Match analysis: Rotherham United 0 AFC Bournemouth 2

The Millers concede the second goal
The Millers concede the second goal
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Amid the rain, snow and plummeting temperature at AESSEAL New York Stadium, something was still boiling.

Steve Evans’ temper.

The Millers manager was incandescent with rage at the end of the first half. Three AFC Bournemouth players - yes, Bournemouth players, not Rotherham ones - had to hold on to him and lead him down the tunnel to prevent him confronting referee Stephen Martin.

Evans, an animated and impassioned boss, may have a history of showing his feelings on the touchline, but this was anger at a rarely-seen level.

Bournemouth, the Championship leaders and a quality side you simply don’t want to fall behind against, had just gone ahead in the second minute of the one minute of time added on announced to the crowd.

Yes, check that again. You read it right first time.

The half should have been over when a Cherries free-kick was headed towards Tommy Elphick and the Bournemouth defender, after what seemed like an age with the ball hanging in the air, nodded home with the help of a Kari Arnason touch and a post.

I hardly dare mention that it was also a dubious decision to award a foul against Richie Smallwood which led to the ball into the box.

It was a cruel setback for Evans’ men. The visitors were slick, fast and purposeful, and would grow even better in the second half, but Rotherham, with two new boys and three more making home debuts, had stuck to their task and given them a game.

“I don’t remember my team going away from home and getting so many decisions from the match official. That’s quite hard to take as a manager,” Evans said.

“That’s the worst official we’ve had in about five years. While I’m not questioning his integrity - I’ve stayed away from match officials - let’s be honest, he’s had an absolute shocker today from start to finish if you’re Rotherham United.

“I think our supporters made it known what they thought.”

Ref Martin was booed off at the end of the first half, booed back on at the start of the second and booed off at the final whistle. Yes, the Millers fans made it known what they thought.

The Millers gave as good as they got in the first half. Zeki Fryers produced a great block early on to deny Harry Arter, Callum Wilson had a goal disallowed and the lightning-quick striker was foiled by a fine Adam Collin save.

Against that, Paul Green wastefully mistimed his header with a clear sight of goal, Adam Hammill’s shot was spilled by Bournemouth goalkeeper Lee Camp and Frazer Richardson couldn’t direct the follow-up ball to waiting teammates while Jack Barmby drove forward and skidded a shot inches wide from outside the area.

“We’ve played well. We’ve come up against an exceptional side. I think in the first half we’re very, very unfortunate,” Evans said.

This was nothing like the 5-1 capitulation in the FA Cup against Eddie Howe’s outfit a fortnight ago, but defeat against a Cherries steam showing nine changes from the January 5th encounter means it’s now eight matches since the Millers, who drop a place but remain above the drop zone, won at home.

Rotherham will be glad there is no match next Saturday and they have extra time to bed in their January signings - and any more that may arrive this week - before the Tuesday-night home encounter with Bolton Wanderers on the 27th.

Dangerman Wilson, with luck on his side, settled this match in the 62nd-minute, poking home after a protracted goalmouth sramble during which it looked several times like the home side were about to clear the danger.

“Kari Arnason is an own goal for the first one and perhaps he should put the ball straight out for a corner for the second one. He tries to clear it back into play,” Evans said.

“It’s just the eagerness to get hold of the ball, and then their striker slides in. When you’re at the top of the league - and we’ve been there - they fall for you and you get the goal. That’s disappointing, They’re pretty fortunate to be two up at that stage.”

On to the new-boy report ...

Striker Conor Sammon showed signs that he could be a useful additon with his size, ability and Championship know-how, while left-back Fryers’ pace and athleticism were evident before he succumbed to cramp in the second half. I hope Millers fans, desperate to see a regular scorer in the side, give Sammon time. There’s a reason he’s played all his football at Championship level and above.

Danny Ward didn’t hit the heights of his debut at Brentford a week earlier, the free-passing Barmby found it harder going against an organised side who deny space and press out of possession relentlessly while in patches Hammill offered the most direct route to goal.

Like the snow of earlier, the Millers came with a late flurry. In a two-minute spell from the 82nd minute, Smallwood’s shot was inadvertently blocked by Rotherham sub Conor Newton - who otherwise offered up an encouraging second-half cameo - Hammill saw his fierce effort blocked and Green lifted the ball over the bar when he should have crossed.

You’d have thought the snow had turned to ice so easily did Matt Ritchie go down throughout the second half, conning the referee into giving a foul on several occasions, but otherwise it was impressive stuff from the visitors who have suffered one league loss since September.

Evans is a huge fan of Bournemouth and the way they play, and the Millers management team have pointed to them in the past as an example to follow.

“We’ve played well. We’ve come up against an exceptional side,” he said.

“Bournemouth have had a much tougher game today than they did a couple of weeks ago. That’s testament to the group we’ve put together. I genuinely wish them all the best.

“We’ll try to take some points off the teams that we’ve got to face that are fighting in Eddie’s group for a place in the Premiership.”

With his new team still taking shape and fresh personnel learning to play with each other, Evans would probably have wished for any opponents on Saturday other than the ones who are now most observers’ favourites for promotion.

Just like Stephen Martin and his dodgy watch, it can be all about timing.

Rotherham United (4-2-3-1): Collin 6, Richardson 6, Morgan 6, Arnason 6, Fryers 6 (Milsom 58, 6), Smallwood 6, Green 7, Ward 5v(Bowery 75), Barmby 6 (Newton 58, 7), Hammill 6, Sammon 7. Subs not used: Thompson, Broadfoot, Pringle, Derbyshire.

AFC Bournemouth (4-1-4-1: Camp 6, Francis 7, Cook 8, Elphick 7, Daniels 6, Surman 6, Ritchie 6 (Kermorgant 90+4), Arter 6, Pitman 5, Pugh 8 (Smith 90+4), Wilson 7 (Gosling 79). Subs not used: Flahavan, Stanislas, Fraser, O’Kane.

Manager’s view: Steve Evans: “Probably the referee was just getting carried away with the occasion in allowing them the time to put the free-kick into the box. But we should head it clear. We shouldn’t be scoring an own goal from there. It puts us on the back foot. You know then the game hinges on the next goal. If they get the goal it’s going to be very difficult, and they did. But overall I couldn’t have asked any more from the players in terms of effort and determination.”

Manager’s view: Eddie Howe: “We have been good defensively on the road and we protected our goal very well. I think whenever you watch us play this season we’ve always looked like we’ve had goals in us and we were quite ruthless when our opportunities came along. That’s a good combination when you are tight defensively and free-scoring. I think we’ve got a good squad. It’s very difficult to pick a team when you are in my position with the strength that we have.”

Hero: Whoever had the idea to list Rotherham United fans who had passed away in 2014 in the matchday programme and applaud them before kick-off. A lovely tribute which will mean much to many.

Key moment: Rotherham’s players should have been sucking on their half-time oranges and not still out on the pitch when the first Bournemouth goal was conceded. Bournemouth are too good a side to need any time-keeping assistance.

Viewpoint: Two big games coming up next, Bolton at home and then Charlton away. The Millers need points as a tough run looms after that - Ipswich h, Blackburn a, Derby h, Wolves a and Watford a.

Ref watch: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire). Not the reason the Millers lost. But he hardly helped matters either. Playing Fergie time at the end of the first half was just the biggest of many mistakes he made on an afternoon he’ll want to forget.

Attendance: 9,157 (624).