Match Report: Bristol City 1 Rotherham 2

It's happy days for Nouha Dicko as he roars in celebration after his goal at Bristol City
It's happy days for Nouha Dicko as he roars in celebration after his goal at Bristol City

What a relief to get back playing League One teams after those pesky little blighters from League Two who kept upsetting the odds. Perhaps a good job then the Millers are not still a division below...

But they are certainly making something of being a division above, however, and what odds would you have got on them being four points clear in the Play-offs at this stage and guaranteed, as they are regardless of results, to be in the top six when that turkey comes out of the oven! Not bad eh?

So let’s give the players a big pat on the back here and not just for slogging through the second half rainstorm at Ashton Gate.

When there’s a win, we’re often too quick to hail any manager for some miracle master plan; lose and it’s his fault and we should get rid unless there’s an individual to attach the blame to.

Well, with Steve Evans, literally and metaphorically, taking a back seat here, a fine first half performance and a determined second half one made it three away wins on the trot and a sixth league game unbeaten.

As far as I noted, the Millers manager - a shouting, urging, demonstrative, complaining presence normally - didn’t appear on the touchline at all until stoppage time. He sat back in the dug out, did stand up two or three times but generally sat and watched. I thought he mustn’t be feeling very well!

Yes, his assistant Paul Raynor was the visible and verbal presence out there (although how much anyone could hear in that wind I’m not sure) but this was a bunch of players who got on with it from minute one. They sorted this one out.

Evans, my fears as to his state of health being unfounded, said afterwards it was about trust in the players.

“I’m very vocal and very passionate but I said they needed to stand up and be counted,” he said, probably as a reminder of the two very costly defeats of the past week to Rochdale and Fleetwood.

“To be fair, I think they have done so in many, many games but there’s no magic formula. When we have our best players on the pitch and work hard, it’s no surprise that we have a go and win football matches.

“When we’re depleted and certain key players are missing, it’s a problem because we don’t carry such a big squad.

“I was confident they could deal with this and all it involved - a new manager for them, the crowd up for the new start.

“Some of the first half play was excellent; we could have killed the game then. The wind doubled in the second half and the game wasn’t going anywhere really; we headed a few, kicked a few, got the job done.”

They did indeed, sparked by the second minute goal from Nouha Dicko, his fourth in five appearances and fourth successive scoring game from the four he’s started.

It began with James Tavernier’s surging run then Kieran Agard’s powerful shot which the keeper parried and Dicko pounced although his effort went in off Aiden Flint.

It was a perfect start. The home camp were bouyant at what was Steve Cotterill’s first game in charge and would have been looking to start energetically. But when you’ve only won once at home, a goal against so early on can quickly throw up the doubts.

With Ben Pringle everywhere in the opening stages and Lee Frecklington giving a fair old impression of a box-to-box midfielder, Rotherham looked good. Then there was Kari Arnason, moved forward into midfield and at his most magisterial amidst the maelstrom of wind and, eventually, rain.

There aren’t too many internationals in League One and it’s a treat to see Arnason bringing some of those international touches and experience along with composure into the Rotherham performance.

Tavernier had a shot saved and Frecklington had one deflected inches wide and the threat of a second goal materialised on 26 minutes thanks to the midfield trio.

Pringle spotted danger on the edge of his own area and made a vital challenge. He nudged the ball away, Arnason diverted it and Frecklington was off and running. And running and running.

Having reached the City area, he recovered from a slip and found that Pringle had made the same lung-bursting run to get in support. A short pass and that run was rewarded for Pringle as he despatched a low left footer for his fifth goal of the season.

It had been impressive stuff so far but in the latter stages of the half, a little edge seemed to go out of their game and City did get a foothold and threaten towards the break. Rotherham managed to keep a decent watch on dangerman Jay Emmanuel-Thomas although he showed he’s capable of prompting a threat out of almost nothing.

The second half saw the Millers facing the elements but, on the hour, Alex Revell had the chance to wrap it up when Frecklington’s header put him clean away. He’d got more time than he perhaps realised but elected for a blaster and blazed it wide.

In such conditions there were always going to be misjudgements and opportunities. Collin saved well from Elliott, Cunningham missed a great chance and there were a few balls swirling and curling perilously close to City personnel as the rain kept sweeping down.

Craig Morgan and Claude Davis were a strong presence in the foul conditions which demanded a no-nonsense response.

Sub Bobby Reid, with an intended (wind-aided) centre which curled in because no one stuck their head on it, gave City hope for the last eight minutes.

In the final one, Collin made a very good, one-handed save from Sam Baldock and Mark Bradley was first to the loose ball rather than a striker.

A final, excellent response from the men in grey.