MILLERS MATCH REPORT: Aldershot 3 Rotherham United 1

Aldershot v Rotherham United - FA Cup Round 3 - Daniel Nardiello runs at Ben Herd as he heads for goal
Aldershot v Rotherham United - FA Cup Round 3 - Daniel Nardiello runs at Ben Herd as he heads for goal

DISAPPOINTED? Devastated? Definitely. But was it not so much the defeat but more the dream being shattered?

This was a real ‘high hopes’ afternoon for the faithful. Five away wins on the trot, FA Cup success in real style when unexpected and now it’s a real winnable-looking tie against a lowly club who’ve won only two at home all season and who were unbelievably poor last time you trekked down there.

Understandably, Millers fans starved of any cup success recently and on the back of wins over two League One clubs, sensed the real prospect of a fourth-round appearance and, hopefully, a good draw.

It permeated every thought process and what a great chance for a big tie at New York Stadium.

And chairman Tony Stewart was sitting there probably thinking of the financial potential of getting through (£57,000 in prize money alone) and dreaming of a lucrative fourth round tie which, if lucky enough to get on live TV, would have wiped out the six-figure sum for Lee Frecklington just like that!

So, all those hopes and dreams. But they were shattered. Which is what the cup so often does.

The game has a funny habit of doing the unexpected and, with Aldershot unrecognisably improved from the October meeting between the sides, there was - for some - a strange sense of unease about this tie that was to prove justified from the opening minutes.

Not that Rotherham were rubbish on the day. In the end they went the way of many a fancied side in the cup - striving might and main to pull things round from a deficit but finding the opposition equally, if not more, determined to deny them. Not quite good enough and, so, falling short

You just got the feeling revenge was in the air for Dean Holdsworth’s side. They rode their luck a bit and some pressure but once they were in front I don’t honestly think there looked like being any other outcome than the one we got.

It is easy to say there were players below par. But the vital thing was not to be behind and having to play catch-up. Aldershot, beaten only three times in 15 now in a big revival, were determined not to give up their lead and they fought all over the pitch as they battled to get to the fourth round for the first time since 1987.

In such circumstances as those that developed here, it is easier to defend, be destructive and hit on the break than to be trying to make every attack count as the frustration mounts and over-eagerness kicks in.

Would it have been different had Daniel Nardiello finished his point-blank header with which he hit the bar after two minutes? Quite possibly.

But instead of being one up Rotherham were one down after just six minutes and it was certainly avoidable.

Initially, Jack O’Connell shed possession near halfway as he ran the ball out. Following a clearance, Nardiello made eager ground towards Ben Herd but then pulled out of the challenge, giving the right-back an easy passage. The centre was dangerous and Danny Hylton finished at the second attempt.

You could see the lift it gave the home side - a different proposition to the poor outfit of the previous meeting and more direct too. They met attacks with real defiance and it got doubly hard for Rotherham on 23 minutes.

Kieron Cadogan’s inswinging free-kick saw Hylton get the better of Mark Bradley to head the second. The die was cast. Rotherham pushed hard to get in it but Aldershot, with numbers back, sensed an upset and continued to deny them.

At half-time, Steve Evans replaced Michael O’Connor and Nardiello with Courtney Cameron and new loan striker Adam Morgan who went alongside Alex Revell and was a lively presence.

Down the slope in the second half it was a case of Rotherham pouring forward and Aldershot defending and going with the odd breakaway.

The next goal was always going to be significant. Rotherham conceded it just past the hour.

There was an issue over offside as Hylton was put clear but he completed his hat-trick and virtually killed off the game.

Not quite exactly. With Kayode Odejayi having an impact and Morgan hungry for a goal, Lee Frecklington’s penalty on 71 minutes for handball gave the Millers a sniff.

Had, two minutes later, Frecklington scored with a clear chance set up by Odejayi and Morgan, then we’d have got a grandstand finish.

Morgan showed predatory instincts and had a stoppage-time effort excellently tipped over by Young.

By then it was 10 v 10. Kari Arnason got a second booking (dissent and then a challenge) and misses the Barnet home game while Hylton struck Jason Taylor after they’d tussled for the ball.

Evans had decided to go with the 11 that did so well in the Notts County replay, hoping they might recapture the cup magic of that night

Who would have thought this would be much more difficult than that? What a letdown!