Barnsley v Rotherham United: The Oakwell storm ... Reds 4 Millers 0
The heavens opened and, amid the real-life bangs and flashes at Oakwell, there were storm metaphors everywhere.
Thunder on the face of Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart as he watched his side capitulate in the face of a second-half onslaught from the rampant home team.
Thunder in the tackling and defiance of Barnsley centre-half Marc Roberts, the bristling epitome of the Tykes’ derby-day intent and determination.
Lightning in the breaks of the men in red in a devastating 37-minute spell after the break during which the Millers could find no shelter as they were picked apart.
Alan Stubbs was forced back inside by the downpour for press duties after the final whistle, the rain hammering out a grim, forbidding beat on the roof of the players’ tunnel in keeping with the Millers manager’s dark mood as he responded to the insipid surrender.
“We have to look at ourselves, and it wasn’t good enough. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
Second-half goals from Roberts on 54 minutes, Rotherham old boy Adam Hammill, 57, Tom Bradshaw, 86, and Ryan Kent, in time added on, brought a different response from Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom.
“I am delighted. The win is the most important thing,” he said. “We have turned a good start into a very good one.”
The first half had been an even contest, bringing few clear-cut chances and little hint of the carnage that would follow. Two goals in quick succession changed everything, leaving the rival bosses with contrasting agendas heading into the international break.
The transfer window closes on Wednesday night and Stubbs, with his side in the drop zone after the opening five matches, intends being a very busy man.
Barnsley are third, with a perfect home league record, and have spirit and goals in them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
In three away games, Rotherham have lost 3-0, 3-0 and 4-0. Goals not going in at one end and too many being conceded at the other.
Yet it was the midfield that was conspicuous by its absence on Saturday.
Will Vaulks, after such an encouraging debut in the August 6 draw with Wolves, has yet to adjust to the pace of the Championship, Jake Forster-Caskey completes nearly all his passes but hasn’t hit a really telling one and Scott Allan, despite obvious skill and vision, has managed to look lightweight while at the same time needing to shed a couple of pounds.
Stewart, sat close to the press box, shook his head and turned away in dismay at one stage in the second half when the Celtic loanee gave the ball away too cheaply and showed little inclination to try to win it back.
Stubbs has threatened action. “I have said all along that there could be players in and players out, but on that evidence there may be more players out than I thought,” he said.
Eight of the 10 outfield starters were people the new boss has brought to the club since his June appointment.
Reds fans revelled in the occasion at a ground where they haven’t lost to Rotherham for 46 years, but the defeat, and particularly the manner of it, was hard to take for the 3,200-plus travelling Millers.
Stubbs ran the gauntlet at the end. The tunnel is right next to the away end, and abuse from some of the supporters who had stayed to the bitter end hit its target with far more venom than either of Rotherham’s two goalbound efforts, tame shots from Forster-Caskey and Jon Taylor.
REDS ON A ROLL
Barnsley were a full-on, free-flowing attacking force in the second period, and it poured salt into Rotherham wounds that two of the players who damaged them were new boys they had been keen to sign themselves.
Striker Bradshaw came off the bench to head his first Reds goal while Liverpool loan winger Kent capped a livewire performance with an emphatic strike to wrap up proceedings.
The figures who really stood out were Roberts, a physical presence in the Mick McCarthy mould - ‘You might get past me once but, by ’eck, you’ll know about for the rest of the game’ - and Josh Scowen who pulled most of the strings and mopped up every loose ball in midfield.
Debutant centre-half Angus MacDonald, in for Swansea-bound Alfie Mawson and playing his first game in the second tier, showed up well at the start, but was less assured later on. He’s not Roberts, but then not many in this division will be.
The second goal - a deflected long-range Hammill shot, coming just three minutes after the opener - ended any Rotherham hopes of a comeback. In all three away games, the Millers have been breached again very quickly after going behind.
“When you go 1-0 down, with the players we have got with experience, then the most important thing is to make sure you don’t concede a second,” Stubbs said.
“They haven’t done that. We have had a chat about it at the end. It’s not about ranting and raving. It’s about all of the players and us taking collective responsibility. It’s what they need to do, it’s what we need to do.”
It’s early days in Stubbs’ reign and the manager talks of needing time to complete the squad rebuilding he was brought in to perform. There were signs here bleaker than the weather that it could take longer and require more transfer activity than he anticipated.
“Today is obviously very worrying,” he said.
Stewart’s frustration as the first three goals went in was evident to see, the owner imploring several times from his place among the directors for his team to show more.
As the fourth hit the net and Oakwell danced with delight, his reaction was unknown.
Like many away followers, 3-0 had been the signal for his departure and his seat was empty.