Match report: Leyton Orient 1 Rotherham United 0

Kieran Agard fires a shot past Nathan Clarke (left) and a grounded Gary Sawyer
Kieran Agard fires a shot past Nathan Clarke (left) and a grounded Gary Sawyer
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It was classed as a benchmark month. A period when we’d learn a bit more about Rotherham United in view of the teams they were playing.

They could surprise us and show they really are a genuine top-six side.

Or they could be found out, struggle a bit and look booked for a bottom-half finish.

Or perhaps they might be somewhere in between. Competitive, yes, better than bottom half but not quite the real deal which one or two optimists - probably a tad over-eager early on - had talked them up as.

Perhaps we should go for option three then. Not as a criticsim either.

Just an assessment of what’s gone off this past month. And this game, against the League One leaders on their own patch, gave us an idea why Millers followers can be encouraged but also why, without improvements in certain aspects of their game, they will probably stay about where they are.

Yes, after a first half of little impact, they produced a second-half full of the vibrant, progressive football we have seen plenty of this season. It had Orient rocked on the back foot and forced to show all their defensive resilience and good organisation.

But, as the Millers ponder that second half in which they made a more than valid case to be worth a point, they will reflect on the fact that once again they have plaudits but not the points to go with them.

Let’s take Orient first - and you often see this with teams at the top.

They didn’t play well in the second half (and were good but not great in the first) but what they did do was dig in, work hard and for each other, graft, defend doggedly and dig out a result.

Funny, but top teams will do that. Not play well but win.

Then you consider the Millers. Playing well and not winning!

In their manager’s words, they have had two poor halves in the month - second half v Swindon and first half in this game. Played pretty well rest of the time.

They hammered Peterborough and lost. Swamped Swindon with 25 minutes of the best football by a Rotherham side in recent years and lost.

They pushed MK Dons hard with 10 men; had Tranmere on the rack for an hour. Here, Orient were tested and the home fans living on their nerves in the second half.

But, the fine victory at Brentford apart, they have been unable to win.

When Steve Evans and his staff sit down to analyse where they stand at the end of October - which is what The Gaffer said he was always planning to do - they will know where they aren’t quite coming up to scratch.

They can’t, for whatever reason, create enough good enough opportunities or, when they do, the finish is lacking.

Evans has a slight dilemma too.

Few would argue with him playing Michael O’Connor, Lee Frecklington, Rob Milsom and Ben Pringle. No natural wide man there though.

When Agard plays on the right, it can tend to leave Alex Revell isolated. When Kieran Agard pushed up alongside Revell after half-time, there was more sustained attacking and they were a bit sharper in the final third.

Of course, somebody will cry “we need a goalscorer” - that wonderful commodity but one which doesn’t grow on trees.

Someone may point to Messrs Daniel Nardiello and Matt Tubbs who both began on the bench. But how do they fit into the equation of a quart into a pint pot?

At some stage Evans may have to consider Tubbs, at least giving him a chance to show if he could be the goal-poacher to snap up a chance or two. If the striker can’t effect improvement, then at least he’ll know a bit more about him at this level.

Nothing should detract from the worthiness of Rotherham’s performances, some of their football and the exciting nature of their approach.

But they will need, in the long run, to make it count if they are not to suffer more hard luck stories and endure pointless praise.

So far, they have matched clubs above them but, with one exception, haven’t been good enough to beat them.

Orient had an air of confidence about them at the start and you’d expect that after their run.

They looked under orders to start strongly and try and put Tuesday night’s first defeat of the season behind them.

They were hard-working, pressuring Rotherham in all areas, well organised, and had players who did the dirty side of the job.

They had some handy experience too, understanding among players and a belief.

Rotherham combated them well, with Mark Bradley producing some splendid work on the cover and he was to do that right through the game.

Kari Arnason’s reading of situations stood out and it was an intriguing battle between him and Craig Morgan and front duo Kevin Lisbie and David Mooney.

Rotherham had got over Orient’s bright start when they conceded on 27 minutes, ultimately unlucky after Adam Collin made a fantastic save, the home side getting the rub of the green with rebounds etcetera for Lisbie to score.

Rotherham had a real go in the second half. Orient did seem to become reliant on their defending and they didn’t play well going forward.

Agard struck the side-netting and fired a 20-yarder wide, Revell having failed to pull away into space which would have seen Agard play him in - the big man actually moved the other way.

There was a brilliant challenge on Mooney by Morgan who will be missing next Saturday due to a fifth booking.

Rotherham couldn’t find or create space in crucial areas and stoppage time saw Collin make a fantastic save from Cox before Bradley cleared off the line from Stockley with Collin making another stop at the end.

So far so good for the Millers but not quite good enough to be in the leading pack.