Rotherham 0 Morecambe 1 - MATCH REPORT

Rotherham Utd  vs Morecambe''Utd's  Skipper Nick Fenton tackles Morecambe's Goal Scores Jimmy Spencer                       &
Rotherham Utd vs Morecambe''Utd's Skipper Nick Fenton tackles Morecambe's Goal Scores Jimmy Spencer &
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FIRST the good news - yes, there was some.

The Millers are only two points off the play-offs.

Now the bad. They’re not getting there if they don’t play better than this!

Before the Shrewsbury game last week, Rotherham had lost fewer home games than anybody else in League Two.

Just two. So much for the so-called DVS factor. They’ve now doubled that inside a week.

What’s more, they’ve gone from looking brilliant, world-beaters, call it what you will, at Lincoln to looking pretty poor here considering their high ranking and their aspirations.

I’d certainly say the conditions - a capricious wind, a bouncy and bobbly pitch - didn’t help them but there was no excuse for a lack of thought or ideas at times.

What’s more, I saw them at Lincoln looking to get the ball into the penalty area a bit quicker, with a bit more purpose.

Here, whilst acknowledging conditions were not easy, there were too many times in the first half when the opportunity to put the ball in was not taken.

Often they went for a bit more football and, in those conditions, it was inviting trouble.

And as usually happens - and we certainly saw it against Barnet recently - when teams in the bottom half manage to survive the early pressure and then on to half-time, they really grow in confidence.

Defenders grow in stature and, combined with rising anxiety and frustration from the home side, there is always the danger of the away side snatching one.

Caretaker manager Andy Liddell was pretty honest afterwards and you can bet there wasn’t anyone in the dressing room who could argue with his curt assessment ... “Not good enough.”

That, after the first 10 minutes or so and a spell later in the first half, was most definitely the case.

He was candid enough to reckon eight or nine didn’t play very well.

Certainly a few could employ the finest barrister in the land and they’d not have much of a defence.

He said he was going to watch the video again ... “to see where we can improve”.

Then he paused ... “if I watch it again to see where we can improve, then I’ll be there for five hours.”

It was a lighter moment on an afternoon that began brightly but got slowly grimmer.

As he’d indicated that the players knew they’d not played well, then certain individuals don’t need to watch the video to know they simply were not good enough on the day. Some regarded as “good” players were poor when it came to the crunch.

You get away with this sort of game if you manage to sneak a goal and nick it 1-0. The fans walk off happy with the win even if it wasn’t great.

But conceding eight minutes from time was a real killer, although, looking back, had it come earlier you suspect the agony would only, therefore, have been for longer.

Morecambe, workmanlike but with Phil Jevons managing to cause more trouble than even he might have hoped for, were dogged enough and hard-working enough to make the most of another ‘big’ away scalp, having also won at Chesterfield and Shrewsbury.

This was also away win number seven for them and only one side in the bottom half of the table has won more and that’s Hereford - they are next up at Don Valley Stadium.

So anyone thinking that one’s anywhere near a gimme may have to re-calculate!

Liddell also said he was “puzzled” at the lack of confidence he saw and at a loss to explain it.

Well, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been a manager for three games or 300, you’d certainly be scratching your head over something like this from a team you thought might be heading in the right direction with players still buzzing over a fresh start.

If someone as experienced in the game as Liddell can’t explain it - and I’ve heard far more experienced managers struggle for an explanation as well - then I’m damned if I’ve got a clue as to where the confidence b*ggered off to between Sincil Bank and here.

All I do know is that it goes a lot quicker than it comes. And, wherever it went on Saturday afternoon, they’d better find it sharpish.

As in the goalless draws against Barnet and Bury, Millers followers were left clutching at the “what if” straw regarding an early near-miss, in this case, Johnny Mullins having a header blocked on the line after Ryan Taylor nodded back a corner kick after just three minutes.

When Ryan Taylor’s little inside pass sent Nicky Law scampering into the area, you expected something to materialise from it. But no.

It wasn’t long before Andy Warrington was enjoying a personal duel with Jevons and saving three times from the experienced striker. Little midfielder Garry Hunter missed a good heading opportunity.

Rotherham, with the wind behind them and misjudging forward balls a lot, picked up again, largely through the efforts of Marcus Marshall towards half-time.

He and Mark Bradley almost set up Adam Le Fondre before Rotherham’s best opportunity was set up by Le Fondre and Bradley who put Law clear into the area.

I don’t know whether this was an example of a lack of confidence that Liddell mentioned, but one expected someone of Law’s quality to have finished it off more ruthlessly.

He did eventually get his shot away and it needed a sharp save from Barry Roche.

Marshall fired narrowly wide after a run that lifted the crowd right on half-time and we hoped for better things into the wind, as happened in the second half at Torquay. It didn’t really happen.

Omar Daley went on just 12 minutes after the break and engineered a threat from which McCready bravely blocked Le Fondre’s potential goal effort.

When Taylor set up Le Fondre in space, the finish, left-footed and sliced wide of the near post, was disappointing.

Then with eight minutes left in an afternoon petering out, the conditions having dictated plenty, Morecambe struck with a fine, angled finish from Jimmy Spencer.

There was a farewell flurry from the Millers, Marshall cutting in and firing over and Mullins, from a corner, heading narrowly wide in the third minute of stoppage time.

Confidence? I’m confident the Millers are better than this! But am I confident they’ll make the play-offs?

I’d be more confident if they don’t play like this again!