IT’S a good job Steve Evans was able to watch this game after all. Otherwise, he’d never have quite believed the story of this one.
We’ve all heard it before.
“How you’ve gone on?”.
“Won 1-0. But we should have had six. Murdered ’em second half. We missed some right chances. Hit post twice. They were never in it.”
You’re pleased but you sniff and just wonder about the exaggeration. Can’t have been quite like that, can it?
Except, on a gorgeous, sunny, early autumn afternoon when the New York Stadium looked a picture, it was all quite like that. And more.
The only criticism from
a second half of total dominance and some pretty good football is that the Millers faithful should never have been sweating on some Torquay set-pieces in the last few minutes.
After a first half that didn’t touch the heights, the second half was a tale of Rotherham United domination, good football - and wasted opportunities.
Chances went begging and excellent, dangerous positions were not cashed in on.
They deserved the win, without any shadow of a doubt. The old 1-0 massacre (second half anyway) comes to mind.
They also deserved a much more emphatic scoreline.
For banned boss Steve Evans it was probably agony watching a live stream at his local abode not far from the ground - and close by the site of the club’s original home at the old Red House Ground, the top side of Masbrough and adjacent to its roots at Thornhill.
There was certainly plenty of speculation about where he might be.
Perhaps in disguise inside the club’s brilliant mascot, Miller Bear. Great idea, although some mischievously suggested they couldn’t find an outfit in extra large!
Others thought it might have been a good idea to fix
him up a big screen at Millmoor, sit him in the half-finished Main Stand and give him a megaphone to bark instructions across the few hundred yards or so.
Instead, he settled for mobile-phone contact with assistant Paul Raynor who did the touchline bit alone, which must have been a bit strange after years and years of Evans appearing alongside to bark things out and berate officials.
He was on the phone by the 12th minute (unless I missed an earlier call); finished the first half on it and the last call was in stoppage time whereupon a substitution followed.
Anyway, they won without him (more or less!) and Evans would have been pleased with that if not more than a tad frustrated he wasn’t there.
At least he’s kept his New York Stadium keepy-uppy record of six. Raynor seemed too preoccupied to try any!
The early queries involved the response after the Port Vale beating.
They did look a little tentative and lacking a bit of cohesion but this may have also had something to do with a changed team and different partnerships.
The back four (again) was changed but it knuckled down and barely gave Torquay a real sniff with newcomer Craig Morgan firm and steady and Dale Tonge tucking into the left-back role solidly.
Gradually working their way into things, with Kayode Odejayi starting to become a bigger and bigger handful, they began to make inroads, starting with Odejayi going solo and striking a post from 20 yards.
On 34 minutes came the winning moment.
Odejayi headed on into the area. Alex Revell pressured Kevin Nicholson who was facing his own goal and, in the subsequent mix-up, the ball broke clear and Revell gleefully popped it into the empty net - his first of the season.
It settled them down and it was also vital to get in front against organised opponents, although much of their defensive work was to be shredded in the second half.
Odejayi contributed much towards that, giving former Chesterfield man Aaron Downes a torrid time. Had the big fella not fired a great chance over the top two minutes into the second half, then he’d have had the goal he deserved and the Millers would have gone on to a victory which would have been much more clear-cut.
Ian Sharps instantly headed wide from a corner from Michael O’Connor who was an influence throughout, well supported by the returning Jason Taylor alongside.
Torquay - unbeaten beforehand - were reduced to hanging on, bravely blocking shots and thankful Rotherham just couldn’t finish them off.
Odejayi, put clear by Revell, even went round the keeper but then had to untangle his feet and Downes got back on the line to block the eventual shot.
A Revell header and Nicky Hunt shot tested Poke but Torquay remained alive and, probably hardly believing their luck, strove to try and snatch a point.
From their only significant chance of the game Billy Bodin fired over with nine minutes left. Rotherham deserved that let-off.
Daniel Nardiello went on and hit the post and then he put his centre inches ahead of Gareth Evans in front of goal. How was it still only one?
The manager was probably shouting at his screen in frustration.
But he would have ended up dropping back in the armchair and sitting pretty - rather like the team after three from three at home and another clean sheet.