It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Well, the Millers certainly had the start. But, boy, did they want this to finish!
After the praise and the plaudits had been flying around, what a sobering afternoon this was. A real shock to the system for those who had been reflecting rather contentedly on some recent performances.
Getting a bit carried away is all part of being a fan and a few have been revising - upwards - their pre-season estimate of satisfaction with a top-half finish.
Play like they did against Peterborough ... get a win like they did at Brentford and its understandable if optimism levels should rise.
But it wasn’t only the persistent drizzle that put a dampener on things. Those fans had to endure a pretty difficult final hour in which their side got a footballing lesson and were taken to the cleaners tactically.
And this from a side who hadn’t won away before Saturday. So Swindon clearly hadn’t been getting something right nor had they been playing like they did here once things began to tilt their way.
In fact, it looked odds-on their run continuing as Rotherham blitzed them in a blistering start. It was a continuation of the Peterborough home form and a spin-off in terms of confidence from the win at Brentford.
Swindon were floundering but, somehow, hanging on. The Millers helped them by failing to finish off some excellent play.
It might be suggested the failure to back up this excellent 25 minutes with the goal they should have had was what ultimately cost the Millers. Swindon were to later show enough to suggest they could have come back anyway, but it would have been a different game. Alex Revell popped a near-post chance over the top and Ben Pringle got clear but dinked his effort past the far post.
As the corner count mounted, a Pablo Mills header - a rare Millers heading success at attacking set-pieces - was brilliantly touched on to the bar by Wes Foderingham. At that point you could only see one winner. Except, if you don’t score...
Swindon, with their four Spurs signings (three on loan), were enjoying the wet surface for their slick passing but Rotherham had worked hard to contain them and restrict them to a header from Jay McEveley from a free-kick which Scott Shearer saved.
However, a switch in formation about midway through the half may well have been significant when they went to three at the back. McEveley and experienced skipper Darren Ward were excellent along with another Spurs loanee, Grant Hall, and, Rotherham barely got an attacking sniff after that.
Right-back Nathan Thompson played advanced enough to be in Pringle’s face and young Nathan Byrne, who had started at left-back, went and hugged the left touchline.
With another Spurs loa-
nee, the clever, talented and cocky Alex Pritchard, allowed free roam ‘in the hole’, the Millers began to find themselves a man short in various areas.
That brilliant early spell had begun to fade by the time Swindon did what Rotherham should have done earlier and got the first goal. It came on 32 minutes and the game went only one way after that.
Pritchard’s incisive run ended with a foul around 25 yards out and the little No 11 struck his free-kick high to Shearer’s right.
Perhaps the decisive moment was in the final seconds of stoppage time. Byrne actually mishit his centre but Frecklington couldn’t deal with things and when
he went to block Yasir Kasim the shot spiralled off the Millers midfielder and high over Shearer.
Still, half-time would see the kettle on the boil and the Millers could get up a head of steam going towards the North End as they did against Peterborough. We’ll see what Swindon’s smart cookies are like then! Surprisingly, it never happened.
Rotherham, outmanouevred in midfield and up front, simply could not get any sustained threat going. It seemed that when Matt Tubbs was warming up, Steve Evans was looking at putting three up front but he simply swapped him for Daniel Nardiello.
Swindon got more and more confident. They popped the ball about as the Millers tried to pin them down only to get picked off.
The third goal just past the hour effectively ended matters. Swindon broke on the counter, there were options for the man on the ball and Byrne chose Pritchard on the left. His low ball across the face of the goal gave Nicky Ajose a simple tap-in.
It was a painful last 20 minutes for the Millers - Pritchard so close to a fourth - as Swindon’s slick passers indulged themselves, feasting on the prospect of the first away win.
Rotherham’s heaviest home defeat of Steve Evans’ reign was confirmed at the end of stoppage time by a bad miss by both referee and linesman because both failed to spot that, with Pringle under pressure facing his own goal, it was sub Louis Thompson (who was challenging) - not Pringle - who stabbed the ball to Dany N’Guessan who was the proverbial miles offside. Poor from the officials but it just compounded Rotherham’s misery on a day that started with so very much to commend it but, long before the end, had given them a lot of food for thought .
If this was another benchmark, they will certainly have learned a lot more from this one than the others.