AS they turned the corner into the second half of the season, Rotherham United could see the top three disappearing into the distance, pedalling strongly.
The Millers, puncture repairs on the back tyre particularly, aren’t even in the chasing pack!
Indeed, they are chasing the chasing pack and need some nifty pedalling of their own to ensure they stay tucked in to play-off contention.
Manager Andy Scott insisted during the holiday period that promotion was still the aim and said he wasn’t bothered how it came. A sort of admission that it would have to be via the play-offs. Yes, automatic isn’t a word that’s going to figure too much more!
It means the opening spell of 2012 would be important to those play-off aspirations. Not just yesterday’s Yorkshire derby either but the fact that it was the first of three successive home games, Swindon and Port Vale following on.
It’s obvious, glancing at the table, what they have to do - and couldn’t afford not to - in this trio of games.
Well, they sorted their starter for three out thanks to three goals in 12 minutes midway through the second half to nicely erase the memory of the first hour’s drabness.
Lewis Grabban got back on the scoresheet with a quickfire double, including a penalty, to take his tally to 15.
Then sub Brett Williams confirmed the win with an extraordinary goal 15 minutes from time when his shot from out near the touchline caught out keeper McLaughlin who made a right hash of things as he backpedalled and then fumbled the ball which dropped into the net.
It ensured what had been a dogged scrap ended with the Millers comfortably in charge and showing what they can do. A surprise for Millers followers was a new goalkeeper for them in Rhys Taylor who signed hours before the game on a month’s loan from Chelsea.
The Welsh U21 international was on loan at Crewe last season and Millers followers may recall his penalty save to deny Adam Le Fondre at Gresty Road last season.
Scott made other changes bringing in Jason Taylor and Chris Holroyd, moving Sam Wood to left back with Danny Schofield on the left flank and Grabban going to the right.
At half-time, Scott was changing again. Danny Harrison, who had taken a bang to the head, was unable to continue and thus ended his record of playing every minute this season. Jon Harley came on with Wood moving forward and Schofield going into central midfield.
Scott said Bradford are playing differently to when the teams met in November. They certainly are. They’re taking the aerial route and the direct one, pumping it forward at every opportunity. As happens, the opposition get sucked into it and it soon became airball rather than football.
They were rugged and robust in defence and referee Rob Madley - who’s from West Yorkshire - had his work cut out spotting things and earning huge cheers from the home fans when he did punish an aerial challenge from behind and there were plenty.
Rotherham couldn’t impose themselves on proceedings in the first half with precious little to warm the crowd in the opening 45 minutes.
Jason Taylor fired over from 22 yards whilst Hanson stung the keeper’s hands from outside the area and headed wide from a corner.
We had to wait until just before the break for a move of quality. Rotherham provided it when Holroyd found Grabban moving inside. He slotted it into the path of Schofield on the left but his low shot was wide of the far post.
Schofield’s 35 yarder, pushed away, lifted things by the hour and Rotherham led on 63 minutes thanks to Grabban’s predatory instincts. Wood’s free-kick saw Holroyd head into the danger area, Revell challenged bravely and Grabban spun on the loose ball to fire in.
Five minutes later he was demonstrating his confidence from the penalty spot after Wood, sent through by Revell, was brought down by McLaughlin with Bradford protesting strongly.
Rotherham took complete control and the Williams strike was almost added to by Grabban’s 20 yarder that McLaughlin touched over. Sub Stewart headed against a post in the final minutes for a now demoralised Bradford side who had arrived unbeaten in five.
ROTHERHAM UNITED: Taylor, Tonge, Raynes, Mullins, Wood, Grabban, Harrison (Harley 46), Taylor, Schofield; Revell, Holroyd (Williams 71). Subs: Warrington, Brown, Bradley.
BRADFORD CITY: McLaughlin, Seip, Oliver, Davies, Threlfall; Fagan, Ravenhill, Syers (Bullock 78), Taylor (Stewart 78),Hanson, Wells (Hannah 59). Subs: Duke, Mitchell.
Referee: Rob Madley (West Yorks)
Goals: Grabban (63, 68 pen), Williams (75).