Rotherham 0 Port Vale 1: Match Report

Rotherham United v Port Vale'Rotherham keeper Rhys Taylor fails to stop Marc Richards spot kick
Rotherham United v Port Vale'Rotherham keeper Rhys Taylor fails to stop Marc Richards spot kick
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FOR sure, I love my football on a Saturday afternoon (or anytime for that matter) but I reckoned beforehand I wouldn’t be overly disappointed had they called this off and elected to play it in more favourable conditions than a swirling, gale-force wind more suited to the shipping forecast.

By five o’clock, I don’t doubt there were plenty of others who would have been happy for it not to have gone ahead either!

Never was going to be called off, of course. But it did little to alter my belief that you rarely, if ever, get a decent game in conditions like they were at the Windy Valley Stadium.

You have to get on with it in all sorts of conditions across a season, of course, but I genuinely felt sorry for the players for whom the simplest judgement often became a lottery.

But I felt sorry too for the faithful, trying to protect themselves with hoods and hats and seeking some solace in what they were watching - although not in the way things are unfolding for their team in a season that began with so much hope.

Perhaps Saturday’s conditions were symbolic. Millers followers - disappointed and almost disbelieving - are seeing their side’s promotion chances blowing away.

On the windscale, the talk last August of top spot, and top spot only, is proving hot air.

Call the rallying cry of not the play-offs and not even second or third but No 1 only, whatever you want. Bold, brave, bullish, naive, silly, foolish. You might call it all of them or just some of them.

But whatever you think of expectations being cranked up so high - and on what grounds? - you simply have to ask what are they are doing wallowing about in 13th place? They’ve only ever been lower since relegation because they were deducted 17 points that season.

The fans have constantly been fed the line - and happily regurgitated it themselves - about starting life in the new stadium in a new division.

Yes, wonderful. And the more they heard people saying it, the better it sounded. Wouldn’t it be great? Yes, it would.

Now they have every right - as boss Andy Scott admitted afterwards - to feel frustrated and disappointed. There’ll be plenty who feel a deal worse than that!

And if there is any sympathy to be dished out then, at this moment, in this low spot of the season (and let’s hope that’s what it is) there has to be some for chairman Tony Stewart.

His off-field vision is rising you-know-where. On it? Well, who knows what emotions this eternal optimist is going through. You get plenty of perks for the money you shovel in but I think it’s safe and fair to say that Stewart expected more than this. And deserves more.

More than 13th place and looking up at the likes of Torquay, Burton and Accrington and just heading off such as Morecambe, AFC Wimbledon and Macclesfield.

It was Scott’s 24/7 work ethic; his organisation and diligent preparation, his strategies, his promotion-winning past that helped carry sway with Stewart when he went for this bright new beginning. Scott, himself, swept the place clean. It seemed a bright new era.

As we keep saying each week, there is still time. But that time is starting to run out. What’s more - and this is the reality that is hurting the fans - they are now not convinced they are watching a promotion outfit.

Scott eulogises over the midweek hard work on the training ground. To those around it, that much isn’t in doubt.

But the theory isn’t being translated into good enough Saturday afternoon results for whatever reason.

It might be said that while ever team selection has the instability that it has had so far, then great improvement, and certainly any consistency, will be difficult. Just twice has the same line-up played in successive games.

Actually, there has been a more settled defence in recent weeks yet, with on-loan Scott Griffiths coming in at left back, this was yet another different back four to add to a list that surely must be a league record at this stage of a season for the number of entirely different back fours fielded.

The return after injury absence of Marcus Marshall for his first start since December 10 didn’t work out.

After Brett Williams’ success out wide last week (as sub) it seemed worth another go.

Sam Wood was on the left for groin victim Gareth Evans but couldn’t make much headway.

With Vale’s giant central defenders dominant and the rest of a supposedly stricken team, riven by financial problems and poor results, looking hungrier despite their adversity (or perhaps in spite of it), Rotherham could never shake them off.

Grabban missed the first half’s best chance while Richards, six yards out, probably cursed a gust of wind when he looked sure to score. Likewise Mullins in stoppage time from a Wood free-kick.

Before then, Robert Taylor (switched to the right so he could cut in onto his favoured left foot) went so close from 22 yards and he and Loft forced good saves from Rhys Taylor.

With the wind behind them in the second half, Rotherham saw Grabban denied by Loft’s excellent interception before Revell’s shot on the turn might have gone in on another day instead of at the keeper.

Vale nullified Rotherham’s promising start by scoring in their first real attack of the half, Richards bagging a penalty on 57 minutes after Tonge brought down Loft.

Getting an equaliser in such conditions against opposition now redoubling their efforts was always going to be extremely difficult but it nearly happened.

Schofield hit a rocket-shot a whisker wide and then, in the final minute, from a corner, an effort by Mullins looped goalwards and there were appeals it was over the line (it looked extremely close) before Loft got it away.

That it’s not good enough is only stating the obvious!