But away draw means the club needs victories now
THEY’RE still in the shake up. Just!
It wasn’t essential to win at Cheltenham but a glance at the outcome from the afternoon’s results really did back up what most thought. They needed to win really...
Four points isn’t unsurmountable but we’re now into the final handful of games and, suddenly, it can all disappear in the twinkle of a missed opportunity.
And what an opportunity this was really.
No games are easy (unless you’re four or five up at Lincoln) but they really could not have hoped for more compliant opponents.
Cheltenham have been pretty rubbish at home since the turn of the year.
Ten home games since January 1, seven defeats, two draws and one win (and that against rock-bottom Stockport).
Teams had been arriving here, winning, and scoring at the rate of two per game; they hadn’t kept a clean sheet for 15 games and had just been wallopped 8-1 at Crewe which prompted a public apology in the week from the players.
Could the Millers have asked for much else? Not really.
But, as you’d expect, the thumping at Crewe meant Cheltenham had spent all week focusing on how they could improve, how they had to work harder, defend better. They were playing for pride.
So, a potential backlash of sorts for the Millers to cop and, to an extent, perhaps they did.
But Cheltenham still weren’t very good and started out as nervous as kittens when asked to do any sort of defending.
At the start they were like kids playing the big school from the next town! Get...it...a-way...any...old...how.
Talk about panicky. They were dreading it anywhere near the penalty area.
Once, two defenders – with no Millers players within a few yards – thrashed at a bouncing ball following a throw-in and, after a bit of bagatelle, the ball ended up going in the wrong direction off one of them but to the keeper.
Rotherham did cash in though.
They were inches from doing so after five minutes. Tom Pope, recalled from Port Vale and stuck in ahead of Adam Le Fondre, saw his header blocked right on the line following good work from Nicky Law on the left.
But, five minutes later, Jason Taylor thrashed in a shot from just outside the area and Rotherham had the start they wanted.
Yet just 90 seconds later it might well have been all square when Matt Green pounced on Tom Newey’s clearance and struck a low 25- yarder against a post.
I thought Rotherham should have had a penalty soon afterwards. Law was toppled from behind and it certainly looked a foul.
But he was actually moving away from goal at the moment of challenge and perhaps these can be deemed “soft” penalties by the ref and, though it seems a foul, some may be inclined not to give them.
And it was at the ‘home’ end too with no big appeals (shades of the Valley Parade ‘non-penalty’).
Law, who played out on the left and seems to carry more danger there than in other positions, went close but not as close as Pope again.
A good link between Marshall and Tonge saw the full back deliver and Pope looped his header back over the keeper only for Riley to pop up right under the bar and clear.
Law then produced an invaluable piece of defending, getting back to hinder Pack who was pouncing on a loose ball after Jamie Annerson pushed out an angled effort from Wes Thomas.
From the ensuing corner, David Bird’s flashing header hit the bar but only thanks to Annerson’s excellent reflex touch.
Perhaps the ‘keeper will recall that moment to soothe his anguish over Cheltenham’s equaliser 17 minutes into a second half where, up to then, Rotherham had failed to regain their first half initiative.
Indeed, the home side would surely have levelled straight after the interval but for an excellent block by the diligent Danny Harrison as Bird swooped on a knockdown eight yards out.
Harrison then went close from 18 yards.
However, when Annerson didn’t hold on to a high free-kick, there was a scramble on the ground and Andy Gallinagh forced in the equaliser.
After their slow start to the second half, it certainly seemed to spark a decisive reaction and more positivity from the Millers, who knew they couldn’t be satisfied with a draw.
Two minutes after the leveller, Law’s header was brilliantly kept out by keeper Brown, who also turned over a Marcus Marshall header.
The keeper did well too in denying Ryan Taylor, who shot while on the ground.
Le Fondre, who scored four when the teams met at Don Valley, was sent on and had a 20-yarder saved.
In the latter stages, with Cheltenham happy to keep demonstrating their newly-found defensive resolve, only one side was going to win it and in the third minute of stoppage time, Liam Henderson headed just wide from close range.
Only wins are going to suffice from now on.
Anything less and those play-offs will be disappearing into the distance.
How we didn’t win it I don’t know.
I defy anyone to say we were not the better side. By a mile.
That’s not being disrespectful to Cheltenham because they worked hard after being spanked in their last match.
After the previous week’s second half I asked for desire and commitment and got that.
We just needed a bit of luck and, yeh, to be more ruthless in front of goal.
We should definitely have had a penalty for handball in the second half and I thought the challenge on Nicky Law in the first half looked a penalty.
We were all up for it and out of the dugout.
Tom Pope came back in and worked hard.
He played well.
Jamie Annerson says he made a mistake for the goal but people do make ‘em – get on with it.