Match report: Rotherham United 0 Carlisle United 0

Lee Frecklington fires in a shot on goal from eight yards out.
Lee Frecklington fires in a shot on goal from eight yards out.
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This game summed up the strength and weakness of the typical British footballer.

Give them a cause to fight for - like being a man short and against the odds - and they will fight and scrap and lay their bodies on the line and stand up to anything and anyone.

Connor Townsend slides in to tackle Matt Tubbs with his studs showing and earns a second yellow card and a sending off.

Connor Townsend slides in to tackle Matt Tubbs with his studs showing and earns a second yellow card and a sending off.

But raise the expectation level, let them think they are superior, give them a bit of time and space to play but then look for a bit of guile and craft and thought, and they might end up short.

Of course, no-one is ever surprised what happens when a team goes down to 10 men, as Carlisle did here. It’s a bit like when club goes into administration and people are told they are playing for nothing. Do they jack it in because the world appears against them? No.

The good old English (and the rest in these islands) pro rolls up his sleeves, gets stuck in and relishes being the underdog. Us against the world.

Carlisle simply got more and more determined and the Millers, so good the previous week and on many occasions so far this season, got more and more clueless until any composure deserted them almost completely.

Let’s be honest, after that top-drawer effort at Stevenage the previous week, who didn’t expect the Millers to see off a Carlisle side who had all on sorting out some outfit from Borehamwood in the FA Cup in midweek?

The trouble is, the Millers started out as if they thought so too and played as if it was only a matter of time before something turned up trumps - as if they expected things to happen rather than making them happen.

After all, they kept winning the ball easily off Carlisle’s attacking attempts and perhaps they thought a goal was on the way any time. Unfortunately, there were individuals who had an off day while an early blow which left Alex Revell limping didn’t help.

After a first-minute firecracker from Kieran Agard which whistled just wide, there was a strange lethargy about the side. It was in marked contrast to the way they have started most matches at New York Stadium.

Perhaps the regulars at New York have been a tad spoiled and come to expect more of the same every home game.

After all, if they could sort out Bradford City in the way they did, what on earth could stop them overwhelming a Carlisle side who, despite one or two decent results, haven’t done much?

They forced keeper Ben Amos into a couple of sharp saves, one from a Ben Pringle 25-yarder but it all seemed a bit disjointed. Carlisle, no doubt happy at the way they eased through the opening period, grew in confidence and belief with their neat if punchless play.

But they would have led from their only goal threat when Adam Collin did well to turn over Sean O’Hanlon’s close-range header on 39 minutes.

When left-back Connor Townsend got himself sent off right on half-time for two silly challenges, each a booking, perhaps everyone then thought that was the passage to three points for the Millers.

As the second half unravelled, it soon became clear what was what - basically, defence v attack. How could the Cumbrian wall not be breached?

But Rotherham fell into the trap that many teams do when playing ten men. They had time and space in deep areas and moved the ball about but did so slowly because they had that time and space.

It is tempting too, when there is space in front and the opposition are hot-footing back towards their own penalty area, to move into that space. Then, suddenly, the bodies are there right in front of you , you have closed your own space down and then where do you go? Backwards and sideways and more or less start again. Carlisle were happy for the Millers to play in front of them.

By the time the ball did go in the box, Carlisle had everybody back in there, all willing to put their head on it; all willing to put a block in; all willing to welly it clear. Survival was their aim. The longer it went, the more the survival instinct grew.

Like many other sides in similar situations, Rotherham players would go so far and then find themselves squeezed for space.

The pattern became predictable, usually ending with a full-back putting the ball in from out wide. Carlisle kept winning those.

And wherever the long-range shooting boots are, they weren’t being worn on Saturday.

Numerous efforts, snatched at eagerly or lacking composure, went miles off target as the frustration grew.

New loan signing Nouha Dicko went on after 62 minutes and instantly showed his pace with the sort of incisive penetration the Millers hardly achieved otherwise.

His centre flicked off Thirlwall and would have been an own goal but for Ehmer’s last-ditch clearance right on the line.

Thereafter, like others, he couldn’t find any space at all, or, at least none where somebody might try and thread a pass through.

There were so many bodies in the Carlisle area it was nigh on impossible to find any space. With O’Connor and Frecklington among those having rare off days, it was left to Pringle to try to make something of the supply of possession, but no-one could find a decisive moment of quality or subtlety to unlock a determined, defiant defence. Sometimes, an earlier ball from deeper might have been of benefit but few were ever tried.

Eaves had a low 20-yarder turned behind and then saw his effort from a corner blocked right on the line by Amos. With two minutes left, Morgan’s header from a corner was cleared off the line.

Then, in the third minutes of stoppage time, with Carlisle’s own attacking efforts having grown in confidence, the visitors would have snatched an unlikely win but for Collin using his leg to divert away a shot from Morris.

It meant the Millers have gone five successive home games in the league without a win.

They can’t grumble at the vast mount of possession they’ve have had in all but one half of those games.

But it suggests that something is lacking - and it definitely was here, difficult though Carlisle made it.