Rotherham United match verdict: Charlton 1 Millers 1

Matt Derbyshire scores but his effort was disallowed
Matt Derbyshire scores but his effort was disallowed
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New personnel, but the attitude remains the same.

Anyone who suggests Rotherham United have lost some of their famed spirit as manager Steve Evans tries to build a true Championship team and bids farewell to some of the double-promotion heroes certainly wasn’t at this game.

There have been grumblings from one or two contributors to internet fans forums that, with new players coming in and old, trusted ones leaving, the commitment to the cause simply couldn’t remain the same.

It can.

The Millers went a goal down at The Valley just when they were really pressing for the win.

As they built up a head of steam, there had been screams for a penalty, the entire away end and virtually every visiting players appealing in raucous unison, in the 68th minute, and then Matt Derbyshire slid in to score in the 77th minute only to see his effort ruled out for offside.

More, much more, of that later.

Then, with seven minutes of normal time remaining, Jordan Cousins took advantage of hesitation in the away penalty area to score a goal the home side barely deserved.

A hammer blow? Game over? No way back for a team without desire?

No, no and no.

Evans had already made three offensive substitutions, bringing on Danny Ward, giving Jack Hunt a debut as an attacking midfielder and sending on winger Adam Hammill.

And the Millers, showing all of the never-say die mentality which characterised their climb from League Two to the second tier and brought League One Play-off Final glory at Wembley, came again.

Desperate Charlton defending saw the ball plucked from Derbyshire’s head in front of a gaping net in the 86th minute, Paul Green’s header drew a superb diving save from Marko Dmitrovic seconds later and Hammill flashed a shot agonisingly wide as the clocked ticked past 90 minutes.

Then, gloriously, deservedly, the Huddersfield connection paid off. Ward, signed on a permanent deal from the Terriers, read the intent of Hammill, on loan from the John Smiths Stadium, and was on hand to poke home his floated ball over the top a minute into time added on. Hats off to the two men about Town.

There were suggestions Rhoys Wiggins had put through his own net, but the last thing a smiling Ward said to me before heading back to the team bus was: “My touch. Make sure you put it was my goal.”

Happy to oblige, Danny. Definitely yours, and congratulations on a first one in Rotherham colours.

“I thought we were excellent,” said Millers boss Steve Evans. “We deserved to win the game. We made positive substitutions when we had to to try to win the game. We worked.

“I said to the players afterwards if we have that desire and hunger then we’ll be fine.”

Afterwards, he spent a long time in the referee’s room, and Scott Duncan deserved to suffer in the company of his irate guest.

TV replays and images from the photographer with whom I shared a train home clearly showed Andre Bikey’s hand on ball in the 68th minute.

All those Millers fans and players were right.

Evans also thought Derbyshire’s effort should have stood. Having not had the benefit of seeing a replay, I couldn’t say either way.

The Rotherham manager could. And did.

“Matt Derbyshire’s goal was onside. We’ve analysed it. It was clearly onside. It was a shocking decision,” he blasted.

“Then there was the handball when Kari Arnason would have headed it into an empty net, and in the first half as well ...have a look at when Derbyshire was held in the area and nothing was given. We got no decisions.

“We have to take that on the chin. This is a tough place to come to. I have a lot of respect for Charlton. But we’ve been robbed. It’s a bit hard to take. It seems to be that a number of times I stand here after games and point to officials, but I have to point to them today.

“We cannot have those decisions in the second tier of English football, when we have a referee turn up all the way from the North-east and officiate like that today. I’m sorry, but the standard of the performance is not good enough. I’m not questioning his integrity - Scott is a very honest man - but he must reflect on this on the way home and say it’s a bad day.

“It’s a great inswinging corner that’s deceived everyone. Kari’s jumping at the back stick and the big boy, Bikey, has gone up and fisted it away.

“To see Matt Derbyshire’s goal rubbed off ... we don’t know, we’re not in line, we have to respect the assistant referee’s decision. at the time. But you come in and you look at the television and it’s sad really. Because big decisions could tell at the end of the season.”

Meanwhile, let me tell you all the story of the three tackles and three blocks.

Against a home side who were quick on the counter-attack, centre-half Craig Morgan was simply immense.

In the 19th minute he cleaned out man and ball as the speedy Igor Vetokele broke clear and in the 33rd waited and waited then timed his tackle on the same player to perfection when he was the last line of defence.

Nine minutes into the second half he produced blocks on Vetokele - who must have been sick of him by now - and Cousins laced with courage and commitment, then did the same to Johann Gudmundsson - once a Millers transfer target - on the hour mark.

Seventy-five minutes in, Charlton sub Tony Watt poduced a turn so terrific he stared down an empy net. One crunching Morgan moment later and the chance was gone.

Any six of those instances could have brought a goal. None did.

On top of that, he was tidy in possession, defensively dominant in the air and even found time to force a tip over the bar from Dmitrovic with a header in the 68th minute.

He was one of the players in close proximity to Cousins when the ball seemed to hang around the Millers’s penalty area for longer than necessary in the build-up to the Addicks’ opener. but Captain Craig is still my first Miller this season to receive 10/10.

The first half was nothing to write about, so I’m not going to, except to say Conor Newton hit a post in the seventh minute with a stabbed half-volley from Ben Pringle’s cross and Gudmundsson did the same in the 18th minute with a cute chip.

New boy Hunt, usually a right-back, came on in the 60th minute for Newton and showed pace, deft feet and a real attacking thrust. Not everything he tried came off but his half-hour cameo was enough to suggest he could add a real edge to the Millers going forward.

Despite Evans’ seething frustration, this was a satisfying afternoon’s work which saw the Millers move up a place in the table to 20th and provide more evidence they’re capable of being a Championship club again next season.

Evans sometimes recalls a line he first heard used by a rival manager - appropriately, given the circumstances of the fightback and who it was against, Huddersfield boss and former Charlton chief Chris Powell.

“Points are hard to come by in the Championship. One point is a good day Three points is a very good day.”

Yes, the Millers could have won this match. But in the cold and rain at a bleak South-east London outpost, they didn’t lose it, and showed how strongly their heart still beats.

Who wouldn’t have taken four points from this week before Rotherham’s 4-2 midweek demolition of Bolton and their refusal to yield here?

Saturday was a good, good day.

Charlton Athletic: Dmitrovic 7, Veljkovic 7 (Lepoint 80), Bikey 7, Gudmundsson 6, Harriott 6, (Gomez 89), Vetokele 6 (Watt 63, 6), Wiggins 5, Buyens 7, Solly 7, Cousins 6, Ben Haim 6. Subs not used: Etheridge, Wilson, Onyewu, Fox.

Rotherham United: Collin 6, Richardson 7, Morgan 10, Arnason 8, Fryers 6, Newton 6 (Hunt 60, 6), Smallwood 7, Green 8, Pringle 7 (Hammill 80), Derbyshire 6, Sammon 7 (Ward 76). Subs not used: Thompson, Wood, Bowery, Barmby.

Referee: Scott Duncan (Newcastle-upon-Tyne).

Manager’s view - Steve Evans: “I feel for my team on the coach today. it’s a long way back for us, it’s a long way for our supporters to travel on their coaches. I’m sure if they’re watching television or on their iPhones or iPads, whatever it is these days, and see the incidents they’ll feel hard done by. We can only affect our perfornance. I’ve tried year after year to try to affect the performance of the officials! It’s fair to say if I think too much about it I’ll be in an asylum by 11pm tonight.”

Manager’s view - Guy Luzon: “After we led the game 1-0 five minutes towards the end, of course we are disappointed not to win. The difference in the side was that we organised well until the last minute. In the last two games we organised well in defence, with a line-up of 4-4-2. We knew our opponents would play a lot of long balls, and we were ready for the second ball. Of course, we are lacking in confidence in attack. After we scored we needed to keep a clean sheet, and we are frustrated.”

Hero: Craig Morgan. Towering showing from a player who has been a key man all season. Tackles, blocks, headers, a threat in the opposition box ... the complete centre-half’s display.

Key moment: Pick from the penalty refusal or the disallowed goal. Had either decision gone the Millers’ way, they would, I believe, have gone on to gain the three points their performance deserved.

Viewpoint: The decisions of the referee were in the spotlight after the match but don’t let that detract from a really encouraging performance. Going to teams around them in the table and coming away with something is key to Rotherham’s Championship status.

Ref watch: Scott Duncan (Newcastle-upon-Tyne). Read the match report for Steve Evans’ in-depth analysis! I agree with him entirely on the penalty that wasn’t given. I couldn’t judge on the offside verdict.

Attendance: 14,447.