Millers score ‘Knill’ again
WHAT a difference a week makes - except in the scoreline!
After their subsequent little problem with second-bottom Barnet a week earlier, the Millers more than played their part in a thoroughly enthralling game against the side second top.
Considering Bury arrived with far more away wins (10) than anyone in the country and far more goals (37) on their travels as well, they certainly have got it cracked away from home.
What’s more, it wasn’t just those impressive stats that had the Millers going into this one just tugging at their shirt collar a touch and feeling a little uneasy.
Even Ronnie Moore - charged with delivering promotion and preferably through the automatic route - might just have been feeling a little extra pressure considering that you didn’t need to be Einstein to work out that a Bury win would put them eight points ahead of Rotherham. And with a game in hand (home to Torquay tomorrow).
When Moore faced up to the fans at the forum last Thursday night, he would have heard about the concern as the grip on an automatic spot begins to loosen and he might have feared a bumpy ride.
There were a few probing but reasonable questions but nothing that might have had him reaching for the tin helmet.
That might be reserved for any meetings with chairman Tony Stewart who has backed him and made it clear that he doesn’t want to be hanging around League Two any longer than expected. And I’m fairly sure that he hasn’t factored in another season there.
Of course, promotions aren’t made to order. Then again, get in a good, solid position and let it slip and the frustration is all the greater, not to mention annoyance.
Former Millers boss Alan Knill knows all about that having been so close in the last two seasons only to agonisingly miss out. This could well be third time lucky and, for what it’s worth, I think it will be.
He reckoned a draw was a fair result. I can see where he’s coming from and you could argue all night.
But, Knilly, mi owd sunshine, whilst you’ve done a job and a half over there and I reckon you will finish in the top three, you were just edged out of it here. Just.
Not that he should bother and not that Moore (replaced on his 2005 departure by Knill as caretaker) can regard that as much consolation. He knew a big win was the only priority.
He didn’t get it due to a combination of factors - inadequate finishing, great defending, a bit of luck and a difficult pitch. But next best was defeat avoidance and a clean sheet. We got those and a pretty decent game, as well, into the bargain.
Rotherham could have scored on either of two occasions inside the first three minutes, got stung by Bury’s pace out wide and intelligent movement on to any number of driven, diagonal balls and then saw the visitors let off at two set-pieces.
Then Bury began the second half the better, top scorer Ryan Lowe miscued two scoreable chances, a sitter was somehow missed and they had Rotherham on edge and wobbling.
Only for the Millers to bounce back, spurn the best chance of the game, and see some desperate and excellent last-ditch defending deny them before a vital late save.
All the while, it remained an open game, in the balance with barely a slack moment. Whatever happened to those results Moore teams used to grind out?
In just 50 seconds, Ryan Taylor - looking sure to finish off Adam Le Fondre’s little knock-down - was denied by Belford’s double-quick dash from his line.
They were closer after three minutes - and by Bradford City linesman standards, it was a certain goal!
Ian Thomas-Moore’s narrow angle shot struck Le Fondre about three yards out and looped towards goal. Normally you’d expect it to carry on forwards and the crowd even rose to celebrate a goal. But, incredibly, there may have been some sort of backspin and the ball suddenly dropped down right on the goalline whereupon Lees hammered it away. This linesman had good eyesight!
Bury, using the pace of wide men Bennett and Worrall and particularly with balls struck beyond Dale Tonge, should have scored but Bennett fired into the side netting.
Johnny Mullins, excellent throughout, rescued Rotherham with a timely intervention when Schumacher was poised to polish off Lowe’s centre.
Mullins was close to finishing off a Callum Kennedy free-kick and when the returning Ryan Cresswell outjumped keeper Belford, the header dropped wide of the empty net.
The old warrior Efe Sodje - who suffered an arm injury which he suggested afterwards was broken, which would be quite astonishing if it was or more than a hairline crack - couldn’t resist some crude physicality.
He got a booking for whacking Le Fondre from behind, a talking-to for an aerial clattering of Ryan Taylor and a let-off at the start of the second half for a forearm ont o the back of Le Fondre’s head. I bet Lionel Messi would love it in certain parts of League Two!
Bury should have made their early second-half superiority tell but Lowe’s two miscues sandwiched the close-range miss from Lees which was a real escape.
Sweeney also might have hit the target with decent chances either side of key Rotherham moments.
Firstly Le Fondre - much livelier after his ‘rest’ - saw the chance to lob Belford from distance but didn’t just get the height and then Law got sent clean through by Ryan Taylor.
The pitch may certainly have played a part but he ended up knocking the ball a shade too far ahead and then Belford was tight on him as he clipped the shot past the keeper but into the side netting.
A goal for Tonge looked inevitable from Le Fondre’s low centre only for Sodje to produce a tremendous challenge from virtually behind the right-back.
As Rotherham finished strongly, Ryan Taylor got clear on an angle only for Belford to divert the ball with his legs and Le Fondre couldn’t judge his jump for the loose ball.
So, another goalless home draw and, whereas the previous week the results went against the Millers, this week they went for them. It might be a developing pattern in the run-in!
I think we deserved to win it. They had a great chance soon after half-time but we had chances and didn’t quite get the breaks.
They chased, worked hard and gave us everything except the icing on the cake. I thought we were the better side but you have to score when you’re on top.
Alf was brighter. He’s not bullet-proof, he knows that. In a tight game it can be Alfie who turns it and he might have done here.
Alan Knill: Both teams had chances and both perhaps lacked a bit of quality to take all three points.
I thought it was a fair result.
We did pretty well after the start we had although I don’t think we played particularly well; we can play a lot better.
We’d have taken a point beforehand because it keeps us five points ahead of Rotherham with a game in hand and anybody who finishes five points ahead of them has had a pretty good season.