Rotherham United: Only one blip as Millers target more than safety

Jonson Clarke-Harris scores the winner against Leeds
Jonson Clarke-Harris scores the winner against Leeds
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Nineteen league and cup matches, more than three months of Championship football, in excess of 1,800 minutes of game time, and Rotherham United have failed to turn up just once.

Reading away on November 4, 3-0 to the Royals, will live long and painfully in Millers manager Steve Evans’ heart and mind.

But it says much about how his side have risen to the challenge of the second tier after successive promotions that events at the Madejski Stadium stand out as a shocking blip rather than an indicator that Rotherham are struggling at this level.

With 17 league games played, the Millers are 19th in the table, having slipped from a high of 14th as their last three matches before the international break yielded just a solitary point

Yet had only one more of those 17 encounters brought a win then they would be sitting in midtable.

I wrote after they came back from a goal down at Brighton to draw 1-1 in October that they had established their Championship credentials and I stand by that.

Since then they have lost 3-0 at home to high-flying Middlesbrough, when an awful decision from an assistant referee left them with 10 men for more than an hour, crashed at Reading and taken a point in the Sheffield Wednesday derby at Hillsborough. One point in three games.

But their clash at the Amex Stadium with Albion had been their fifth match in a row unbeaten.

In that spell they comfortably beat play-off contenders Blackburn 2-0, destroyed Leeds in a second-half comeback that brought a 2-1 victory, held out magnificently at then-table-toppers Norwich to finish 1-1 and led rejuvenated Fulham 3-2 going into time added on before having to settle for a 3-3 draw.

Evans said after the draw with the Owls: “It was always going to be tough leading up to international week. Three games away from home and Middlesbrough at home sandwiched in between. And we go down to 10 men against them with the biggest travesty of a decision ever. That was a really difficult spell.”

Next up are home matches against teams below them in the table and a chance for more points. They entertain Birmingham on Saturday and the following week bottom club Blackpool are at New York Stadium.

Evans, who is assessing his squad and will be ready to do business in the January transfer window, said: “We’re a point or two away from sitting in 13th. We are frustrated. I think when you look

at 17 games in the Championship, we’ve had one performance where we go away saying ‘that’s just not acceptable’.

“I think there are a lot of games we look at (where we haven’t won) where we think we should have won. I keep saying it ... Watford at home, Brentford at home, Charlton at home. Their managers will agree we should have won those games. There’s no dispute to that.

“If we keep working as hard as we are, and we keep trying to get the breaks, and we keep trying to get on the front foot, then we’ll be okay.”

An insight into Evans’ mindset came in the Press conference after the derby at Hillsborough.

He was being quizzed by reporters and one asked whether he’d be happy if, at the end of the season, the Millers still occupied their present 19th position.

Survival in his first season at this level.

His response wasn’t confrontational or angry, just direct.

“No, don’t be silly.”