Millers have night to remember

Rotherham Utd v Sheffield Wednesday......Matt Tubbs and keeper keeper Scott Shearer
Rotherham Utd v Sheffield Wednesday......Matt Tubbs and keeper keeper Scott Shearer
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They had waited a long time so the Rotherham United fans were entitled to have a big celebration, writes Les Payne.

The win over Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup was, as most know by now, the first at home over the Owls for 37 years.

It was also the 10th attempt on home soil since Dick Habbin got the winner in the league fixture back in March 1976.

But dear old Millmoor - even with 13,500 inside that day - could hardly have made the noise that was generated on Tuesday inside the New York Stadium which, at 11,433, was eight short of the record set on the opening day of last season against Burton Albion.

Those who’d experienced the full houses last season knew what to expect and it was a really cracking atmosphere which only served to help the occasion.

Any Millers players who may not quite have got it, certainly did so when they turned up and when the tie eventually got underway after its 15 minute delay due to crowd congestion which might well elicit meetings to evaluate things with the Sheffield United full house looming in a month’s time.

Having played four Championship clubs in the final four friendlies, the Millers had come rather unstuck in the final two (against Middlesbrough and Barnsley) conceding three times in each of those two.

In the Boro one , Rotherham were particularly exposed at the back, conceded three and it could easily have been six. Wednesday had their assistant manager and first team coach at that game and would have seen the vulnerability, and would have reckoned they had the pace and running power to expose it.

With three more conceded at Crewe, there must have been concerns in the Millers camp too. But forewarned is often forearmed and as Tuesday’s game unfolded, it was clear that Rotherham were fully alert to the possibility of being caught with far too much space behind them.

First of all, however, had come the first big decision of the season by manager Steve Evans.

That was minutes into the second half at Crewe when he took off Claude Davis. Tuesday seemed right for a man of his experience but Evans elected instead to play Kari Arnason alongside Craig Morgan (the man who is the new skipper).

Arnason showed exactly why he plays in centre defence for Iceland with an authoritative display, combative too and (aside from his display at Bradford City when he was in midfield) was probably his best one for the club. He was excellent as, indeed, were the rest.

Indeed, not a deal has bettered the first 20 minutes when they utterly outplayed Wednesday. They were decisive and positive on the ball and, without it, hounded the Championship side in all areas of the field.

That doggedness, the desire to close Wednesday down and, crucially, not let their speed merchants get up a head of steam by closing off their space, prevented their opponents from really gathering momentum, certainly not in the first half.

And the back line was ever alert to the prospect of Wednesday attempting to play their quick players in behind them - a tactic that Middlesbrough had used to some effect.

Of course, all performances - good or bad - need goals and they were certainly special strikes from Ben Pringle and Lee Frecklington. The 2-1 scoreline at half-time didn’t do the Millers justice.

Fears they may not sustain their high-octane effort in the second half were soon dispelled and although Wednesday came more into it, they were restricted to a few hurried clearances and, when analysed, not a clear scoring opportunity.

It was the first magical cup night of New York Stadium’s history and, all round, one to savour.