Rotherham United match verdict: Millwall 0 Millers 1

Ben Pringle scores

Ben Pringle scores

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Millwall. Defiant little blighters. Often punching above their weight, upsetting the big lads, ready to give it a go against anyone, backed by a loyal, loud, partisan following.

Remind you of anyone?

Yes, here the Lions met their South Yorkshire equivalent. And came off second best.

The Millers scrapped for everything as they continued their encouraging start to life in the Championship. Two wins now in four games amid signs they are adapting to the high life more and more in every match.

The Millwall crowd, so impressively hostile towards the visitors they could barely bring themselves to applaud when Rotherham gave them the ball back from restarts after injuries to home players, had almost turned on their own by the end.

What the Millers now do as well as anything is hold their nerve and keep their shape. Millwall threatened early doors and Mark Beevers, with a close-range effort deflected for a corner, and Ricardo Fuller with a header should have put the Londoners in front.

From my bird’s-eye view in the Press box Fuller had to score as he rose at the back post for a lovely Lee Martin cross which was curling right on to his head.

He missed, and Millwall - unbeaten before this encounter in 12 matches dating back to March 25 - never threatened the Millers goal with a truly clear-cut chance again.

With Joe Skarz departing after a bang on the head during just one of many moments of defensive defiance, Rotherham finished with four centre-halves in the back four: from right to left, Kirk Broadfoot, Craig Morgan, Kari Arnason and Richard Wood.

This lot may not be medal-contenders in a 4x100-metres relay, but they’ll win you a heading and blocking contest all day long.

It is testament to their discipline and commitment that Rotherham have stepped up a level after promotion last season and are conceding at the rate of less than a goal a game.

Miller manager Steve Evans said: “We didn’t start too good. We allowed Millwall a little bit too much of the ball and I don’t think we were brave in attacking areas. But we know we’ve got a good shape about our play so we would limit them and I think we saw the first half through quite comfortably. I think the boy, Fuller, should score for them at the far stick but arguably we missed two sitters.”

The visitors kept the 4-5-1 formation which had looked so good against Watford in midweek, switching right-footed Paul Taylor and left-footed Ben Pringle on to their unnatural sides in the second half with the intention of them coming inside to offer more support to targetman Alex Revell.

“We spoke to our wide players at half-time to get them into the game more, to go and join Alex. They did that very well and the goal comes from that,” Evans said. “Paul does a bit of magic and a cross, Alex wins the header and Ben comes in from the other touchline. From an offensive, training-ground point of view, it’s a fantastic goal.”

Evans, as I suspect he always knew he would, provoked Den fury by suggesting the referee was being influenced by the home support when a foul was given against Revell. The man in the middle, Paul Tierney, had words, but nothing like the verbals raining down on the Rotherham boss from behind.

The Millers manager admired the strength of their feeling: “This Millwall support get a lot of stick, you know, and they’ve got no right to get a lot of stick. They get right behind their team. If you’re the manager here, you want a passionate home support. You want them hating the opposition. They were doing that today. They gave their team every chance today but thankfully we sent our supporters, who are very important to us, home happy.

“We had a terrible trip down on Friday because of the traffic. I saw the signs for the Channel Tunnel and thought ‘it can’t be right we’re that far south’. When you come out and you see people travelling from South Yorkshire to come and support us and get behind us like that, it’s terrific.”

Millwall huffed and puffed from the start but couldn’t blow the Millers house down.

By the half-hour mark, Evans’ men had worked their way right into the contest and Taylor, who was the game’s most potent attacker with his trickery, pace and eye for a gap, skipped the first tackle and then broke through a second before firing wastefully wide.

As half-time approached, more good work by Taylor saw the ball land at the feet of Revell deep in enemy territory.

Revs is a fine, honest fellow and is harder on himself than anybody. He will know he should have buried it. Grim irony that the man responsible for the most Ambitious But Brilliant strike in Millers history should fluff his lines only a couple of yards out on the left, directing his attempt wide of the far post with the goal gaping.

He atoned somewhat in the 49th minue, his clever little flick sending on Taylor’s cross towards Pringle who happily did the rest, poking the ball home while it was off the ground.

Ever since derby-day success over Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup last season, the Millers faithful have sung about him killing a certain type of animal. Now he loves taming Lions too.

Prings were only getting better for Rotherham as, five minutes later, the goal hero bent in a great shot from 20 yards which required a flying save from home keeper David Forde.

And for serious opportunities on goal from either side that was about it.

With the home crowd urging their team forward and then baying in anguish every time a move faltered, the Millers held out with a degree of control. Impressive stuff again, particularly from Morgan and Arnason who have hardly put a foot wrong between them all season.

They were aided and abetted by sterling efforts in midfield from Richie Smallwood, Lee Frecklington and new boy Anthony Wordsworth who showed up well in patches and stuck to his task before inevitably tiring towards the end. He looks a player, and game-time, after a frustrating spell at Ipswich, is all he needs.

Smallwood, as usual, was everywhere, always wanting the ball, keeping a calm head throughout and with more bite in the tackle than you’d expect.

He has an almost angelic look about him but, like a choirboy happy to kick his best pal, he has no qualms about making his presence felt.

At the end the victors, along with their manager, went over to thank the 410 travelling supporters who had made a right old racket of their own right through the game. The fans returned the salute with more roars and sustained chanting

Yet in the rapidly-emptying stands which had been such a hot-house of South-east London passion minutes earlier, only one thing.

Silence.

Hero: Paul Taylor. Looking sharper and sharper as he approaches the level of fitness the Millers demand of their players. Millwall couldn’t contain him and he could have scored his first goal with more composed finishing.

Key moment:

Viewpoint: Four games, six points and only three goals conceded. Millers boss Steve Evans knows there is still work to do, but encouraging stuff from a team fresh out of League One and learning all the time.

Ricardo Fuller’s missed header in the 15th minute. A goal would have given the home side something to build on and would have cranked up the volume from an already-vociferous home crowd.

Manager’s view - Ian Holloway: “We didn’t function like we have been and I should have made more changes. My attackers looked tired and were not quite as effective as they have been. That game should have been goalless. I knew how tough it would be because my scout told me they were better than Watford on Tuesday.”

Manager’s view - Steve Evans: “I can’t remember Millwall making another chance other than the Fuller effort. They put some crosses in our box. People questioned whether the Morgans and Arnasons could step up and those two guys have done. They’ve won a lot of headers and put in blocks. They got a lot of protection in front from Anthony Wordsworth and Richie Smallwood and that was the plan. We let Taylor and Pringle go roving off the big man up front and it worked for us.”

Millwall: Forde, Dunne, Wright (Gueye 51), Williams, Martin (Easter), Woolford, Beevers, Fuller (Gregory 84), McDonald, Malone, Edwards. Subs: Gerrar, Gregory, Briggs, Webster, Abdou.

Rotherham United: Collin, Broadfoot, Morgan, Arnason, Skarz (Wood 80), Pringle (Brindley 90), Frecklington, Smallwood, Wordsworth, Taylor, Revell (Bowery 86), Subs: Loach, Brindley, Tidser, Swift, Derbyshire.

Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire).

Attendance: 10, 282 (410).