YOU don’t always get what you deserve in football.
Rotherham United manager Steve Evans will probably still be scratching his head now as to how Dagenham and Redbridge left the New York Stadium with maximum points. The truth is the better team lost.
The Millers dominated a one-sided first half. They monopolised possession and their football, at times, was exquisite and as good as anything you will see at this level. The Daggers kept on having to make last-ditch clearances, blocks and tackles to keep them at bay.
Michael O’Connor twice went close with long-range free kicks and Lee Frecklington, when clean through on goal on the stroke of half time, was superbly denied by Chris Lewington as the visitors struggled to contain a rampant Rotherham.
Dagenham, adopting a 4-1-4-1 formation, offered little as an attacking force but arguably created the best chance of the opening period when the lively Medy Elito found Abu Ogogo from a Matt Saunders corner but he blazed over.
The visitors improved after the interval, with interim manager Wayne Burnett throwing on Billy Bingham at the expense of Kevin Maher. He gave them a different dimension on the left flank and allowed Elito to push further forward and support lone forward Josh Scott.
Precious little was created before Elito’s 58th minute opener. He latched on to Luke Wilkinson’s punt upfield and Kari Arnason was adjudged to have nudged him over in the penalty area. The referee paused for a few seconds to consider his options before pointing to the spot and sending off Arnason, with Elito making no mistake from 12 yards.
In a pulsating final 30 minutes, Rotherham levelled things up when Claude Davis powered in David Noble’s corner. TV replays suggest Daniel Nardiello, though, got the final touch. Rotherham’s goal came just after Lewington pushed Nardiello’s effort over the bar.
At 1-1, Nardiello dragged a shot wide when well-placed and flashed an effort across the goal while Alex Revell’s venomous drive on the turn was well parried by Lewington.
With eight minutes left, Dagenham made Rotherham pay for their profligacy as Wilkinson rifled a shot past Andy Warrington after a well-worked training ground routine. It was a lapse in concentration from Rotherham at the back. Evans blamed Revell for the winner, claiming it was his job to track Wilkinson’s run.
“We are disappointed with their second goal,” said Evans. “We’ve seen them do it before.
“Alex (Revell) goes to sleep. We have told them (the players) for three days what they do and he didn’t do his job. Everybody else has done theirs.
“But Alex has been outstanding for us today and he’s given absolutely everything for a number of weeks now. We will all learn from that and move on.
“Other than that (error), I thought my team was magnificent. It feels as if Dagenham have turned up with ski masks and sunglasses and gone away with the points.”
But despite their numerical disadvantage, Evans’ men could have grabbed an equaliser in the dying minutes through Ben Pringle, whose free kick struck the crossbar. At the other end, Luke Howell missed a sitter after beating the offside trap, chipping his shot over Warrington but into the side-netting.
Evans said: “It is hard to take. I thought we were outstanding from start to finish. I was disappointed it was 0-0 at half-time because we must have had 90 per cent of the possession in their half. They had two efforts on goal and a penalty which I need to look at again. It didn’t look like a penalty. It looks as if the boy deliberately played for it.
“I thought the effort, commitment and passion they played with was terrific. Some of our passages of play were outstanding. I know their manager and he’s an honest guy but if he says anything else other than its daylight robbery, then he has got sunglasses on as well.
“You’ve got to give credit to Dagenham who defended with their lives and give credit to Wayne (Burnett). We did enough to win three games today but you only win games if you put the ball in the net. It just wouldn’t go in for us today but days like that happen.
“We laid siege to their goal for 99 per cent of the game. They’ve nicked a win. The players are devastated but it’s our job as a management team to lift them again.”
For all Rotherham’s good play, they lacked a cutting edge in the final third. Liam Ridehalgh, on loan from Huddersfield Town until the end of the season, is urging his teammates to be more ruthless in front of goal.
The left-back told The Star: “We were the better side but that’s football. We had a man sent off and they got a penalty which didn’t help. I thought it was a penalty. It was just one ball upfield which caused the problem. I just wish that happened to us more often.
“We did well to get back into the game but obviously we switched off and they scored again.
“We are all disappointed. We have been doing well recently but we shot ourselves in the foot against Dagenham.
“We have got to be more clinical in front of goal. I lost count of the amount of chances we created. We had loads of chances to go 1-0 up in the first half but it didn’t happen and then we had the penalty incident and that changed the game.
“We had the chance to climb up the table even more, especially with a game in hand. But hopefully we will kick on Tuesday and get back to winning ways.”
As good as Rotherham have been on their travels, they remain inconsistent at home. They have now suffered eight defeats in their own backyard.
“I just think teams sit back at our place and are happy for us to play in front of them,” said Ridehalgh. “When we play away from home, teams take the game to us and we are a very good counter attacking team and that’s when we get a lot of our chances.”
Rotherham gave it everything on Saturday and were rightly clapped off the pitch by their supporters. But unless they arrest their patchy home form, Evans side risk missing out on automatic promotion.