Match report: Rotherham United 4 Gillingham 1

Nouha Dicko fires the ball past the lunging Adam Barrett and into the net for the Millers' opening goal
Nouha Dicko fires the ball past the lunging Adam Barrett and into the net for the Millers' opening goal
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After a first half that was simply stunning in many respects, I did something at half-time I cannot recall doing previously in decades of reporting the Millers’ fortunes.

Now bear in mind this is in the neutrality of the press box and from someone who, when Alan Lee scored his last-minute promotion clincher to The Championship, was the only person not going bonkers inside Millmoor at that very moment (as I’d to scrub what I’d just done and do an instant rewrite of the totally changed circumstances right on deadline).

What I did on Saturday, was stand up and applaud the Millers players as they came off at half-time. So much of the football had been so good, I felt that it was only right to show my appreciation in the proper manner.

I just wish those who headed for the loo because they couldn’t hold their beer any longer or those desperate to get near the front of the pie queue or those heading for the comfort of the corporate area had waited a bit longer and added, as they should have done, to the praise rightfully showering down. Those boys deserved it.

The ovation at the end was one of real depth and feeling from fans utterly appreciative of what they had seen over 90 minutes but particularly a first half that is the best anyone has yet witnessed at New York Stadium.

It might be an indication of what this group is capable of and, dare one say it, hints at the sort of standards that will be achievable again.

The first half was at times mesmerising. The second half - and here’s the sobering bit, it did finish 1-1 in the second 45 minutes - had so much to commend it too, but could hardly be expected to live up to what had gone before. At 3-0 up at half-time, teams very rarely produce a repeat and there’s a stung and chastened opposition to factor into that equation as well.

It was one of those games where one side looked to have more players than the other. I could swear, in the first half, there were more red-and-white shirts than blue. Gillingham’s players looked utterly bewildered a times as red and white swarmed all over them.

Not swarmed, though, as in a frantic, gung-ho manner. This was with control, with intelligent movement and players drifting into areas and pockets of space, and some excellent passing with purpose and tempo.

At the height of their powers in that first half, they produced some multi-pass moves of controlled skill and quality which the Gills seemed powerless to resist and which will not have been bettered anywhere in League One last Saturday.

A few at a level higher would have been proud to claim them too.

There was one passage of play (and maybe I risk having my sanity questioned here more than usual) where I remember thinking at the time that this reminds me of when a European team controls a game with their passing. Yes, it was that good!

There were so many individuals who had such good afternoons.

Newcomer James Tavernier had a wonderful debut, initially at right-back and then on the other side after Joe Skarz felt a thigh twinge. Not too many full-backs mark their debut with a goal. He might even have had a hat-trick and was a wonderful attacking threat.

Ben Pringle kept popping up as if from little holes in the pitch and Gillingham couldn’t tag him.

Nouha Dicko has become an instant hit and not only does his pace and directness add another dimension to the team’s attacking threat, he obviously has the ability to make something special out of not a great deal. His early opener showed that, and defenders certainly won’t want him going at them.

Poor Adam Barrett, so formidable last year and defiant here to the extent it would have been at least six without him, could not get the block on as Dicko eased inside and got away his firecracker shot.

But, for all those who took the eye for whatever reason, the one who stood out for me was Michael Tidser.

Basically, he was like a newcomer too because most Millers fans had never seen the £35,000 signing from Morton. This was his first home start. This was why he was signed then!

What a role he played, thus backing up his Coventry display. Calm, unfussed, with complete composure whenever the ball came to him, he was the ‘continuity’ player who kept the wheels turning.

He played as if constantly assessing the big picture in front and around him, played it simply but effectively and kept gliding across the turf to support a colleague. When they passed it to him he, without fuss, then passed it to a red-and-white shirt. Every single time. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

His was a role that enabled others to go and do their thing. Unspectacular but important. There may be one or two looking at that and wondering how on earth they are going to get back in the side!

Of course, the goals capped it all and Dicko’s opener was followed by Kieran Agard’s 11th (an Alex Revell far-post assist from a Pringle cross) and then Pringle’s 20-yarder at a time when Gillingham were being shredded. They’d got off lightly at 3-0.

In the second half Stuart Nelson backed up some first-half saves with a magnificent denial of Tavernier’s piledriver before foiling Dicko. Revell went close.

Cody McDonald’s goal was a little reminder but Tavernier’s fine finish following a super ball from Lee Frecklington was the perfect finale.

Incidentally, four recent wins have seen them 3-0 up after 72 minutes, 70 minutes, 73 minutes and now after just 45 minutes.

Think about it, that is some going.

Millers boss Steve Evans said he would know later this week if the three new loan players will be available for next Saturday’s FA Cup tie at home to Rochdale.