MILLERS MATCH REPORT: Port Vale 6 Rotherham United 2

Port Vale v Rotherham United - Npower League 2 - 08/09/2012 - Former Miller Tom Pope heads his first goal past Scott Shearer
Port Vale v Rotherham United - Npower League 2 - 08/09/2012 - Former Miller Tom Pope heads his first goal past Scott Shearer
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ON a very warm day, it’s nice to have a drop of cold water. However, the Millers got doused in it. By the bucketful! With ice!

This was a big shock to the system. A reality check i when all and sundry have pencilled them in as favourites; big fancies for promotion; the team to beat etc, etc.

Port Vale v Rotherham United - Npower League 2 - 8th September 2012 - Michael O'Connor pulls a goal back for the Millers as he fires past the diving Chris Neal

Port Vale v Rotherham United - Npower League 2 - 8th September 2012 - Michael O'Connor pulls a goal back for the Millers as he fires past the diving Chris Neal

One point from the first three away games doesn’t mean a great deal at this stage, to be honest, but it does confirm how difficult getting out of this division really is.

Perhaps we’ve all been lulled a bit. By the hype, the heightened expectations.

Firstly, the fantastic new ground and the return home to Rotherham. It has induced a real feelgood factor, engendered a wonderful feeling among everyone. Great - and long may it continue.

There’s been lots of new signings and how many have been tagged as really good players? Not much wrong with that when you look at the quality of the incomers.

Then it’s praise for performances and how well they’ve played away.

And there’s been two cracking scorelines in the two home games topped by a four-goal demolition job of one of the strongly-fancied teams.

Up on cloud nine then. Why not? Or was it more head in the clouds?

Looked like it at Vale Park - a ground forever associated with the agony of Rotherham being a missed penalty away from being in the top flight back in another age in 1955 when suffering a 1-0 defeat.

This was certainly pretty painful too. In fact, at 4-0 down after 28 minutes it was embarrassing and one feared worse the way it was going.

Rotherham were looking so vulnerable when Vale attacked them. Which seemed to be, more often than not, on the break from a Rotherham attack.

This certainly seems to be an achilles heel for the Millers.

They’ve got everybody out the front, making it look nice, but are leaving the back door open and keep getting pilfered.

Three of the first four Vale goals came when Rotherham were going in the opposite direction. The fourth actually came in a breakaway from a Rotherham corner - shades of Northampton’s late winner recently.

Of course, rubbing it all in were the four goals from Tom Pope - the same number he managed in more than 50 league games for Rotherham!

No wonder he enjoyed the moment when he tapped in for his hat-trick and showed three fingers. Bet he could hardly believe he’d be showing four not long afterwards!

When David Noble, in possession in Vale’s half, got barged off the ball by Louis Dodds by what some would term an old-fashioned shoulder charge but which would be penalised more often than not, Rotherham were on the slippery slope.

Dodds finished off the subsequent three-pass move and Vale were off and galloping.

When Pope headed a second on 16 minutes, Rotherham - two up early on in home games - knew what it was like to be on the receiving end.

It would have been three straight afterwards but for Shearer’s outstretched leg denying Myrie-Williams with Vincent somehow failing to finish off the loose ball.

But it only briefly delayed more agony, Vale making easy inroads again for Pope’s simple second.

The vociferous home crowd were lapping this up big style and could barely contain themselves when Vincent - a pre-season target for Millers boss Steve Evans - raced away from inside his own half to fire home.

So, 4-0 after 28 minutes and, frankly, at that stage,you really did wonder how many they’d end up getting with Rotherham all over the place.

Then, suddenly, a strange thing happened. It all quietened down. Maybe Vale had blown themselves out or had the sub-conscious feeling it was game over.

Whatever, the Millers were still around because Michael O’Connor (not far off scoring in just 20 seconds) finished off a move started by Gareth Evans and involving Kayode Odejayi and Ben Pringle to pull one back on 31 minutes.

The next minute, Evans took off Laurie Wilson and sent on Dale Tonge who at least put his finger in what had been a fast-flowing dyke down the left-side.

At half-time Nicky Hunt - booked after four minutes and spoken to at length later on - was removed to avoid risking any possible second yellow, which meant an unexpected first appearance for Craig Morgan.

He went into centre defence with Johnny Mullins switching to right-back, meaning, even so early on, we have already seen several different combinations at the back.

Contrast it with Micky Adams naming the same Vale side for a sixth successive time. It showed and you might say Rotherham - for all the talk of good players - are still very much in the settling-down process with partnerships and understandings still to be forged.

With players getting tighter and making sterner challenges, Rotherham re-started urgently.

They began to control the game, to move the ball around as they can, forcing the issue.

Perhaps Vale were happy enough knowing Rotherham had to go forward, and then they might strike on the break again.

Odejayi strove hard, Pringle was meaningfully involved and the 54th minute lifeline came after referee Mick Russell made his own problems.

My seat, in line, offered an excellent view of Nardiello being just inside the penalty area when Shuker’s mistimed tackle downed him. Referee Russell gave the free-kick outside.

Whatever Respect campaign you want to run, footballers blow up at such decisions. The mass protest must have put real doubt in Russell’s mind.

O’Connor fired the free-kick into a wall only about seven yards away whereupon the whistle went for a ‘mystery’ penalty, presumably handball. Nardiello fired it home.

Rotherham remained right on top, prompting more than an idle thought of ... “if they get a third here ...”

Vale’s attacking threat had lessened but on 68 minutes, O’Connor got his head on a Shuker free-kick only to loop it high beyond Shearer and on to the far post for Pope to tap-in.

The improbable comeback was over and it was rubbed in after Mullins and Morgan made unconvincing headers, the latter setting up Pope for his fourth.

A pretty unbelievable afternoon all round!