Last-gasp Millers march on

Carlisle United v Rotherham United - SkyBet League 1 - 22nd February 2014 - Wes Thomas wheels away in celebration with Richard Smallwood in hot pursuit
Carlisle United v Rotherham United - SkyBet League 1 - 22nd February 2014 - Wes Thomas wheels away in celebration with Richard Smallwood in hot pursuit
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When something keeps happening to a football team on a regular basis, good or bad, there’s usually a reason for it.

Just lately, Rotherham United have been scoring some decisive late goals. Some very late. Three have been in stoppage time which may not be coincidence.

The first promotion winning manager I recall, Jim McGuigan, would talk of his team having a will-to-win.

Being young and a bit naive, I didn’t quite get it. Didn’t every team want to win? Getting older and, hopefully, not quite so naive, I realised what he was getting at. I see it here and now.

This Millers side is demonstrating it’s got a will-to-win.

They certainly have a drive and a desire that pushes them on in an almost fanatical manner in search of something. What factors push them on, individually and collectively, we can surmise but it’s likely to be a combination of things.

But they all add up, it seems, to that particular X factor which makes winners.

This was a fourth straight win, a best such sequence so far. They’ve won six of their last seven (drawing the other thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser) and have won seven of their last eight away games in the league which, in any division let alone as newcomers to League One, is a fantastic achievement.

As the game moved into stoppage time and Alex Revell set off down the right flank, he could easily have carried straight on in the direction of the corner flag and messed about there to eat up some precious time.

But if you have the will-to-win and you’re part of a team that keeps going, doesn’t give in and believes, then you do what Revell did. Only this time he produced an absolute peach of a cross - low and fast towards the six-yard area.

For once, a blue shirt didn’t get there first. Kieran Agard (moved centrally ten minutes earlier) has developed a goal instinct which sharpens with every goal and he showed all the hungry attributes a scorer needs.

He was pro-active, he anticipated, he was sharp and got across his marker. The cross was so good it just needed Agard to divert it in the direction of goal. His execution was perfect.

After his madcap run of celebration, he was submerged under the rest of the grey shirts, goalkeeper Adam Collin, having had a pretty quiet return to his former club, deciding against a long dash to a faraway touchline.

It was Agard’s 16th of the season and his second stoppage time goal in five games. It was Rotherham’s second stoppage time win in their last three games and they won the other one in the 88th minute.

This should have been sorted by about 20 past three. For all Carlisle’s admirable defiance and tenacious play in the face of Rotherham’s attacking and against a really difficult wind, the Cumbrians should have been blown to the hills.

But they weren’t although it wasn’t a mystery why not. That’s because Carlisle - pushed back so they always had numbers back - seemed to win every first ball into the area and seemed first to the second balls as well. And when gilt-edged chances came Rotherham, notably Wes Thomas, blew them.

On a rare occasion Rotherham made a telling header from a set-piece, Claude Davis nodded on a long throw but Thomas steered a great chance wide.

Then when Agard’s header sent him clear, he thrashed it wide when he could have picked his spot.

But he kept perservering and his reward came midway through the half when he cashed in on a defensive mix-up with young keeper Jordan Pickford clattering his own defender yards outside his area after an ill-judged advance.

If taking a one goal lead into the interval seemed scant reward and a touch slender in view of the conditions, imagine the shock of conceding an equaliser right at the end of stoppage time, an excellent overhead effort by Lee Miller.

With Carlisle having the wind at their backs second half and having shown some lively moments, it looked like being a really awkward second half. It barely developed that way.

With Kari Arnason superb, with Richie Smallwood backing up good first half work with more important if unglamorous stuff and Lee Frecklington driving forward, they pushed on.

Thomas hit the keeper’s legs when through, Agard shot wide and was then victim of the most blatant non-penalty of the season. Forget the rest.

Agard robbed Meppen-Walter who was ushering the ball out for a goal kick, set off along the byeline and just inside the area, the chasing defender simply bundled him over from behind. Whatever the ref was thinking I don’t know except he gave a goal kick which shows who touched it last!