Port Vale 2 Rotherham 0: Match Report

Port Vale FC v Rotherham United FC - Npower League 2 - 1st October 2011 - Lewis Grabban is denied by a brave save from keeper Stuart Tomlinson
Port Vale FC v Rotherham United FC - Npower League 2 - 1st October 2011 - Lewis Grabban is denied by a brave save from keeper Stuart Tomlinson
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THE sun-soaked lot of us on the hottest October day ever could have done with a cooling drink or two at regular intervals.

For their part, the Millers had to make do with a cold dose of reality. For when things have started to hot up, they have ended up sweating profusely with nothing to show for it.

Just as no one in their right mind really reckoned that their good start meant it was them and two others for the coveted top three, neither should two defeats to two sides fully expected to be among the major challengers, mean they are now non-starters in the promotion stakes.

It’s always doubly helpful to get something from those who you expect to be up there too.

It makes such a difference and these last two defeats have demonstrated as much in the simplest manner - both Southend and Port Vale have overtaken the Millers in the table by virtue of beating them!

After they towelled off the sweat - and they’d have shed buckets even on a cool day considering the effort they put in - they were left reflecting that they’d nothing to show for either a good start or plenty of possession and territorial dominance in a second half that they bossed.

At the end, and more so if it’s a potential, major rival, the result is all. And colours judgement. At 2-0 down from the 25th minute, all the subsequent effort, the passes, the centres, the headers, are judged on the eventual outcome. So, fail to pull it back, lose and you’ve played badly eh?

Did they? Not at the start and up to the 17th minute concession. They had Vale’s back three troubled and concerned, not least through Lewis Grabban who was denied by Stuart Tomlinson who, two weeks ago, conceded five to the Millers reserves.

Not for the second half if pressure and possession is your criteria. For most of the second half they pinned Vale back; kept pressing, Grabban kept knocking on the door only to find three bouncers (and they were about as mobile) blocking the way although that big Vale back three were reinforced to virtually become a back five as the home side resolutely defended the two-goal lead.

But all that pressure needed finishing off and Rotherham couldn’t manage it. One imagines they’d have “played well” had they managed to find a finishing touch.

Certainly you had to query some of the set-piece delivery throughout. Nothing good about curling corners into an unchallenged keeper’s grasp. Or a free-kick from a dangerous position on the right curled inch-perfect into his arms.

There was the quick free-kick played for the right-foot of a left-footed player. And the free-kick played to the left of a right-footed player rather than be put into in the area. It ended up being put back to the original taker whose centre was caught by the keeper in a manner that made shelling peas look complex.

All that was poor stuff and, in either half, undermined their strenous efforts to try and punish the home side.

But what undermined them most, however, was conceding the crucial first goal in the manner they did and the straightforward nature of the second one not long afterwards.

Marc Richards, returning after a three-match ban, saw his low free-kick from outside the area squirm under Logan.

Eight minutes later, keeper Tomlinson bombed a long kick towards Tom Pope. He leapt higher then he ever did in a Millers shirt, headed across and into the penalty area and Richards was already on the move with Rotherham caught napping on their right side. He lifted the ball in and it was all so simple.

Vale, second best for starters, were bubbling and the Millers knocked. Yes, Tomlinson went full length to save from Grabban but Pope spurned the chance of a third before the break as Vale relished their situation.

At half-time, Dale Tonge went on and certainly added attacking impetus down the right and the pattern was soon formed - Rotherham pushing, Vale keeping them out.

Two minutes in the offside flag denied Grabban a goal after Raynes nodded goalwards from a corner.

Despite all their pressing they never got as close again until stoppage time when Revell and Mullins had efforts saved.

So Port Vale played well then? Not unless you consider “playing well” as barely having even a half-decent attack in the second half and not a shot on target in that half until stoppage time, from Pope.

What they did do was dig in and hold what they had with doggedness and determination. After conceding 11 in their other five home games, they were not about to cave in and Rotherhamcould not break them down.

“There’s people admitting to making a mistake, holding their hands up but I’m a little bit sick of going into the dressing room at half-time and full-time and people saying sorry,” added Andy Scott.

“I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in people doing their jobs on the pitch and we have to toughen up in that respect. They worked their socks off but it’s not much consolation because we’ve lost again.”