Rotherham United: Verdict and Alan Stubbs' reaction ... Brighton 3 Millers 0
Brighton ... the team new boss Alan Stubbs would love his Rotherham United side to become.
The Millers’ opponents at the Amex Stadium are good on the ball, quick to attack, with fast, nimble players whose clever inter-play opens up gaps in a flash.
Everything that Stubbs believes a side should be like.
A second 3-0 defeat on the trot for Rotherham shows how much work needs to be done before they are anything like the Seagulls, one of the best offensive outfits in the Championship and one of the favourites for promotion.
Matters at the other end of the table are concerning the Millers after one point from their opening three matches.
Rotherham were 2-0 down before the break, and a third goal just before the hour mark was just reward for the home side’s dominance.
The encouragement for Stubbs’ men were the first 20 minutes when, playing five at the back with three centre-halves, they looked a more compact unit than they had all season and the last 20 when they gave it a go and threatened a goal at a time when it would have been all too easy to cave in.
“For 20 minutes we started to frustrate them but then we contributed to our own downfall by giving away the ball on the edge of our box for their first goal,” Stubbs said.
“I asked the players for a response at half-time, and I feel I got the one I was looking for.
“I questioned them ... not about attititude, but how much it meant to them.”
Brighton, who’d run out to a Johnny Cash song, could make little headway early on and Stephen Kelly, one of the trio of central defenders might have fired the visitors in front after 21 minutes but his shot from the edge of the area flew just over.
Two minutes later, the game changed. The Millers had chances to clear the danger yet the ball found its way to Anthony Knockaert whose low effort sped past Lee Camp into the bottom corner.
Three minutes after that, the game was pretty much over as Danny Ward failed to hold the ball up front and the home side broke quickly, with Glenn Murray applying the close-in finish to Liam Rosenior’s right-wing cross set up by Knockaert’s clever feed.
Will Vaulks’ shot had skidded inches wide only seconds earlier, but the Seagulls were now in control, and Camp had to produce a great save to deny Tomer Hemed after Joe Mattock’s poor pass backwards had gifted possession to Chris Hughton’s team.
The break brought no respite for the Millers and 12 minutes into the second half Hemed coolly sent Camp the wrong way from the penalty spot after Dominic Ball had brought down Murray to confirm Brighton’s superiority.
Home supporters lit up the Sussex night air with their mobile phones as it looked like the lights would go out on the Millers’ challenge.
But the visitors rallied to produce their most dangerous spell of the game.
Ward brought a smart stop after 68 minutes from Niki Maenpaa and two minutes later the Seagulls keeper did even better with a flying save to palm away Vaulks’ superb long-range effort.
“We were much better in the second half,” Stubbs said.
“I’m led to believe the penalty was outside the box. I haven’t seen it again, but I’ve been told that.”
Injuries had hit the Millers hard, to the point that Stubbs named only six substitutes rather than the permitted seven.
“I could have put another youngster on the bench, but they have to earn it,” the boss said.
He had made several changes to the team beaten 3-0 at Aston Villa last Saturday. New right-back Darnell Fisher came in for his first start, with Stephen Kelly moving to centre-half to partner Kelvin Wilson and Dominic Ball, and Richard Wood dropping to the bench.
Rotherham were also without loan midfielder Jake Forster-Caskey who was unable to play against his parent club.
Winger Izzy Brown, signed on a season-long loan from Chelsea on Monday, missed out because his deal was finalised after the registration deadline, and the 19-year-old will have to wait for Saturday’s home match with Brentford for the chance to makes his first appearance.
The Millers came much more into game after the third goal, but have now failed to score for two matches and have conceded 13 goals in four since opening day earlier this month.
How Stubbs would love to have players like Knockaert, Hemed and Murray - Brighton’s Ring of Fire.
Brighton (4-4-2): Maenpaa; Rosenior, Bruno, Dunk, Bong; Knockaert ( LuaLua 69), Norwood, Stephens, Murphy; Hemed, Murray (Baldock 69). Subs not used: Ankergren, White, Kayal, Sidwell, Skalak.
Rotherham (5-4-1): Camp; Fisher (Thorpe 89), Kelly, Wilson, Ball, Mattock; Forde, Smallwood, Vaulks Forde (Allan H-T), Taylor; Ward. Subs not used: Price, Wood, Yates, Warren.
Goals: Knockaert 23, Murray 26, Hemed pen 57 (Brighton).
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).