Birmingham City 0 Rotherham United 2: So much for Steve Evans and fans to savour as superb Millers climb table

Matt Derbyshire celebrates after scoring. Pictures: Jim Brailsford
Matt Derbyshire celebrates after scoring. Pictures: Jim Brailsford
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He celebrated with the fans at the end, banging heart and badge with his fist, co-ordinating their party like a great conductor leading an orchestra.

Manager Steve Evans was loving it, and so were the 878 Rotherham United supporters who had watched their team climb out of the Championship drop zone with a stirring victory at St Andrew’s.

Tony Andreu scores

Tony Andreu scores

It was just like the 2013/2014 League One promotion season when scenes like these played out so many times on the road. Days like this are harder to come by in the second tier, which is why this one felt even more special.

They called him back for a final go. Ever the showman, he couldn’t resist an encore and once more the cheers rang out in unison with his raised arms.

Yet these were some of the people he supposedly called ‘numpties’ last week after his side had won in the league for the first time this season, against Cardiff City.

The Millers boss has nothing but respect for the vast majority of the club’s followers and he was quick to put the record straight on that one. They weren’t the numpties. Absolutely not. He was pointing the finger at pundits who had already written off the Millers’ survival chances ... and at one in particular.

Steve Evans in front of the Rotherham fans

Steve Evans in front of the Rotherham fans

We’ll come back to Adam Virgo in a while. First let’s mention the names of Matt Derbyshire and Tony Andreu whose goals were the highlights of a pretty much complete Rotherham away performance.

Evans’ men were by far the better side in the first half, looking dangerous every time they attacked, and deservedly led at the break through Derbyshire’s well-taken 32nd-minute goal.

Then they defended resolutely after the break as the home side tried to force their way into the game before an equally-clinical finish from Andreu put them 2-0 ahead in the 64th minute. In the last 20 minutes, as the home fans left in droves, it was all Rotherham again as Derbyshire, twice, and substitute Danny Ward came close to adding to their total.

It’s displays like that which move a team off the bottom and up to 20th in the table, with the prospect of going as high as 15th if they can beat Burnley in Friday’s clash at AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Delighted Millers supporters

Delighted Millers supporters

This was Rotherham’s first win over Birmingham for 26 years and their first at St Andrew’s since 1966, it was the first time the Millers have triumphed twice on the trot under Evans in the second tier, only one team below 13th place has scored more times than them and their eight-point total from nine games is exactly the same as in last year’s campaign.

Sorting out early-season goalkeeping and defensive issues and bringing in Norwich City loan duo Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and Andreu has transformed the side since the international break.

The most important job for Evans this week is to persuade his pal, Alex Neil, boss of the Canaries, to allow Belgian international Odjidja-Ofoe to extend his stay.

Among many quality performers, the 26-year-old midfielder was a standout man again. Strong and fast, with nimble feet and the vision to nearly always take the right option, he is making things happen for the Millers.

Joe Newell set up the first goal

Joe Newell set up the first goal

There are tough tests ahead, but Rotherham have a good, fluid shape about them and, with encouraging synergy with their manager’s final-whistle gesturing, are playing with plenty of heart.

That’s why TV Football League Tonight analyst Virgo copped for a challenge from Evans as uncompromising as any of the numerous ones Blues striker Clayton Donaldson faced for 95 minutes from Millers centre-half Farrend Rawson.

“You’ve got people like Adam Virgo who wants to watch his words, saying that we’re going to be relegated and that I shouldn’t be here,” he said.

“If that’s based on someone watching us for five or six games or it comes from someone who’s won a game as a manager, then you’d accept that, wouldn’t you? Not from someone who’s awful as a pundit on the television.”

I was there last week when Evans made his numpties jibe and I sensed then that his anger wasn’t directed at supporters.

Emerging from the St Andrew’s tunnel half an hour after his communal bonding, he told me: “It’s amazing, it’s the few negative people among our supporters who said I was going on about the fans. I wasn’t going on about the fans. Why don’t we speak about Adam Virgo and Football League Tonight?

“The guys who turn up and watch us every week have been brilliant.”

The visitors had made their intent known from the start, Andreu and Odjidja-Ofoe having shots in the opening minute, and they never let up as Clarke-Harris and Joe Newell brought good and excellent saves respectively from Tomasz Kuszczak before Derbyshire showed great control and precision for the opener, created by a stunning crossfield pass from Newell.

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Andreu displayed Premier League speed of thought and movement as he robbed the dithering Stephen Gleeson and shot into the far corner before Kuszczak had any time to ready himself.

The keeper’s surname would notch up unbelievable Scrabble points and here he’d been undone by two triple-word scores.

Richie Smallwood produced the tackle of the match to stop Donaldson on the break and Rawson denied the same man with an incredible block to show all areas of the Millers’ game were in good working order.

Demarai Gray, in the first half, and sub Andrew Shinnie, after the break, went close for the home side, but it says much that Lee Camp, sure an assured presence in the Rotherham goal since his deadline-day move, didn’t have a real save to make all game and Bimingham’s man-of-the-match vote went to a defender, Paul Caddis.

After a troubled start to their season, Rotherham have now produced wins against a Bluebirds side who are now back in a play-off spot and a Birmingham team who would have been in the top six with them had they managed to take three points from an Evans side unwillingly to let them have anything.

On this evidence, the Millers don’t look anything like a relegation side.

And you’d have to be a numpty or on Football League Tonight to argue with that.

Birmingham City (4-4-1-1): Kuszczak 6; Caddis 8, Morrison 6, Spector 6, Grounds 7; Cotterill 7(Brock-Madsen 73), Kieftenbeld 5 (Shinnie 62, 5), Gleeson 5, Gray 7; Toral 5 (Maghoma 62, 6); Donaldson 6. Subs not used: Legzdins, Robinson, Solomon-Otabor, Davis.

Rotherham United (4-4-2): Camp 7; Buxton 7, Rawson 8, Collins 8, Mattock 7; Odjidja-Ofoe 8, Andreu 7 (G Ward 80), Smallwood 8, Newell 8; Clarke-Harris 7 (D Ward 72), Derbyshire (Maguire 89) 7. Subs not used: Collin, Halford, Broadfoot, Ledesma.

Goals: Derbyshire 32, Andreu 64.

Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire).

Attendance: 17,307 (878).