Rotherham United verdict and reaction: Bolton 2 Millers 1

The Millers fall behind in the second minute. Pictures: Jim Brailsford
The Millers fall behind in the second minute. Pictures: Jim Brailsford
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The ‘R’ word.

It was impossible to escape it after an outcome which could have a grave bearing on which league Rotherham United find themselves in next season.

Rotherham equalise

Rotherham equalise

Redfearn.

Everyone on social media seemed to have an opinion on manager Neil and whether he can keep the Millers in the Championship after eight days which have shaken up the battle for safety.

A home loss against a side in the bottom three last week and then a heartbreaking, undeserved defeat in time added on against a team which had started Saturday’s match as the division’s bottom club weren’t in the survival script

And so on to the real ‘R’ word.

Andrew Shinnie

Andrew Shinnie

The 4-1 reverse at AESSEAL New York Stadium on January 30 against Charlton Athletic was a relegation display, the setback at Bolton, when the Trotters stole a win in the dying seconds, a relegation result.

The chance to take six points against teams around them in the table gone and a return to the bottom three, where Redfearn found the club before his first match in charge on October 17.

Yet the Millers have already climbed out of the drop zone once under him and there is time for them to do it again.

As the Rotherham boss said: “There are 16 games left, 16 cup finals. We’re still in there. The season doesn’t end now, it ends in May.

Disaster for the Millers in time added on

Disaster for the Millers in time added on

“To lose like that at the end is just a gutting blow for everybody. But from day one we were in a mess. We were in a bad situation.

“We have gradually got better performances. We have picked up some good results. We’ve got enough to get out of it. We have proved that we have enough with the results we’ve had against top sides.”

Events before these last two seismic fixtures, between the first Rotherham win under Redfearn at Leeds United and the Addicks rolling into town, when they won five league games - including beating high-flying Hull City and Brighton - and drew one out of 12, show what the Millers are capable of.

But Redfearn’s men have lost more than two matches in the last week or so; they’ve also lost the momentum they had encouragingly built since the influence of their new boss started to take effect.

Neil Redfearn with new No 2 Nicky Eaden

Neil Redfearn with new No 2 Nicky Eaden

They have had no luck with injuries. Two potential key men, Leon Best and Stephen Kelly, remain sidelined, skipper Lee Frecklington hasn’t played for a month and Luciano Becchio, brought in to score the goals to keep them out of trouble, is now in the treatment room after straining his calf in training.

Bolton, battling gamely in the face of off-field financial turmoil, swept into the lead with less than two minutes on the clock, Jay Spearing on hand at the edge of the penalty area with an emphatic finish when a corner wasn’t cleared.

It was a dour, tense game, typical frantic fare from two teams scrapping for their lives, but Rotherham fought their way back into the game and Andrew Shinnie and Joe Newell both spurned glorious opportunities before Chris Burke grabbed an equaliser close to half-time.

Shinnie, cleverly played clean through by Burke in the 13th minute, missed the target while Newell should have done better in the 42nd minute when he bore down on goal from the left only to shoot too close to goalkeeper Ben Amos.

Burke showed him how it should be done a minute later, moving on to Danny Ward’s ball across goal to neatly dink it over Amos and into the net.

It was a Lancashire hotchpotch of a game, with no clear pattern and both sides trading spells of dominance, but the clearest chances fell the way of the Millers.

Shinnie, playing well just behind the main striker on his first start, simply had to score and didn’t when Newell’s 58th-minute header left him with just Amos to beat from close range.

He hit the keeper in the game’s big turning point. The home support was already growing restless and had Rotherham gone ahead at that point it was easier to see them going on to extend their lead further rather than the Trotters coming back.

“It’s a great chance,” said Redfearn. “I’m not knocking the lad for getting in there, I want people to get in there. But he should score.

“The chances that have fallen to us today ... Joe Newell’s chance in the first half, he’s clean through, you won’t get many better than that.

“And the one that falls to Richard Wood when it drops to him in the box. They are great chances and we have got to put them in. At the end of the day, we didn’t and we’ve been hurt. We created enough chances, for an away team, to have won three matches.”

Woody’s attempted overhead kick in the 83rd-minute was everything you’d expect from a tough 6ft 3in centre-half used to knocking about opponents at the other end of the field.

The defender was making his first appearance of the season as Redfearn went for experience at the back.

There were two late Millers shouts for penalties and the intros about the visitors earning a deserved point were already being written in the Press box when Mark Davies broke clear in the 93rd minute. Rotherham keeper Lee Camp denied him brilliantly but the follow-up was slotted home by substitute Kaiyne Woolery

“It’s cruel because the worst-case scenario should be coming away with a point thinking we should have won,” Redfearn said. “To come away with nothing on the back of that performance is really galling.

“We had good chances in the first half, we had great chances in the second. We couldn’t get the goal and then I look at their goal at the end there and I am expecting defenders to get their bodies in the way.

“It was a frustrating day for us, but I can’t fault the application of the players. I thought we played some good stuff and we looked a good side. But we’re not getting the rub of the green at the minute.”

Things can change quickly. Everybody had Bolton, hammered 4-0 at New York on Boxing Day, relegated. Six weeks on from that Millers mauling, they’re right back in a mix which probably extends to six clubs - Fulham, Bristol City, MK Dons, Rotherham, Charlton and Wanderers.

The final whistle brought a guttural roar from the home crowd who knew just how much this result meant. These were the same fans who had booed their side at stages through the game when the Millers had Bolton panicking and under the cosh.

As Rotherham’s disconsolate players, spirits dampened further by the incessant rain, trooped to the away end to show their appreciation for an excellent away following, the old Status Quo classic, Rockin’ All Over The World, blared out over the PA system.

Events in the last eight days mean it’s already squeaky-bum time. ‘16 cup finals’.

The Millers are rockin’ at the moment. But not in the way Quo meant.

Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Amos 7; Vela 6, Dervite 6, Holding 6, Moxey 6; Spearing 6; Feeney 5, Davies 7, Pratley 5 (Dobbie 84), Wellington 6 (Woolery 81); Heskey 5 (Trotter 64, 6). Subs not used: Rachubka, Derik, Danns, Twardzik.

Rotherham United (4-4-1-1): Camp 6; Richardson 6, Broadfoot 6, Wood 7, Mattock 6; Burke 7 (Green 69, 6), G Ward 6, Smallwood 6, Newell 7; Shinnie 7 (Derbyshire 90+4); D Ward 6(Clarke-Harris 76). Subs not used: Cairns, Rawson, Belaid, Dawson.

Goals: Spearing 2, Woolery 90+3 (Bolton); Burke 43 (Rotherham).

Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).

Attendance: 14,641 (1,348).

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