Millers followers began the day debating the departure of Daniel Nardiello. Long before the afternoon was out, they were talking only about this excellent performance and cracking result, writes Les Payne.
There are good performances and those that are better than good. This, may I suggest, was something else - a complete display.
They had all the attributes needed to deal with everything thrown at them and they also imposed their own game and their own way.
Forget the home side’s grumbles about them playing poorly. They wouldn’t have been saying that had the Millers not stood up to be counted like they did.
Those who remember Graham Westley’s side in his first spell here (and that 3-0 ‘bullying’ a shrinking Millers side got a couple or so seasons ago) will know there’s no easy afternoon in this neck of the woods, not now he’s starting to turn them back into something like he wants.
Millers boss Steve Evans - no stranger to facing the Westley way from his own non-league days - put it like this ... “Graham has his sides big, strong, physical, meticulously organised and players doing jobs he tells them to do or they are out.
“He found tippy-tappy five-a-side players when he got back here and it’s no secret that he’s got in four or five big, powerful boys who can play too. He’s got the training routine back in place and, while they may not like it, if the players adhere to it they will get results. It’s why they’d won five in a row at home.”
From early on, Rotherham knew they were going to get a physical test; the Stevenage way was going to test their mettle and the desire to go back for another potential buffeting.
It was real “earning the right to play” territority. The Millers earned that right. They put down markers all over the pitch, showed they were prepared to stand up and not flinch and worked their little grey socks off.
Then, declining to get sucked into a like-minded way, they mixed their own game up very nicely indeed and played with some style.
They had splendid example-setters at the back in Mr Dependable, Craig Morgan, and - once he’d cranked his rusty limbs into some sort of action - Claude Davis on his return after two months out. Those two were an ultimately formidable barrier against which the Stevenage front two, including recent Millers trialist Francois Zoko, came off decidedly second best.
With Michael O’Connor driving things in a willing and tenacious midfield where Ben Pringle got back to some form, the Millers were able to move forward beneficially.
Up front, Alex Revell and Matt Tubbs worked selflessly. They knew what was going to keep on coming too from determined, robust defenders who, particularly in the air, would give them a clattering. It tested their resolve but the duo never ducked their duties.
Any hint of weakness or failure to impose themselves, then the Millers would have been struggling to get anywhere near close to this kind of result.
Topping it all were the goals. The opener, on 14 minutes, was timely because Stevenage had opened with real threat and danger to hint at a difficult afternoon.
When Joe Skarz directed a ball back into the area, Revell’s strength in the air saw him direct his header across goal. Kieran Agard, completely clear, was denied by keeper Chris Day, but Pringle pounced on the loose ball to drill it past despairing legs.
Day denied Agard and then O’Connor when he lined up a blistering 25-yarder.
The early second-half re
pelling of Stevenage’s bid for an equaliser was based on everybody chipping in and then they put the game to bed with two goals in four minutes, so holding a 3-0 lead with 25 minutes left - which even bettered the previous week’s effort with 20 left against Bradford City. Some going!
As reserve keeper Arnold - on for the injured Day - left his line for Pringle’s high, curling free-kick, Davis got there first and highest to head in.
Then, following a Stevenage corner, the Millers broke with clinical precision. Frecklington and Revell set up O’Connor and you could see the cogs whirring as he lined up his shot which he struck unerringly for the far corner, with Arnold getting a hand on it but beaten by the pace and accuracy.
Earlier, he had made a top-corner save from an acrobatic
22-yard volley of super technique from O’Connor.
It was all over, although Stevenage’s threat at set-pieces and their efforts to try to rescue something meant the Millers could never take their foot off the gas.
It was a third win in a week and gets Rotherham back in the points-gathering business after five winless league games.
But boss Evans knows what might have been the reaction had his side lost without scoring and a certain on-loan striker had netted for Bury!
Moving on a fans’ favourite is always fraught with controversy, particularly one with Daniel Nardiello’s ability and one whose goals had help bring recent success.
But Millers fans will acknowledge he wasn’t missed here and it wasn’t the sort of game where he would have shone, his effectiveness often seemingly less prominent away from home.
The Millers boss has made various other bold departure decisions - the subjects of them now figuring in League Two or lower - as part of a move towards squad improvement and, as it has to be, moving forward.
A division throws up many different challenges and, on days like this, you have to meet them head on. Everyone did.
Steve Evans: This was a real, all-round performance. There was a lot of desire, a lot of men stood up against a side who make it tough. Go to any team who have won five on the trot at home and you get three to win and keep a clean sheet, then you’ve done really well. It rewarded a staggering away support.
Graham Westley: We were poor. There’s nothing I can say I was pleased with. The spark wasn’t there and there was probably some fatigue there because we’re pushing the same set of players.