Rotherham United: Alan Stubbs' men up and running ... Everything from Millers 1 Brentford 0
He strode in for his press conference with a troublesome toffee attached to his teeth, but Alan Stubbs wasn't stuck for words.
The new Rotherham United manager had just seen his side pick up their first victory and clean sheet of the season and he knew the importance of the three points as he takes the Millers in a different direction after their Championship survival heroics under Neil Warnock last season.
“It’s important to win every week if you can but this league is one of the most difficult to do it in,” he said.
“The mood among the players was good anyway, but it has lifted the mood for the fans and the club.”
The former Everton centre-half is building a whole new squad and philosophy, bringing in young players to play a passing game after inheriting 10 senior pros when he arrived in June. Eight of the starting 11 against the Bees were Stubbs recruits and of the 10 outfield players only defenders Stephen Kelly and Kelvin Wilson were older than 24.
“If you look at what we’ve had to contend with in the summer, it was going to be difficult to hit the ground running from day one,” the boss added, trying to work the offending confectionery away from his gums.
“You hope you do. In reality, you know it’s going to take a little bit of time. It’s still going to take a bit of time. If we can still keep picking up results as we work with the team, that will certainly help.”
Both sides played some decent attacking stuff in the first half and, after Lasse Vibe should have put the visitors ahead when he directed Maxime Colin’s cross wide, Danny Ward continued his good form by shooting past goalkeeper Daniel Bentley in the 32nd minute.
The Millers dug in resolutely after the break. defending deep and restricting the visitors to very few clear-cut chances.
Scott Hogan, a lively presence throughout, just missed with a 78th-minute header that Hulk Hogan would probably have put away, but otherwise, despite Bees pressure, Camp’s goal remained relatively unthreatened.
The fixtures computer had done Stubbs no favours with Wolves at home on opening day followed by trips to Aston Villa and Brighton in his first three league matches. Three games against probable promotion contenders delivered a solitary point.
Now, after that sticky start, the ex-Toffeeman’s Millers reign is up and running.
Teenage Chelsea winger Izzy Brown made his debut after joining on a season-long loan. The 19-year-old had walked into the wrong dressing room at AESSEAL New York Stadium before kick-off but then proceeded, throughout the first half, to barely put a foot wrong.
The boy arrived with a reputation for being quick, but what really caught the eye was his comfort on the ball and the way he was always looking to deliver a pass to a teammate in a dangerous position. There’s an element of ‘No 10’ in the England youth international who also has the pace to be an out and out wide man.
Less was seen of him after the break, but he had done enough to earn a standing ovation by the time he was substituted in the 88th minute.
“Tired but happy,” he grinned afterwards. “The pace of the game was something I’ve never experienced before.”
There was a second debutant, central midfielder Tom Adeyemi, brought in on loan from Cardiff City, who added a combative edge before departing at half-time with a thigh injury Rotherham are hoping is nothing serious.
Brown’s big moment came in the 23rd minute when he robbed Vibe and raced in on goal, but, to the disappointment of the home crowd willing the youngster to do well, his shot was deflected for a corner by Bentley.
You can add honesty to Brown’s list of virtues too. “I should have scored,” he admitted.
FIRST HOME STARTS
Scott Allan, on loan from Celtic, made his first league start. The 24-year-old has skill to burn and can pick passes other players don’t even see.
His through-ball to Ward for the match-winner was as sweet as anything Stubbs was chomping on after the final whistle, but teammates might have to do the midfielder’s defending for him.
There was also first New York views of right-back Darnell Fisher, 22, and centre-half Dominic Ball, 21. Fisher is a good athlete, shows real promise and will benefit from working under a proper defender like Stubbs, while Ball is fast into the tackle, distributes well and has improved in each of his three outings.
“Dominick has got ability and it’s common knowledge that centre-backs will get better as they get older,” Stubbs said. “The fact he’s doing it at such a young age bodes well for him going forward.”
Brentford aren’t the biggest or most physical outfit in the league and Stubbs was able to field a youthful, attacking side knowing his players were unlikely to be knocked out of their stride.
Next up is the first derby of the season, at Barnsley, where passions will run high and the test will be different.
“There’s not a lot you have to say,” the manager reckoned. “Derbies speak for themselves. The players don’t have to get themselves up for them.”
He departed, still picking at the final, obstinate remnants of his post-match treat.
Will he go with the same again or opt for more experience?
Something else for him to chew on.