Match report: Rotherham United 4 Crewe Alexandra 2

New loan signing Tom Hitchcock tumbles under a challenge from former team mate Mark Ellis to win a penalty for the Millers
New loan signing Tom Hitchcock tumbles under a challenge from former team mate Mark Ellis to win a penalty for the Millers
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The old boys had a great day and loved it all. The rest of us spent a pretty thrilling afternoon on the switchback ride that seems to be Rotherham United at home these days. You never can quite tell what might happen next.

In a nostalgic few minutes before the game, they wheeled out a dozen or so former stars and legends (list later) of the 1960s, some of whom went on to play in top-flight football.

Make no mistake, all those old boys could really play (we’re talking years performing for the Millers in what’s now The Championship) and they reminisced afterwards that they’d been involved in games like this one.

Yes, one of those thrillers where you were never quite sure who might come out on top. Except you always had a sneaking feeling that it would be Rotherham. Mind you, while the Millers did deserve it in the end, you could look at it from a Crewe perspective and make out a case the Alex could have won it as well.

It was that sort of game and all added up to pretty entertaining afternoon with a thrilling final period topped off just nicely right at the end to send the Millers fans off home with an extra buzz.

In the process, they finally laid their particular second-half ‘bogey’ to rest.

In the previous eight home games in the league, the Millers hadn’t ‘won’ a second half and, in fact, had ‘lost’ five of them - and thrown away winning positions at half-time.

So, football being what it is, no surprise they ended that particular run in this sort of manner - ie, coming from behind in the second half.

Manager Steve Evans was honest enough to admit afterwards that his side hadn’t actually been at their best at times and one or two had been a notch down.

Well, Millers fans will have acknowledged that themselves as they began to analyse things on Saturday night amid the euphoric feeling of a ‘come-from-behind’ victory.

Quite early on you could sort of sense there wasn’t something quite right and not the fluency about their game that we have seen in the first half of recent home games.

Brad Inman’s 11th-minute opener didn’t help (and they could have been behind even before then) and then luck immediately deserted them when Alex Revell’s header struck the inside of a post and rolled right across the front half of the goalline and away.

But this team isn’t short of drive and, with Crewe looking vulnerable, Kieran Agard levelled with his 13th of the season, a shot on turn.

Miles Addison - who made a steady start in Craig Morgan’s spot with the skipper set to be out for a spell due to a toe injury - flashed a header just wide in first-half stoppage time.

Evans says Morgan has chipped a bone and will have an operation today, with the Millers manager hoping he will return after a couple of games.

So, the Millers had to go and ‘win’ the second half after a recent run where performances at home after half-time had clearly dipped below what they’d produced beforehand.

When Kelvin Mellor shot Crewe in front from a corner on the hour, there was a familiar feeling pervading New York Stadium.

But things were to change dramatically

They were helped by the introduction of striker Tom Hitchcock, the temporary signing from QPR and recently departed from Crewe after a successful month on loan there.

He replaced Haris Vuckic whose quality is not in any doubt whatsoever when the ball gets played in to him, which it didn’t often enough, but he seems less than suited to the sort of ‘second striker’ role chasing flick ons etceters.

Hitchcock slotted in instantly and could be said to have made a difference, not least by ‘winning’ a penalty when he angled a sharp run in behind the defence for James Tavernier’s pass and went down under contact from Mark Ellis - the defender protesting his innocence.

With the Millers missing a penalty in each of the last two games, it was skipper Lee Frecklington who took responsibility. He grabbed the ball, tucked it under his arm and marched towards the penalty spot, waving away a couple of teammates who fancied a go too.

He never looked like missing.

But then came the real twist five minutes later. Addison fouled Leitch-Smith following a long throw.

Harry Davis (the Crewe manager’s son) has scored penalties in the last two meetings against the Millers including in the opening day 3-3 draw which put Crewe 3-1 up. But third time unlucky as Adam Collin denied him with his first penalty save for the club.

From the ensuing corner, Rotherham broke out to score a marvellous goal. Hitchcock to Pringle tight on the left touchline, a wonderful first-time cross of the sort any striker must dream about and Revell came in at the far post for the classic back-where-it-came header.

The place erupted.

But it wasn’t all over by a long chalk. The way Crewe got through at times was certainly a touch unnerving for the home fans and Chuks Aneke shot narrowly wide and then should have stuck away his header from a great cross by Byron Moore.

But Rotherham were threatening to score at any time too and, after Revell had a shot deflected on to the post, it was all wrapped up when sub Michael O’Connor nicked possession and Hitchcock timed his pass superbly into the path of Frecklington for an emphatic finish.

You could even see some of the old boys clapping!

Introduced on to the pitch beforehand from the squad for the first League Cup Final in 1961 were Roy Ironside, Barry Webster, Lol Morgan, Peter Madden, Keith Bambridge, Brian Sawyer, Ray Lancaster and Gordon Morritt along with 1960s stars who made big moves including Albert Bennett, Barry Lyons, Frank Casper, Ian Butler and David Carver.