Suspect packages, Millers woe and Reds march on: Rotherham United 0 Barnsley 1
'A suspect package' was to blame.
New York Stadium was evacuated not long after the final whistle, players, press, sponsors and corporate guests among the hundreds of people to find themselves assembling in the wind and cold on the New York Stadium concourse.
Rotherham United striker Jerry Yates stood forlornly, still in his shorts, outside the reception entrance.
Millers old boy Aidy White, now of South Yorkshire neighbours Barnsley and substituted in the second half because of injury, limped over to chat with a media gaggle huddled in a corner against the elements.
20 minutes later, New York was given the all-clear and the doors opened again.
“A false alarm,” said the club. Just something dodgy-looking in the West Stand.
Everyone headed back inside, function-room fans to reclaim waiting pints, Rotherham manager Paul Warne to reflect on a close, hard-fought derby.
“It was a tight game,” he said. I thought the lads went toe to toe with them, but we need to score when we are on top.
“After 60 minutes I thought it had 0-0 written all over it.
“Obviously that wasn’t the case. I don’t think we played our best football and I don’t think Barnsley did either. The game could have gone either way.
Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom sang from the same hymn sheet.
“I’m pleased to come out with the three points,” he said. “I thought it was exactly like a derby - not a huge amount of quality, but a lot of endeavour; full-blooded and really competitive.
“Rotherham tried to make it difficult for us and we had to really match what they threw at us.”
Victory sees the Reds move within a point of a play-off spot. Defeat sees the Millers slip 11 points away from safety at the foot of the Championship.
Barnsley, unbeaten against Rotherham since 1982, gradually worked their way into the game and would settle it with a 69th-minute move of real quality. But, early on, they had been stretched and worried by the home side’s flying start.
For 20 minutes, a false alarm.
“Embarrassment”, “unnacceptable”, “annihilated” ... these were words used by Warne ahead of kick-off to describe the Millers’ 4-0 surrender at Oakwell in the days of Alan Stubbs back in August.
Saturday was different. Chances were shared in roughly equal measure, but Barnsley just had more quality when it mattered.
Nine minutes after Warne had been thinking the game would remain goalless, Ryan Kent struck.
The Reds winger played a slide-rule pass that Clark Kent would have been proud of and striker Adam Armstrong produced a finish to match the supply.
For Rotherham, Jon Taylor had been painfully wasteful in the seventh minute when he was clean through and wanted too long to get his shot away, Joe Mattock hit the post from distance, Danny Ward brought the best out of Barnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies with a deft chip and Jerry Yates had to do better with a free header that Davies gratefully caught.
After that miss, Yates stood, in his shorts, just as forlornly as he would later do outside the stadium.
For Barnsley, White shot across goal and just wide, Armstrong grazed the bar after getting in behind Stephen Kelly then missed the target from Kent’s cross while Marley Watkins’ fizzing, short-range drive from a tight angle was only inches away.
Warne believes Barnsley, who nuture their own talent, spot lower-league bargains, develop them, get the best out of them and then sell them on, are the blueprint for a club like the Millers to follow.
“I really like them,” he said. “They have got pace throughout the team.
“Unfortunately we didn’t manage to create a chance as clear-cut as theirs.”
Again, Heckingbottom concurred.
“I’ve said all along in this league that the first goals are vital and we’ve generally been good when we have gone in front,” he said.
“We can usually then catch teams on the counter and exploit the space when they are pushing because we’ve got some real good, athletic players.”
Warne also lamented: “It’s not like I have got Lady Luck with me at the minute.”
The reason for that was the 1pm withdrawal through illness of midfielder Tom Adeyemi and even more injuries to a squad already low on numbers,.
This time, centre-half Aimen Belaid and right-back Darnell Fisher pulling up lame and having to be replaced.
Nothing in the West Stand more dodgy-looking than the pulled hamstrings of that pair.
Life without Conor Hourihane begins happily for Barnsley. With their key midfield man sold to Aston Villa, after the departures of defender James Bree and and centre-forward Sam Winnall, the derby was a big test passed for the Reds who now have midfielder Alex Mowatt, signed from Leeds United on Friday, available for action.
One point off the top six, seven wins in their last 10 league matches and just six points off the 50-point survival mark most supporters would have happily taken after last season’s promotion to the second tier.
Team Heckingbottom marches on.
For Team Warne, it’s a different story.
Warne is a clever, respected, motivational leader in the Heckingbottom mould, but the interim boss inherited his own suspect package following the reigns of Stubbs and Kenny Jackett.
Tomorrow’s anticipated transfer-window arrivals can’t come soon enough as the announcement to evacuate the Championship draws ever nearer.