IT was on the cards sometime. After all, hardly anybody goes through a season unbeaten at home (it’s down to just three already in this division).
But whether this was a rude awakening, a reality check or simply a good old-fashioned kick in the whatsits, 4-0 at home when you’re reckoned to be one of the fancied outfits is a pretty stunning setback.
Sort the positives out of this one then. Well, I would if there were any, and the manager certainly wasn’t inclined to spend a deal of time doing so. “Totally unacceptable from start to finish,” reckoned Andy Scott.
You didn’t need to be a fly on the dressing room wall (probably with the paint blistering around you) to imagine what might have been his reaction.
The home fans seemed rather stunned by the turn of events and the way the afternoon unfolded. I actually thought their reaction at the end was pretty muted, perhaps a reflection of the goodwill that had been built up in the more than acceptable start whilst probably acknowledging their favourites had been beaten by a side who were clearly the better on the day.
Scott isn’t much interested in how decent the opposition were, only how his own side performed, and that’s totally right.
Southend never suggested they would carve the Millers open with silky passing but they played to their strengths even to the extent of being content to win throw-ins in attacking areas (from which they scored twice), often via use of the lanky Liam Dickinson who was rejected by the Millers after a day with them in pre-season. He proved an awkward handful here.
Often you were inclined to count the blue shirts to see if they really did only have 11 on the pitch.
They suffocated the Millers in all areas of the park with Jean-Paul Kalala an immense barrier in midfield whilst a back four, including three with hard-nosed experience, proved stubborn, positionally sound and too much for the Millers.
So, whilst Rotherham didn’t play well, one is inclined to call up the old saying - whether you agree with it or not - about being only as good as the opposition allow you to be. Well, Southend didn’t allow the Millers to be much good at all.
But Scott touched on other things. He was “very, very disappointed and upset” that a team of his had been outworked and outfought. He wasn’t wrong..
By the 20-minute mark they were fortunate not to be staring at more than Peter Gilbert’s 10th-minute opener, struck from the edge of the area.
Michael Timlin brought a fine save from Conrad Logan from 20 yards when pouncing on a loose ball and should have scored when Dickinson and Neil Harris sent him clear only for him to fail to beat Logan.
The Millers did work their way into the game, however, enjoying their best spell in the last 15 minutes of the half. Alex Revell, skippering the side for the first time, wasn’t far wide on the turn.
Rotherham were having to work for every bit of space. And they weren’t allowed much with Southend quick to drop and defend as a compact unit. Chris Holroyd went on for Marshall at half-time with Grabban moving out wide but within two minutes the task became doubly harder.
Dickinson did his duty, yet again, from a ball played long down the channel and earned a throw-in. Leonard hurled a huge one right into the danger zone and although Raynes got his head on it, Timlin reacted first and closed in for a fine volley just inside the far post.
Tom Newey had already prevented Neil Harris from almost certainly scoring when Rotherham showed they hadn’t learned the lesson from the previous goal.
Again no-one had picked up Timlin when another long throw ended with a ball bouncing away outside the area whereupon the midfielder moved on to it totally unchallenged to smash a tremendous effort past Logan.
Three minutes later, veteran goalpoacher Harris swept home his first for the club.
The return of Johnny Mullins off the subs’ bench midway through the half was a bright note. There might well have been a goal for Mark Bradley as consolation when Revell nodded down only for Holroyd to intercept and then have his own effort on the turn blocked. Grabban hit the rebound over the bar. Bradley also fired wide.
As for Southend, they were content. They’d done their job - and very well indeed.