Rotherham United: The second-half curse, and the verdict on new boy Ben Purrington ... Bristol City 1 Millers 0

Paul Warne

Paul Warne

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He wasn’t even being interviewed, yet Danny Ward called it exactly right.

The Rotherham United striker stood alone in the corner of the mixed zone, an area inside grounds where press quiz players, talking on his mobile phone.

It’s an old footballers’ trick when they don’t want to be asked questions after a defeat ... walk through the zone as quickly as possible, avoid eye contact, pretend to be making a call.

But the Millers’ top scorer’s conversation was genuine.

“Same old thing,” you heard him say, the frustration of the 1-0 loss at Bristol City plain in his hushed voice, the pain still etched on his face. “We did all right up to half-time and then lost it again in the second half.”

The Championship’s bottom club, suffering their 15th away defeat in 16 games this season, were worth a point, but they don’t do draws with Paul Warne.

“I don’t think there was anything between the two sides,” said the caretaker manager, yet to preside over a stalemate in his 13-match tenure, after substitute Milan Djuric’s 72nd-minute winner.

“It was a tight game. Neither of us were great attacking forces. They didn’t create a great deal. I don’t think either team ripped the other apart enough.

“They didn’t miss three one-on-ones and we didn’t miss loads. It was a game of endeavour and loads of effort, which I asked the lads for. Unfortunately for us, we were on the wrong side of it again.”

Rotherham have the spirit and organisation to mix it early on with sides but not the quality to sustain it over a full match.

Ben Purrington

Ben Purrington

The list of games under Warne where they have been in contention at half-time, might even have been leading, and gone on to lose grows ever longer.

Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United, Newcastle United, Barnsley, Nottingham Forest. Now Bristol City.

THE MATCH

Boos were ringing out around Ashton Gate and Robins boss Lee Johnson was being abused by home fans over his triple 58th-minute substitution such was the effectiveness of the Millers’ containing job.

Abraham was hauled off seconds after his header had been kept out by Richard O’Donnell’s stunning save and Johnson looked an even smaller figure than usual as he hunched his frame against the baying mob.

Before the break, Abraham had shot wide when he should have scored after 14 minutes, while, four minutes later, Danny Ward had matched the Bristol City youngter, sweeping the ball just off target after Joe Newell’s right-flank run and feed.

That was it for first-half action until Robins defender Mark Little almost put through his own goal in the 44th minute as he attempted to clear Anthony Forde’s cross.

At half-time came the unusual announcement that a dog had been running loose outside Ashton Gate and could any spectator claim it.

Rotherham’s dogs of war were still right in the game until, irony of ironies, Abraham’s replacement, Djuric, was on hand to head home after the flying O’Donnell has tipped away Jamie Paterson’s fierce drive.

The Millers could muster nothing in reply.

“People will think it’s the same old story, but I don’t think we deserved to lose,” lamented Warne. “I think a point would have been a fair result.

“I am proud of how the lads played today. I am not happy with the result, but I am proud of them.”

A tan Staffordshire bull terrier, by the way. Handed in to police.

BEN PURRINGTON

Aged just 20 and playing in his first ever Championship match, he was up against David Cotterill, that experienced, canny Welsh international winger with a Premier-League right foot and more than 400 games behind him.

Sixty minutes in, in acres of space, Cotterill went one on one with Rotherham’s new signing around the halfway line. Beat him and he was through.

The 29-year-old, not for the first time, had the ball whisked from his feet by clever positional play and a perfectly-timed challenge.

Ben Purrington, a left-back once of Plymouth Argyle, had announced himself to the Championship.

There was nothing fussy about this debut, nothing spectacular, just welcome, solid signs of an athletic defender with real poise and promise.

JOE NEWELL

Purrington’s selection saw Joe Mattock moved to left midfield and Joe Newell pushed into a central role created by Tom Adeyemi’s lingering illness.

It’s a position that suits Newell’s deft touch, silky running and vision and, particularly in the first half, he was the prompter of most of the visitors’ danger. Expect to see him there again this season.

Speaking in the mixed zone, Warne revealed he’d been impressed: “Joe played in the hole and he did really well.”

Midfielder Will Vaulks came through, his demeanour as low as Ward’s, politely enquiring where he could get a cab to Bristol Railway Station.

With 16 games remaining, the gap between the Millers and second-tier safety is now 15 points. A three-game week where Warne had been hoping for seven points yielded none.

Taxi for Rotherham.

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