MILLERS MATCH REPORT: Rotherham United 4 Accrington Stanley 1

Daniel Nardiello leaps to beat Richard Duffy
Daniel Nardiello leaps to beat Richard Duffy
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AT the end of one of the most historic and memorable years in Rotherham United’s history, it was rather appropriate that the team should sign it off with a scoreline like this.

Certainly 2012 goes down as one of the most significant years - if not THE most significant year - in this club’s history.

Millers fans will, among other things, raise a toast to it and most definitely to Tony Stewart as they lift their glasses and say a fond farewell around midnight tonight.

Whether those same glasses will be up on high midway through 2013 remains to be seen. New York Stadium has most certainly done its bit in 2012 - galvanizing a town, a club and its followers. A whole new atmosphere permeates right across the piece.

As they enter 2013, those followers still have high expectations that the season will end with champagne corks popping and, down at the local, pints being raised and quaffed.

But rather like that poured bubbly, when the sparkle starts to evaporate and the bubbles aren’t so, well, bubbly, the Millers might just have lost a little bit of fizz and need shaking up again.

That’s not to be churlish in the wake of a 4-1 win that could have been a thrashing.

But standards and expectations have been set high for this season and that first hour on Saturday, against a rather mediocre-looking outfit - arguably as bereft as we’ve seen down there so far - wasn’t good enough.

People may point to the two one-v-ones that Kieran Agard - given a rare start - couldn’t finish and Lee Frecklington’s 20-yard volley brilliantly saved by Cameron Belford, an emergency signing on Friday agreed by the League otherwise it would have been an 18-year-old novice in goal.

And the clearance off the line by James Beattie from Alex Revell and a couple of near-miss threats from Johnny Mullins.

All that sounds pretty decent. And they did go in front early on courtesy of a handily-gifted own goal from Tom Eckersley’s header as he tried to deal with Kari Arnason’s long throw.

But - and the manager said it himself - there was something disjointed about the performance.

There was an eagerness about it but a lack of composure.

A certain freedom in that players popped up all over the place but not much structure. There was urgency but also, it seemed, an anxiety. Perhaps anxious to do well.

And this was at a goal up, after just 14 minutes, against a team they looked well capable of tossing aside.

Perhaps if they had got a second goal it would have been downhill from then on.

But opponents who had all on keeping in the game suddenly plucked out a lifeline with a wonderfully-struck goal on the angle from fully 25 yards by Craig Lindfield, a goal the moment it left his right foot. Understandably they got a lift.

In the early stages of the second half, boss Evans obviously realised he needed more and better to unsettle Accrington. He didn’t wait for the hour mark.

Daniel Nardiello, who scored twice at the Crown Ground to win the meeting a month ago, got the nod. Perhaps with a little point to prove, not always a bad thing from a team’s point of view.

Just as important was Kayode Odejayi’s replacing of Alex Revell who has certainly earned his corn in recent times but simply can’t get a goal.

There has been talk about having a strong bench and this was certainly a case in point here. How many League Two sides can whistle up subs like those two?

You can argue all you like that Nardiello should have started against a dodgy defence like this one and that he would have bagged a few had a he done so.

But his impact and the eventual outcome is justification for the decision taken. In such cases, scorelines always will be.

He’d already had a shot on target when, just five minutes after his entrance, he planted home a header on 63 minutes after another Arnason long throw had caused Stanley a problem.

But the classiest move of the 90 minutes might have brought an equaliser.

James Beattie pulled away beyond his man, sub Lee Molyneux spotted it early, measured an inch-perfect lofted pass and the veteran striker’s sidefoot, cushioned volley on the run just didn’t have the necessary elevation.

However, it still required Andy Warrington to go full stretch.

A minute later the keeper went full length again to excellently keep out Molyneux’s fine 20-yarder.

But, with Odejayi unsettling the Accy back line, it was all over on 73 minutes when Liam Ridehalgh delivered and Nardiello got in to plant a firm header past Belford.

The crowd sensed more and got Michael O’Connor’s low finish from around 18 yards in at the near post.

With 2013 beckoning, there was a glimpse of the future when young Nicky Walker got ten minutes and showed touch, vision and eye for an opening, not least with a lovely first-time ball that released Nardiello but was checked by an eagle-eyed linesman who appeared to be able to calculate millimetres.

He did get two out of four close decisions right though!

2013 will be better than 2012 only in one respect and Millers fans know what that would be.

They’ll have to be more convincing and beat far better teams than Accrington, to achieve it.