THE Millers faithful gave a rousing welcome to their 1961 League Cup Final heroes which meant they had something to cheer at half-time.
That was a relief because they’d found precious little to exercise the vocal chords during the first half although it was obvious the fans were just waiting for something, anything, to acclaim.
Of course, it happens like that. And Rotherham aren’t the only ones to have suffered.
A good start (more than good actually as it was the only 100 per cent record in the division) provokes a feelgood factor and heightens everybody’s expectations. People want to see what all the fuss is about amidst these good results.
Chuck in one of the division’s ‘minnows’ as the opponents and one can understand the feeling that another win is on the way.
But from the opening minutes something was amiss. The old boys of ‘61 - all of whom played years in what’s now The Championship so that’s how good those guys were - probably sympathised with an off beat performance whilst, like the rest, being a little puzzled too.
One can certainly give some credit to Barnet. Last day survivors last season, they are much better this time.
Manager Lawrie Sanchez has them operating in an organised manner and they would have headed back to North London aggrieved they didn’t inflict Rotherham’s first defeat, not just dent their 100 per cent record.
The Millers managed to put behind them a sluggish, strangely off-key first half to eke out a point by twice coming from behind.
They won’t want to repeat much of this 90 minutes but the fact they have squeezed out something for the second match running indicates there might be the right sort of factors in this squad. They weren’t all too apparent in a disappointing first half, however. They were top of the table but weren’t looking it.
Certainly no complaints from me that they got a win at Crewe that they may have fought for and earned but didn’t deserve and a point here about which they couldn’t have complained had they got nothing. If that’s four ‘bonus’ points on the total, then that’s fine by Millers followers, I’m sure. When totals are being totted up in the months ahead, they will be four mighty fine points.
Barnet proved difficult to break down, had a tireless midfield and had enough in the speed and liveliness of Izale McLeod and little winger Mark Marshall to cause the Millers problems.
The alarm bells should have clanged for those thinking this might be stitched on for three more points with Barnet having won at Portsmouth in the Carling Cup. As they’d won at Morecambe too on opening day, then there might just be reasons for that other than flashes in the pan.
True, Rotherham helped them on their way with their own errors but they were grateful for a poor finish from Marshall when he volleyed a splendid chance over after 10 minutes.
Rotherham sort of huffed and puffed and hinted at unlocking the door but it was one of those days where, as the first half unfolded, they desperately needed to get to half-time without conceding. I’ll bet the DVS would have taken a half-time 0-0 by the 30 minute mark. Not that Barnet were ripping them up although they did force some last ditch defending. It was simply the chance to regroup.
However, they had to do that from the position of a goal down and you could not begrudge the Bees their lead, Clovis Kamdjo timing his arrival at the near post perfectly to head in Marshall’s corner.
Andy Scott didn’t sit on his hands. In fact, he confessed later that he’d considered making changes in the first half.
He made two at half-time, sending on Marcus Marshall at right back and Chris Holroyd. This meant Gareth Evans moving out to the left from where he provided the centre which earned the corner for the equaliser three minutes into the second half.
Danny Schofield’s corner to the far post saw Troy Brown challenge. When the ball dropped loose, the young central defender joyfully whacked his volley into the net for his first senior goal anywhere.
He had been selected ahead of Ryan Cresswell whilst Jason Taylor was left out for Mark Bradley, Scott saying both took knocks and were very tired after midweek.
Adam Le Fondre got away minutes later but couldn’t get his control right and the opportunity was lost.
Then on 62 minutes, McLeod was bundled over as he made his way past Michael Raynes and he smashed home the penalty.
It would almost certainly have been curtains five minutes later but for an excellent goalline clearance by Brown - the turning point of the game.
McLeod skipped inside a challenge, went past keeper Conrad Logan and when he struck his shot for goal probably had a gaping net at one side. But Brown hadn’t given up, he threw himself across to block the ball with an outstretched leg right on the line.
It’s the sort of moment that needs rewarding and Bradley almost did so with a shot that hit the bar following a corner.
As the clock ticked down, Rotherham were seeking some inspiration and it came with nine minutes left.
Danny Harrison lifted a ball in behind the defence and Le Fondre, towards the left, was alert to just such an opportunity.
He was actually getting a bit squeezed for space but, like all good goalscorers, found a way and couldn’t have done a deal else other than what he did. His left-footer actually went through the legs of the advancing ‘keeper Dean Brill.
With ex-loanee Exodus Geohaghon getting a generous hand from the Millers fans when he went on for the visitors in the final minutes, the home fans showed they remained in good heart.
But they probably went off home puzzled at the performance but relieved that something had been rescued.
No doubt the boys of ‘61 had afternoons like this too. As they’d have no doubt told the class of 2011, the important thing is somehow managing to get something when you do!
Andy Scott’s view
It was certainly a point gained. We were way off the mark in the first half. I can’t tell you what I was thinking at that point because you wouldn’t be able to print it.
I made a couple of changes at half-time to freshen it up and changed the shape to give us a bit more impetus but we didn’t pressure the ball like we have done in the first few games and gave the ball away too many times without pressure on us.
It swarmed through the side but we were sloppy from the off. And if you give the ball away then you’re going to be running around a lot more to get it back. Everyone makes mistakes and feels a bit off colour at times. As a football team, if you can get away with a point then you have to tick that one off and look for the next one.