Rotherham United match verdict: Brighton 1 Millers 1 as Alex Revell strikes against former club

Alex Revell scores at Brighton
Alex Revell scores at Brighton
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“Disappointed”.

The word cropped up time and again as Rotherham United boss Steve Evans and striker Alex Revell gave their thoughts on the stalemate at Brighton.

One-one against a club who have made the Championship play-offs for the last two seasons, against an outfit with resources far beyond those of Rotherham, in a stunning stadium holding nearly 25,000 fans.

And the Millers were “disappointed”.

It says everything about the way they have embraced the challenge of the second tier that, 14 games in, they should feel this way. Back in August, they’d have snatched off your hand at the prospect of results like these.

In truth, they’re right to feel how they do. Evans’ men recovered from a poor start when their shape was wrong, rode the crushing blow of conceding a soft goal on the stroke of half-time and then turned in a second-half performance Millers style.

It was full of tempo and commitment and so nearly brought all three points rather than one.

Let Revell, disappointed after his third goal in three games, disappointed as he and his teammates stretched their unbeaten run to five matches, take up the story.

“We started sloppily. For the first 10 minutes they came at us. We didn’t start the way we have been playing, which is on the front foot,” he said.

“We conceded what was a poor goal from our point of view. We needed a few words at half-time because we weren’t quite at it. In the second half they had a lot of possession but in terms of chances and energy levels I thought we were excellent.

“We’re a little bit disappointed, to be honest, because we would have liked to get the win. We’ve got a draw, but we’ve probably dropped four points with drawing with Fulham (in midweek) and today. We’re disappointed.

“You make mistakes in this league and you get punished. That’s what happened to us in the first half with their goal. We’ve had a couple of chances and not taken them, then they go down the other end and we’re 1-0 down. We learning that way. We’re learning the hard way. That’s the best way to learn. We’re unbeaten in five, but we’re actually disappointed that we haven’t got wins in our last two games.”

Rotherham were uncharacteristically tentative from the start and could have fallen behind against a side without a league win since August. But they quickly realised that playing Jordan Bowery on the right wasn’t working, moved him into a central role in a 4-4-2 formation, worked their way back into the game and should have gone ahead in the 27th minute.

Ben Pringle did well to rob Rohan Ince on Rotherham’s left and then produced one of the crosses of the season.

His curling effort was so accurate he might as well have asked Bowery at what angle he’d like the ball’s ‘Mitre’ sign to land on his head.

If Bowery’s header had contained a 20th of the precision of Pringle’s delivery, the ball would have ended up in the back of the net. Instead, he glanced it wide.

15 minutes later Revell headed straight at the keeper when Frazer Richardson made his best attempt to impersonate Pringle on the other flank, and Rotherham paid for the misses in first-half stoppage time as Aston Villa loanee Joe Bennett found himself in acres of spaces on the left side of the penalty area, hit his first attempt at Richardson but stuck the ball inside Adam Collin’s near post from a tight angle with his second.

Second half, different story.

Revell needed only three minutes to make his mark against one of his former clubs, receiving the ball from Pringle, controlling it well and burying his shot past David Stockdale, who once had a loan spell with the Millers during the Don Valley days. A quality goal at the stadium named after American Express.

That will do nicely, Sir.

After that, Brighton, misplacing passes to the crowd’s increasing frustration, had their share of posssession but all the chances were falling to the Millers.

Craig Morgan took a short break from being a rock at the back to fire in a shot which brought a good save from Stockdale, Revell shot over after Albion had been harried into giving away possesion again, Paul Green, who had been denied by a Stockdale save in the first half, slipped in the process of shooting and Lee Frecklington did everything right as he drove at the home defence and everything wrong as he shot well wide.

Evans said: “We’re disappointed. We also went away disappointed in midweek. We’ll just keep working as hard as we are and, as I’ve said to the players in there, the breaks will come.

“You and I know, and so do the 24/25,000 supporters here today, it should have been different.

“I think we got it wrong to start with tactically in terms of team shape, but after 15 minutes we sorted it.

“We had a terrific spell up to half-time and then we gave the most atrocious goal away. We have to look at individuals for that, but we’ll talk to them about it and they can see for themselves. We talked about a reaction at half-time. The players were disappointed. It was just a case of pointing a few individuals in certain directions.”

A Lewis Dunk header from a corner which brought a flying save from Collin reminded everyone that Brighton could still be a threat but as the game moved past the 90-minute mark only one team was in it to win it.

Clarke-Harris, after two goals in his last two games, had come off the bench early in the second half to replace Bowery, and his fizzing free-kick was heading for the bottom-left corner before Stockdale acrobatically intervened. The Albion keeper then produced a save which Evans described as “world-class” as Gordon Greer lunged at the ball under heavy Millers pressure and sent it spinning towards his own goal.

“We got the goal early in the second half and then their keeper has just produced save after save,” Evans added. It was a stunning save from Jonson Clarke-Harris’s free-kick. We were right behind it and he’s hit it with the venom that he does. How the keeper gets to the ricochet which would ultimately be an own goal ... it’s just a world-class save.

“Jono (Jonson Clarke Harris) is a young man. We said we would look after him. It’s my responibility. What comes with that is different opinions about when you should pick him. We played Jordan because we thought he could be purposeful on the right, but I’d have been more purposeful on the right.

“So we soon put him up front andwhen he was up front he was a real handful along with Alex. We thought we’d get 60 minutes out of him. He’s not had a lot of first-team games, and that’s always difficult. It was always our plan to introduce Jono.

“This is a good Brighton side. If you look at the quality that Sami (Hyypia) has to select from, he probably shakes his head night after night at the fact they’re not winning football matches.”

So the Millers made the long trip home rueing four points that got away in less than a week but with a growing momentum that comes only with winning and drawing matches and the knowledge that teams don’t like facing, as Revell described it, their “pure energy” style.

Was this Rotherham’s best performance of the season? No. Can they make life difficult for any side in this division? Yes. Are they now a genuine Championship side whose ambitions extend beyond survival? Absolutely.

I know, I know. So disappointing.

Brighton: Stockdale 8, Greer 6, Dunk 6, Colunga 6, Baldock 6, Calderon 6, O’Grady 6, Forster-Caskey (Teixera 80) 6, Gardner 6 (McCourt 68, 6), Ince 8, Bennett 7. Subs not used: Ankergen, Hughes, Chicksen, Holla, Fenelon.

Rotherham: Collin 6, Richardson 7, Morgan 8, Arnason 8, Skarz 7, Bowery 5 (Clarke-Harris 55, 6), Frecklington 6, Green 7, Pringle 7, Taylor 6 (Smallwood 84), Revell 7 Subs not used: Loach, Broadfoot, Hall, Swift, Derbyshire.

Hero: Alex Revell put in his usual shift and capped it with a well-taken goal. A handful in the air and never shy of helping out defensively. Three in three for the striker who supposedly never scores. No wonder Steve Evans loves him.

Key moment: Jordan Bowery’s first-half miss. Had that gone in, the home crowd - too used to seeing their side fall behind this season - would have turned on their team and the Millers could have gone on to victory.

Viewpoint: The fact that the Millers camp were so frustrated at the result shows how far they have come in just three months in the Championship and how their own expectations of themselves have raised.

Manager’s view - Steve Evans: “You look at the teamsheet and you know you’re in for a very difficult day here. We’ve come and we’ve tried to impose ourself on the game. We’re trying to compete with some big clubs and I think we’re doing it admirably. But we’ve stll got a long way to go.”

Manager’s view - Sami Hyypia: “At half-time we talked about needing to start the second half well, as we knew they would start fast and look for the equaliser. In the second half, we kept making the wrong decisions and gave the ball away.”

Referee watch: Michael Bull (Essex): Excellent. The best refereeing display I’ve seen at a Millers match this season. Got nearly everything right for both sides and refused to be swayed by the calls of the home support.

Attendance: 24,370 (619).