Ray of sunshine amid all the rain for Millers

Ronnie Moore, not exactly down cast with the news the todays game is off
Ronnie Moore, not exactly down cast with the news the todays game is off
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PERHAPS Rotherham United didn’t mind the snow and rain which fell on Saturday and forced the postponement of their big League Two promotion clash with Shrewsbury Town.

Or that the much-improved Don Valley Stadium pitch failed to withstand the Saturday morning onslaught, the pitch being declared unfit for just the second time this season.

For when the game is eventually played - and it looks like not being until the end of March at the earliest - the Millers will, additional setbacks permitting, have three key players available who most likely would not have been on Saturday.

Central defender Ryan Cresswell, ankle, and striker Ian Thomas-Moore, hamstring, were definitely out and it was doubtful if fellow striker Ryan Taylor, groin, would have made it.

So, the ‘off’ decision by referee Paul Tierney at 11.30am wouldn’t have been entirely unwelcome if it means those three will be in the squad when the match is played.

The Don Valley Stadium pitch is vastly improved from last season when it was much maligned following the problems caused by the U2 concert in August 2009.

Considerable work was undertaken last summer and the pitch has been much better this season. It has even been praised by visiting clubs.

Indeed, only one of the club’s five previous postponements suffered this season had been at Don Valley (the December 28 date with Accrington).

Recent games played whilst it was raining were followed by rugby league in the rain last Sunday and then, two days later, the rearranged Accrington game was played throughout in a downpour.

There is a feeling that had the state of the pitch been similar to last season then last Tuesday’s game would not even have gone ahead.

The club took the precaution of moving the reserve-team game with Barnsley on Wednesday to the Oakwell Academy ground so as to “protect” it with a view to the Shrewsbury game.

However, the sleet, snow and then rain of Saturday morning defeated all attempts of Millers groundsman Jim Davison and his staff to remove all the surface water, with one area of the pitch particularly badly affected.

Referee Tierney - travelling from Wigan and delayed by horrendous conditions and problems on the M62 - had little choice other than to call the match off at 11.30.

“It was very wet indeed and, in view of the forecast of rain to continue, it was pointless waiting any longer and then having to make the same decision only a couple of hours or less before the start,” said Rotherham’s chief operating officer, Paul Douglas.

“Our groundstaff did all they could but it was obvious throughout the morning that it might well be a losing battle.”

Shrewsbury were notified before their departure time of 9.30am that there was a real problem. They elected to start their journey and were notified of the decision whilst they were still en route.

No new date has been decided but, although Rotherham have a ‘free’ midweek this week, they have Tuesday dates the following two midweeks (Torquay away on March 1 and Bradford City away on March 8) and then have successive Friday night visits to Chesterfield (March 18) and Lincoln (March 25) so they will not want a Tuesday fixture in those weeks.

This means the next available “clear” midweek date would be Tuesday March 29 whilst the first couple of midweeks in April are also free.

Rotherham have just played in six of the seven midweeks there have been since the turn of the year and have no fixture this midweek, with their next game being at Burton Albion next Saturday.

A bonus for the Millers was that fourth-placed Wycombe - who would have gone third with a point and second with a win - lost 2-1 at home to Accrington. Bury drew at Gillingham when a win would have taken them above Rotherham and knocked the Millers out of the top three.

So, Rotherham remained third, ahead of Wycombe on goal difference and two points ahead of Bury and Port Vale for whom Tom Pope, on loan from Rotherham, scored twice in Friday’s 2-1 win for Vale over Bradford City.

It doubled his tally for the season as he had scored just once for Rotherham.