a foul anywhere else on the pitch.
Barker, with his Premier league touch and poise, can certainly play and there will be more to come from the 19-year-old on loan from Manchester City.
Smallwood, on as a replacement for Tom Thorpe, made a huge difference and will surely start when the Millers return after the international break. Thorpe shows promise as a defensive midfielder but, after just 14 games in the second tier, doesn’t yet affect a game in the way the ex-Boro man does.
McCarthy confessed to a “murmur of the ticker” until Murphy, goalless this season before this encounter, rolled away from his marker, Smallwood of all people, from a throw-in, wasn’t closed down and completed his hat-trick far too easily in the 72nd minute to end the contest.
Redfearn said: “The big thing for me at half-time is that the bare minimum these players give the supporters and the paying public is going and competing against Ipswich, making it difficult for them.
“The proof is in the pudding. When they do that, they actually go and get themselves back in it. As daft as it seems, when you score two at home you expect to get something. But if you concede five ... it’s just far too many.”
It was Rotherham’s worst home defeat since they lost to Swindon Town 4-0 in League One in October 2013 and only the second time they have conceded five at New York, AFC Bournemouth turning them over 5-1 in the FA Cup last term.
Taking the Millers in a new direction is a long-term project, and it’s going to hurt for a while as Redfearn needs time to make his mark and sign players of his choosing.
What he wouldn’t give for the kind of talent he developed at Leeds and which, irony of ironies, is now doing so much to help Evans win games.
Rotherham United (4-4-2): Camp 7; Richardson 5, Rawson 5, Collins 5, Toffolo 6 (Buxton 85); G Ward 6, Thorpe 5 (Smallwood H-T, 7), Green 4 (Clarke-Harris H-T, 6), Barker 6; Derbyshire 5, D Ward 5. Subs not used: Collin, Broadfoot, Newell, Andreu.
Ipswich Town (4-4-1-1): Gerken 6; Chambers 6, Smith 6, Berra 7, Knudsen 6; Bru 8 (Maitland-Niles 66, 5), Skuse 8, Douglas 8, Sears (Coke 81) 6; Pitman 8; Murphy 9 (Parr 90). Subs not used: Bialkowski, Oar, Malarczyk, Toure.
Goals: Barker 56, Derbyshire 59 (Rotherham); Pitman 8, Douglas 22, Murphy 42, 48, 72 (Ipswich).
Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire).
Attendance: 9,162 (1,019).