This wasn’t a case of how did the Millers manage to lose this one rather how on earth did they not win it? And by a distance.
On a remarkable weekend when the five teams in third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh all lost, Rotherham United really will think this was a great opportunity missed. And it was.
I don’t know the merits of the performances elsewhere but I’ll bet anything you want that none of them enjoyed anywhere near the utter domination or the iron grip on midfield that Rotherham had at Morecambe. Well, for 70 minutes until being reduced to 10 men.
Still, you’ve probably heard it all before. And we’ve certainly seen it.
The word ‘dominant’ has perhaps become the most commonly used one across the season when talking about Rotherham’s games. Certainly been used regularly in home games and plenty away.
Which means, therefore, that something hasn’t been going right often enough at the business end. You might say that opponents have too often been able to get away with hanging on.
It’s happened too many times and suggests they lack a ruthless touch; a cutting edge; real penetration.
To swarm forward as they did regularly in the first half - they’ve never been so much on top away from home all season - and have nothing to show for it leaves one tempted to be critical for that rather than praise their superiority.
You can’t blame Morecambe for defiant defending or for such as experienced skipper Will Haining having a blinder inside his own penalty area. That’s what they’re supposed to do.
It did seem, in that first half, only a matter of time before they’d make their possession count. But, actually, for all the control in midfield, and all the threatening positions they got into, you can’t count too many actually clear-cut chances created.
Yes, lots of stuff for the home defence to deal with and certainly some anxious moments for them but a check back doesn’t show too many saves being required or efforts going close or good chances being spurned. Just lots of possession spoiled by some poor balls in and poor decision making.
Who knows if Daniel Nardiello would have made a difference. Leaving out your top scorer is always a big and contentious call and, whatever the reason, Steve Evans knows that fans will always have the advantage of hindsight and dish out some stick if you lose or don’t score.
Sometimes managers may go for perspiration rather than possible inspiration. Perhaps he wished to freshen things up, probably give Kieran Agard a chance to follow up his reserve team hat-trick from midweek; probably keep Nardiello fresh for the Exeter game tomorrow.
The fact is, they should have won this one by a distance whether Nardiello played or not. The thing is, when you don’t win, the missing player or players would always have made a difference in some eyes!
The harsh reality now is that the game in hand ‘advantage’ has gone.
Win it tomorrow and they still won’t be in the top three.
The even harsher reality, which no one wants to contemplate, is that if they lose tomorrow and Bradford win at home to Bristol Rovers, the Millers won’t even be in a play-off place!
Still, they’ve only themselves to blame for not winning this one.
Unless you factor in the early penalty shout that went against them. Agard, seemingly poised to pull the trigger, went down about 12 yards out when he was desperately challenged from behind. It looked a penalty.
Rotherham were “all over” the home side in that first half; fluffed a 3 v 1 when O’Connor looked sure to set up Arnason and came closest through Ainsworth’s 25 yarder and a Pringle shot which was going in until it deflected away off Haining’s leg.
The home side’s only meaningful effort was from Redshaw just before the break which Shearer superbly touched over.
Rotherham picked up where they left off but in a 4 v 2 break Arnason, inexplicably for a player of his class and quality, ignored two players unmarked to his left and went the other way with a pass which required Pringle to overtake a defender who cleared. Agard then forced his way into the clear only to blaze over the top.
A goal had to come and, as so often happens when one team has been on top, it’s at the other end. Robbie Threlfall curled in a 25-yard free-kick for his first goal in three years.
Rotherham got a big slice of luck with their equaliser on 64 minutes, Ainsworth’s low 25-yarder diverting in off the legs of Alex Revell.
But with 20 minutes left, Johnny Mullins brought down Wright who was bursting beyond him. After checking with his linesman, the ref flourished red and it will be a one game ban.
Despite having 10 men, Rotherham still wanted a winner except Morecambe now had an extra attacker on and finally got some momentum and would have led but for Shearer’s fine save from Alessandra.
Just when a precious point was within sight, Rotherham lost everything in the 90th minute - and trust it to be Kevin Ellison.
Skarz, hitherto sound, erred on the left. In went a high cross and Ellison’s height got him the better of Tonge and the header looped away and dropped inch perfect under the bar.
Off came the shirt as Ellison ran away to celebrate and, just to rub it in, did so facing the stunned Millers fans. Rotherham players looked absolutely shell-shocked too .