NO-one needs to look too far for the major reason why Rotherham Unitred’s Play-off bid has faded away badly right at the end.
This latest Don Valley disappointment (meaning one win in the last 12) was a sixth successive home game without a win and they have failed to score in five of them.
These two sides arrived separated by three points and both desperate for a win to get into the top seven.
There wasn’t much in it really until a goal, cruelly deflected, 12 minutes from time meant a third home defeat in the last four. With two games remaining, Rotherham are six points off seventh place but with an inferior goal difference and boss Andy Scott was blunt enough to write off their prospects.
With Nicky Law (ankle) and Ryan Taylor (back) both out, there were changes were in both personnel and formation. Out also went Adam Le Fondre and Mark Bradley and there were starts for Jamie Green, Tom Pope, Marcus Marshall and Ian Thomas-Moore.
Green was in midfield with Harrison whilst Jason Taylor appeared to be looking to cut off the ball into big Akinfenwa by which Gillingham look to start many attacks.
Gillingham, after that shock home defeat by Barnet which ended their 16-match unbeaten run, also made changes and, selecting midfield duo Bentley and Maher.
The tension, at this stage of the season in such matches, always affects defenders but can also heighten awareness and concentration and Rotherham’s were first to be tested. Fenton stepped in with an important intervention when Akinfenwa got past Cresswell and then produced an important header from the ensuing corner.
Then Tonge made a vital challenge on Barcham eight yards out before Richards got in a header from a free-kick and straight at Annerson.
Pope just couldn’t reach a Marshall centre and Green wasn’t far off reaching a Newey free-kick as it cleared Cresswell.
Both sides were probing for a weakness and keeper Julian had to dash outside his area to clear from Pope and also went down at Thomas-Moore’s feet after Taylor burst into the area.
When Pope did well out on the right, he picked out Jason Taylor in the area out but he misjudged his knockback to the unmarked Marshall.
The first clear-cut chance went to Gillingham and they ought to have scored.
McDonald’s neat, short pass sent Barcham into the area on the right. He elected to go past Annerson by going ‘inside’ him across the face of goal and Tonge got back to clear in front of an empty net before the Gills striker could reach.
Then the visitors went even closer. McDonald held off Fenton on the left, came inside, got away his shot and Annerson blocked with his legs. It rebounded out, a couple of ricochets later it was back with McDonald and this time Annerson went full length to turn his shot behind.
Rotherham strove for something as dangerous and almost managed it from Tonge’s probing centre but the stretching Pope just couldn’t get enough purchase on his effort.
With Henderson on for Marshall, Rotherham needed to step it up and Pope, on the turn, saw an angled effort flash just wide.
Then came their best chance, self-made by Thomas-Moore. He received Harrison’s pass, turned his marker and curled his shot over the top.
Inside 60 seconds, Annerson saved the Millers. Akinfenwa slipped McDonald clear and the Millers keeper made an excellent block from his shot.
Rotherham threw on Le Fondre and the chance of the afternoon fell to the club’s top scorer with 14 minutes left but he fluffed it. Newey was put clear up the left, he delivered into the area but Le Fondre, unmarked, sent his header wide to much amazement!
Then came the match-winning moment on 78 minutes when Barcham slipped into the area from the left and his shot deflected off the challenging Cresswell and left Annerson stranded.
It was no surprise it proved to be the winner despite Rotherham’s desperate late attempts with Taylor unable to finish off a volley.
ROTHERHAM UNITED: Annerson; Tonge, Cresswell, Fenton (Warne 80), Newey; Marshall (Henderson h-t), J Taylor, Harrison, Green; Pope, Thomas-Moore. Subs: Warrington, Ashworth, Bradley, Randall.
GILLINGHAM: Julian; Sinclair, King (Fuller 69), Richards, Martin; Jackman (Lawrence 90+2), Bentley, Maher, McDonald, Akinfenwa, Barcham (Spiller 81). Subs: Nutter, Rooney, Payne, Cronin.
Goals: Barcham (78) for Gillingham.
Referee: Ollie Langford (W Midlands).