Rotherham United: Millers so impressive in cup win

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Many would have agreed when Millers boss Steve Evans reckoned that, rather than play well and not win, he’d like to play rubbish and emerge victorious.

Well, we’re still waiting for one of those rubbish wins!

If you can play well and win, then we’ll certainly take that every time. Trouble is, as everybody knows, results haven’t quite been matching those performances in recent weeks.

Yes, on FA Cup day, any old performance will do provided the result goes the right way, but the Millers treated their fans to another excellent display which had so many good facets to it.

Bradford, last season’s League Cup darlings, lying sixth and with a big following behind them, represented a real tough challenge. It couldn’t, on the face of it, appear to be any tougher on first-round day.

But, frankly, they never got a sniff. Only at the start of the second half was there a suggestion they might threaten Rotherham’s dominance.

But once Alex Revell had made it 2-0 around the hour, it was as if the whole ground knew that the tie was over.

When you’ve been gaffered at the back, bossed in midfield and sorely troubled up front, then going 2-0 down might just knock your duck off. A whole row of Bradford’s waddled off at that moment.

This was a solid, sound, professional performance from the Millers. The players knew the challenge in front of them and met it head on.

It wasn’t just about playing ‘well’ (whatever your definition of that is), it was about getting the job done. Individually and as a team, they did that.

With Craig Morgan and Kari Arnason snuffing out the Hanson-Wells threat, Michael O’Connor and Lee Frecklington getting the better of Jones and Doyle in midfield and Alex Revell soon showing he had the beating of McArdle and Bates in the air, Rotherham had a strong spine in this game. Stronger than Bradford.

All it needed was for the Millers to ‘play well’ where it eventually matters and this they did.

Perhaps getting the first goal - not something they have made too much of a habit of - helped too, along with the timing of it, after just 12 minutes.

It was another example from Kieran Agard of his predatory instincts in the business area in front of goal.

It was the same sort of opportunism he displayed in that crucial moment at Plymouth last season. Revell headed down O’Connor’s cross and Agard reacted with the sharpness and confidence of someone now looking for goals in every such situation. He’d whipped it past the keeper before Bradford could do a thing.

An early goal lead was just what Rotherham needed. Matt Tubbs, working well off, and also with, Revell, was denied by McLaughlin who then produced a blinding reflex stop from a cracking header by Revell header who had done everything right.

At that moment, the big striker must have really thought his luck was out and he’d never score again if keepers were going to make saves like that.

When, just before half-time, he got clear after a defensive error, his touch skidded the ball a bit too far and then when he tried to go round the keeper and was foiled the striker jumped up and down in his best John Cleese impression to emphasise his frustration.

It could have been another ‘MK Dons moment’ for him and he admitted afterwards that at half-time he was starting to beat himself up about it.

But, on the basis that if he ever stops trying to get into goalscoring positions then he may as well be sat in the stand, he got his reward for keeping looking for the moment with the sharp finish on 61 minutes when he got in first at the near post on to O’Connor’s wickedly-delivered free-kick.

Two-nil with half an hour to go against a side like Bradford hardly constitutes game over. But it was here. Everybody knew it because Rotherham simply were not going to let their iron grip slacken and they also knew more goals were on offer.

Of course, one must mention the excellent, very sharp save by Adam Collin to deny Nahki Wells on 33 minutes from Bradford’s first proper goal threat. An equaliser then changes the complexion, but Rotherham played as if they intended sorting this one out one way or another.

Key too was handling Bradford at set-pieces at which Phil Parkinson’s side are so threatening. They didn’t get a sniff there either.

Confirmation of a place in the second round came with 20 minutes left. Agard, with agility and perfect timing, leapt to send a header from O’Connor’s centre looping beyond McLaughlin. It’s his eighth of the season.

Millers fans could bask in the victory glow in the last 20 minutes. Not those season-ticket holders though who, perhaps because they have to ‘pay again’ for cup ties, gave it a miss. Serves’ em right.

They missed a good performance and a good win to go with it.

Of course, we all look forward to the rubbish win.

This one certainly wasn’t!

ROTHERHAM UNITED; Collin; Bradley, Morgan, Arnson, Skarz; Agard, Frecklington, O’Connor (Milsom 76), Pringle (Tidser 89); Revell, Tubbs. Unused: Shearer, Davis, Mills, Nardiello.

BRADFORD CITY: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Bates, Meredith; De Vita (Yeates 63), Jones, Doyle (Kennedy 74), Reid; Hanson, Wells (McBurnie 82). Unused: Thompson, Ripley, Taylor, McHugh.

Ref: James Adcock (Notts). Att; 7,667.

*Alex Revell’s return to the goal trail was crafted on the training ground.

The big striker revealed that the decisive second goal he scored in the 3-0 FA Cup win over Bradford City was from a free-kick set-piece the squad had been working on.

“We had been working on set-pieces this week. On Friday, I scored two from the exact position that I got this one, although they were with my head,” said Revell.

“Michael O’Connor put in a great ball for it from the free-kick. We do get great delivery from both sides from him and ‘Prings’ (Ben Pringle) and we probably don’t always make the most of them. We did today and scoring from one while defending really well against Bradford’s set-pieces, was satisfying.”

Revell, who now has three goals for the season, had been denied by a brilliant save and also failed when clean through in the first half.

“The keeper made a great save, then I had a bad touch but at half-time the gaffer was brilliant,” Revell added. “He said to keep my head up, that I’d been outstanding and to keep going.

“I’ve been working every day trying to improve my finishing and got rewarded here.”

The Millers are at Hartlepool in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Northern Area quarter-final tomorrow. Kari Arnason misses the game in readiness for World Cup duty with Iceland while O’Connor is out too after being called up by Northern Ireland.

Manager Steve Evans said he would be making changes and it is likely that Claude Davis will receive some action following his hamstring injury. Tom Eaves, who was not allowed to be involved on Saturday because Bolton didn’t want him cup-tied, could start.

Evans, who went down the tunnel before the final whistle, said he “wanted to disappear” and that he waited and shook hands with Bradford boss Phil Parkinson at the other end of the tunnel.