Match report: Rotherham United 0 Peterborough United 1

Kieran Agard runs at Gabriel Zakuani as the Millers push forward.
Kieran Agard runs at Gabriel Zakuani as the Millers push forward.
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It was always going to end like this. Unbeaten starts have a strange habit of ending thus. In glorious failure.

As in playing better than you have done previously. But losing. I can give you Millers examples from the past but what’s the point?

It's agony for Joe Skarz (right) after he fires wide.

It's agony for Joe Skarz (right) after he fires wide.

Except to say this was a rank injustice and little short of a crying shame.

Let’s put it this way. No words - on paper, online, on fans’ websites, on Twitter - can say more than what happened as the painful blast of the final whistle began echoing around a pulsating New York Stadium that had been poised to explode at an equaliser.

Teams that lose at home usually go off to silence or some boos.

Here, the Millers - dragging themselves disbelievingly off the stage - found themselves doing so to a standing ovation from their fans. Millers followers in all areas of the ground knew what they’d witnessed and they were acknowledging it. Rightly so. It should have been some consolation to the devastated players.

They had seen their team put in a massive effort. They had seen them swarm all over the side fancied by everybody and their grandmother to be in the top two come May. They had seen their team do everything but what, in the long run, counts, and that’s stick the ball in the back of the net.

The ground would have erupted in that late siege had they just stuck away one of those chances that seemed to be fluttering around like confetti in a wind.

But they couldn’t. As a venerable manager once said to me: “No chance is easy until you stick it in the net.” Let’s just say at least one of those should have been stuck in that net.

Those who had Posh down as promotion certs will be even more certain now. This was the sort of game and result that so often accompanies those who end up going up. They’re stitched on, make no mistake! I seem to remember last season’s League Two champions, Gillingham, getting ‘battered’ down here last season and emerging with the narrowest of wins. Posh, for all their quality and dangerous threat, were on a similar receiving end and emerged with the same result. Funny, but promoted sides do that.

It’d be a benchmark, said Millers boss Steve Evans. In that case, perhaps you can move them up from the ‘competitive’ category to the one marked ‘genuine challengers’ for the top six if they can do this again.

Posh manager Darren Ferguson - heard at half-time giving his side the sort of hairdryer treatment his dad would have been proud of - even reckoned that, on what he’d seen, the Millers could be a top-two challenger and “certainly top six”.

Hard to disagree. Except for one thing. They will definitely have to sharpen their work in the final third. It’s okay bemoaning bad luck and missed chances in front of goal. If they really are going to emerge as a team to challenge the best, they will have to smarten up at the sharp end.

But you could not deny their right to a claim for a win here. After the opening, say, 15 minutes, they were the better side. End of.

Yes, Posh always had a lurking threat, as we knew they would have, not least from a near-£3 million strikeforce. But the Millers - notably Craig Morgan and Kari Arnason - combated the threat of Britt Assombalonga and Tyrone Barnett quite superbly. It was quality defending and important too because it provided a platform.

Yes, there were scares, as you’d expect, but Scott Shearer had just one direct shot to deal with other than Grant McCann’s 51st-minute penalty.

Posh had no-one who bestrode the stage with more class and aplomb than midfielder Rob Milsom. He was outstanding in all aspects and it was his power drive from 22 yards that should have led to Rotherham scoring from the first real chance of the game on 35 minutes.

Rob Olejnik could only parry it. Daniel Nardiello, like all good, goal-hungry strikers, had followed in for any rebound, but I was astonished that, with Olejnik stranded, he elected to hit the rebound first time rather than check then finish. The ball ended high over the top.

By then Rotherham were growing in confidence and Posh were relieved to be level at the break.

Firstly, Mark Bradley’s goalbound shot from a corner was diverted behind and then Nardiello was so close to turning the ball past a relieved Olejnik.

Ferguson’s half-time rant elicited a response and the opener from McCann’s penalty after Arnason was adjudged to have handled from a corner, although he protested furiously that Barnett had pushed him.

Bradley, clear, headed wide from a Ben Pringle free-kick a few minutes later. Thereafter, the die was cast. Rotherham surged forward; Posh defended desperately, even heroically; Posh broke with threat; the Millers defended with great diligence and concentration. It was enthralling stuff.

A top-class move ended with Milsom’s shot narrowly wide and as Posh - realising they had to hang on - hung on, one full-back, Bradley, crossed deep and the other, Joe Skarz, materialised about six yards out to meet it and steer his shot wide.

Heads were in hands again when Posh somehow scrambled away a Nardiello effort after Olejnik’s fumble. The pressure and the noise were being cranked up as the siege intensified in the final 15 minutes.

Pringle went very close and then had a shot blocked which led, even as Alex Revell looped the loose ball narrowly off target, to furious claims that a hand or arm blocked it.

Two minutes into stoppage time, a corner for which even Shearer went up for, ended with a loose ball dropping for Bradley who has that knack of being in the right place. Unfortunately, when he looked set to equalise, he fired over the bar.

Rotherham will know they missed a great opportunity but will know too that, with this sort of application and drive, they can more than match the best this division has to offer.

An eight-game unbeaten start - second best in the club’s history - is not to be sniffed at. However, we all know it should still be going on!