Match Report: Notts County 0 Rotherham United 1

Kieran Agard slides in to fire home Rotherham's winner at Notts County
Kieran Agard slides in to fire home Rotherham's winner at Notts County
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Midway through the second half, and despite maths not being my strong suit, I decided to count up how many red and white shirts were on the pitch.

Yes, I knew there’d only be 11 but it’s just that I was convinced someone had sneaked on two or three more!

When that’s the illusion, that one side appears to have more men on the pitch than the other, then you know one team out there is very much on top and in the ascendancy.

Of a fashion, it’s the best way I can think of to sum up Rotherham United’s dominance at that stage of the game.

Indeed, once they had gone in front after 37 minutes (ironically after the only spell when the home side threatened to get some sort of attacking grip themselves), Rotherham gained momentum, grew in stature and lacked only a real killer instinct to finish Notts off.

In their last away game, Rotherham did themselves less than justice with their 2-1 winning scoreline at Crawley who were decidedly second best.

Were Crawley poor that day? Well, since then they’ve lost to a stoppage time goal at Wolves and then gone and won at everybody’s red-hot promotion favourites Peterborough on Saturday.

Were Notts poor? Ok, they haven’t won yet but were good enough to come from two down at Liverpool last week to force extra-time.

Perhaps we should cut across any perceptions about the opposition performance. Rotherham, when on a roll both here and at Crawley, were pretty impressive.

They only let themselves down here - if you reckon this performance deserved more than 1-0 and you had to - because they missed gilt-edged chances and failed to punish Notts when they had the home defence on the run. Which was quite often.

The way the balance of power tilted their way - after hinting at it earlier - a second goal at any stage of the second half (particularly before injury bit into them), would almost certainly have seen them punish the home side more thoroughly.

If there were worries about any reaction from the Villa Park effort it barely evidenced itself.

There, two errors were punished. Back in League One, misplaced passes by Frecklington and Pringle, weren’t although the first led to Shearer’s only spot of action when pushing out Bell’s fierce 22 yarder. When the ex-Millers winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce got hold of the loose ball, his low centre fizzed across the six yard box.

So, that’s County’s danger moments taken care of then!

Rotherham certainly had a foothold and two or three passable opportunities before what proved the matchwinning moment on 37 minutes, sparked by a cleared free-kick and O’Connor’s raking pass aimed at utilising the pace of Agard on the break.

A free-kick ensued, O’Connor whipped it in dangerously and when the ball broke loose, Kieran Agard pounced for his second away winner of the season.

In the remaining eight minutes of the half, they had at least three more opportunities and certainly spurned two great chances. Pringle failed to punish the keeper for spilling the ball and, briefly, leaving a gaping goal whilst Agard closed in unmarked on another wicked O’Connor free-kick but put his header straight into the grateful arms of Bialkowski who would have feared the worst.

Before the noisy Millers following could even make a second half judgement on whether those missed opportunities would be rued, their favourites were “all over” Notts from the restart and that included hounding them all over the place.

With O’Connor - seemingly in the form of his Millers life - noticeably prominent and Frecklington more and more a threat and the rest catching the mood, Rotherham dominated.

In the midst of it was Rob Milsom in midfield. Quietly effective; unhurried except when the situation demanded; reading things intelligently; playing it simply and accurately when required; prompting when appropriate. His gait may not be stylish but his football here was.

He wasn’t involved in the best move of the match which Agard ought to have finished, the shot deflecting off the desperate Bialkowski and over.

The groin injury to Bradley and then the departure, with 11 minutes left, of Arnason with what seemed a buttock strain, did offer the home side a late window of opportunity.

Pablo Mills, having signed the day before until January, made his second ‘debut’ when replacing Arnason and, if nothing else, proved a prescient signing because with Claude Davis again missing (but set to be available in a few days) there was no one else with any experience of playing in centre defence.

It maintained the unbeaten run in the league but injury and international calls (Arnason, O’Connor) will crucially strip them of key players next week for the big derby with the Blades. Otherwise, they look in fine fettle. Ask Crawley and Notts County!