Rotherham United: Fans turn on Millers boss Evans

Rotherham United manager Steve Evans
Rotherham United manager Steve Evans

A SEVENTH home defeat before the end of January. And this latest one to the team occupying bottom spot.

Those bare stats would suggest something going drastically wrong at whichever club was on the receiving end. Yet, as Steve Evans was quick to point out, the Millers are three points off third place and have a game in hand!

Well, after an afternoon like this, any positives are worth highlighting.

But the thing is - if something isn’t going wrong, it most certainly isn’t going right. And too much went wrong on Saturday and nowhere near enough right.

Evans, for the first time, saw angry fan reaction. Don’t be surprised. The fans don’t expect a side packed with some talented players to lose to the side at the bottom. And just the home game after losing to another side fighting for survival.

Or perhaps it was the paucity of performance that really galled the Millers faithful who, week on week since the heady days of summer, have had hopes soaring that this is going to be their year. Those expectations.

Then they look at the disorganised shambles of the first half and seriously question if their favourites are going to back up all the hype and the talk.

No-one doubts that Rotherham United have signed some good players. Certainly their virtues have been loudly extolled after pen has been put to paper.

Look at the starting 11. Midfield had two players capped by their country; another who has cost a six-figure sum; another whom, we are told, the club has just turned down a six-figure sum for. Which League Two club wouldn’t fancy any of them, let alone two, three or four?

Very often in football, it’s about making the sum greater than the individual parts. Who can argue against anyone who says that in the past couple of months in this splendid stadium, the sum has been far smaller than the individual parts. Something has being going wrong.

Five home defeats in the last six league games at home is a damning indictment and worrying for all those whose hopes have been built so high.

Perhaps fitting everyone in

and still finding a balance, a shape and developing a structure, isn’t quite as easy as anyone thinks.

But with such a talented squad, managers have to find a way. On Saturday - it has to be said - Steve Evans was nowhere near it. First half at any rate.

It turned out better in the second half with 10 men and one would hesitate to say it was by accident rather than design.

Width was added (young Courtney Cameron getting the nod ahead of recent signing Dan Kearns) which meant playing two (O’Connor and Frecklington) in orthodox central midfield roles. At least they were able to adapt and know what was required.

Of course, however bad or good, you can never legislate for the sort of individual rubbish which handed Rovers their first two goals.

Evans has pinned his colours to the Claude Davis mast and it may prove a shrewd move. But the big man’s debut was a nightmare and, whatever the reason for jettisoning Ryan Cresswell (a passionate Millers fan) last summer, no wonder fans are continuing to ask why he was ditched.

Davis’s needless push on Ryan Brunt - with a free-kick sailing high over everyone - was the sort you might get away. But ref Webb saw it, decided (unlike a lot of refs against a home defender) not to ignore it and gave Lee Brown the chance to send Andy Warrington the wrong way from the penalty spot three minutes from half-time.

Then, in stoppage time, after poor defending from Dale Tonge let in Elliott Richards, Davis mistimed his tackle and off he went for a second yellow and a one-match ban.

Up to that point, Rotherham had managed one proper, on-target effort, a 22 yarder from Lee Frecklington that was well saved. They had barely created a chance. Against the bottom team!

They looked a bunch of players who were edgy, hurried, over-eager, nervous, lacking composure and rushing everything they did. Why?

Frecklington, in an unusual left-side role of a midfield three, looked out of place. They looked to be lacking a shape; a structure. Revell and Nardiello barely threatened. The sooner Revell is under orders to head for the back stick in just about every attack, then at least there might be a presence in the penalty area for if, and when, the ball eventually gets put in there. It certainly doesn’t go in often enough and certainly not when half an opportunity arises.

One down and with ten men is tantamount to a problem but Rotherham framed better after half-time and Revell got an early header on target in the second half.

But as Rotherham were building some momentum, they conceded a horrific second goal on 52 minutes. Poor old Tonge (in for the dropped Mark Bradley for his first game since October 27) ended up with his head buried in the turf as he acknowledged as bad a piece of defending as there could have been to let in sub Ellis Harrison for his first goal in senior football.

Frecklington was denied by a brilliant save after an assist from Kayode Odejayi who made an impact when he went on.

But, on 61 minutes, it was virtually all over. Joe Anyinsah wasn’t tracked as he ran on to take a return ball from Oliver Norburn and the ignominy was that the Millers were 3-0 down to the bottom side.

Yes, new boss John Ward, as expected, has had an impact and Rovers had clearly raised their game.

But they were not a good side other than a willing one, and you could understand the frustration of the Millers fans. One, apparently, hurled a scarf in the direction of Evans.

His introduction of David Noble (first appearance since the debacle of Southend on October 13) had an instant pay-off with a fine strike from 20 yards with 17 minutes left.

Had Johnny Mullins been able to get a header on target a few minutes later, then I reckon the visitors would have panicked and we’d have had a grandstand finish. But this was poor. Barnet and Bristol Rovers at home offered great opportunities for a side pushing for promotion, yet they haven’t even got within two goals goal of a point.

Perhaps third-placed Northampton’s visit next Saturday will suit them. The Millers will probably win. But don’t lose at home again. Because if Exeter win twice this week, then the gap to third would be eight points. And that would take some talking away!