We are now into the time of the season where teams are playing opponents for a second time. If you happen to have beaten them away, then you’re ‘on’ for a double on your home ground.
So, I’m reminded of an old saying first pushed my way many years ago which has proved true so many times since. It was: “It’s hard to do the double”... with specific reference to where a team has won the away game in their first meeting of a season.
Some months later, they have the home game and a win double is up for grabs. It never surprises me how many times a team will fail to go and win the home match.
The Millers failed to achieve it against Coventry the other week and now Crawley have made it two fluffed attempts from two.
But, on Saturday, the Millers didn’t fail to win simply because of that strange results quirk I often bring up.
It was because they began going downhill from the time of Crawley’s against-the-tide opener on 23 minutes and because the visitors improved beyond all recognition in the second half whereas the Millers struggled to find any cohesion or inject real zip into their game. Many of a red-and-white hue have struggled to understand how their favourites have failed to win a number of their home games - it’s now ten out of 14. But not here.
Crawley, lively and hard-working, carved out second-half opportunities that should have seen them put the game beyond the Millers.
Even after Kieran Agard’s equaliser in the sixth minute (five were shown) of stoppage time, Crawley somehow managed not to win it when rapid-fire shots from Gary Alexander, Andy Drury and Billy Clarke - each looking certain to score - were kept out by Adam Collin.
Rotherham could reckon injuries affected them.
Lee Frecklington tweaked a hamstring in midweek (boss Steve Evans said he was close to playing) which meant new midfielder Richard Smallwood from Middlesbrough was pitched in for his debut.
Then Alex Revell had to stay off at half-time with a calf strain (which puts him in doubt for tomorrow’s trip to Tranmere). It’s hard not to say they seemed to miss him, not least because they continued playing as if he was still there!
There didn’t look too much wrong in the opening 20 minutes. They moved the ball about confidently and Crawley, like so many other visitors, were on the back foot and decidedly grateful not to be knocked over.
One wonders if opponents know what to expect (seeing as it happens virtually every home game) and set out simply to survive the opening onslaught then work their way into the game. Anything else, other than a goal down, is a bonus.
Of course, if a Crawley goal came, everybody inside New York Stadium knew who’d score it!
Matt Tubbs made 21 Millers appearances, many as a sub, most fairly anonymous. He scored just the once and, to be perfectly honest, hardly ever looked like scoring. It was an unhappy time for him.
So when, after 23 minutes of Rotherham supremacy, Nicky Adams got away and drilled over a low cross, it was inevitable that when Adam Collin dived and pushed the ball in the direction of a Crawley player it would be Tubbs. He almost couldn’t avoid the ball anyway and directed it back into goal at the North End.
He spent several months hoping to score right in front of the ‘kop’ but never did. Until now!
Rotherham sagged. Crawley were lifted.
Rotherham re-found themselves after the equaliser on 34 minutes. Agard despatched the penalty after Walsh impeded Pringle - who Crawley had clearly marked as influential considering how they got round him when he was in possession.
Smallwood, who had some good moments on his debut from Middlesbrough, went close as did Kari Arnason, both just before half-time. Could the Millers kick on?
No, but Crawley did and Billy Clarke missed a great chance after Tubbs sent him clear. Crawley’s second was a delightful move, Clarke’s low ball went into Tubbs whose lovely little first-time pass set up Josh Simpson to finish.
Miles Addison, a threat at set-pieces, headed narrowly wide but, with Haris Vuckic having replaced Tom Hitchcock to go alongside Wes Thomas, Rotherham weren’t functioning in too many areas.
Perhaps it was the number of new players being integrated. There were different partnerships, or fairly new ones, in various places around the team.
While it may have been coincidence, it could have contributed to the inconsistency of performance. It was one of those days where they looked more a team of individuals than a team.
Evans reckoned having new players was not the reason.
“We looked disjointed because a lot of players were playing poorly,” he said.
Although Pringle shot narrowly wide, Rotherham had let-offs at the other end.
Addison’s bulk was thrown up front late on and he was involved when a goal-saving intercepting header by Kyle McFadzean denied Agard a certain equaliser with three minutes left.
When Jones tipped a Vuckic effort round the post at 90+5, the corner offered Rotherham their last chance.
A spot of aerial ping-pong later and Agard was johnny-on-the-spot once again to rescue a point with his 15th of the season.
Except it would have been thrown away had Crawley finished better with the three rat-a-tat chances they had straight from the kick-off, Collin saving when, frankly, he should have been beaten.
Then again, so should the Millers in that second half. So, it was a point gained.
As for ‘hard to do the double’... after Orient’s visit next Saturday, six of the following seven home games are against teams the Millers have already beaten away from home!
Perhaps they can make a mockery of that old saying.