Millers win another thriller

Daniel Nardiello celebrates his 90th minute goal for Rotherham.
Daniel Nardiello celebrates his 90th minute goal for Rotherham.
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Sometimes there’s a whiff about a game from early on. You sense it might not turn out as straightforward as it appears it’s going to.

This game had that feel about it.

You never quite knew what might unfold even when Rotherham were on top and a goal up or even when Oldham got chopped down to 10 men before half-time. It had a wonderful unpredictability about it.

Apart from, that is, Rotherham’s predictable attacking drive in the second half, firstly for an equaliser and then in a barnstorming finish which ultimately produced a 90th- minute winner. Fans love finishes like we got here.

It really was a thoroughly entertaining afternoon’s football. Perhaps not quite knowing what might happen next was a part of that.

I recall thinking after a first 20 minutes of Rotherham dominance that, if they were two up, such were certain vulnerabilities about Oldham that it could end up four or five. Yet, even if it was 2-0, I could see it never being over and Oldham even coming back and levelling, even going in front. It had that sort of feel.

But whatever the views, you could not argue with what unfolded before our eyes.

Oldham, in a fashion typical of a team going down to 10 men, redoubled their efforts to their great credit perhaps aided by the equaliser so soon after midfielder David Mellor’s 40th-minute red card for an off-the-ball kick at Lee Frecklington.

If only a manager could get every player to pile in the extra effort they do when down to 10 men or when a club goes into administration and players aren’t getting paid, then he’d get his team to walk any division.

Steve Evans is aiming to get that effort every Saturday afternoon and we witnessed again here - rather like the second half against Sheffield United - that when they set about the opposition there is a drive about them that forces opponents on to the back foot and almost overwhelms them.

At the start, they suggested exposing less than secure Oldham defending. There should have been more than Daniel Nardiello’s 21st-minute penalty - slotted the other side this time after his spot-kick against the Blades- after a Ben Pringle cross had been handled.

Kari Arnason looked dismayed he didn’t head his first goal of the season and Nardiello had the stadium gasping with incredulity when, all alone following a rebound off a defender, he failed to finish the easiest of chances (too easy perhaps?), the shot brushing off keeper Mark Oxley and going wide.

Such misses can come back to haunt a team but it appeared it may just be a blip when Mellor’s madness saw Oldham down to 10 men.

What happened next helped transform the game.

Firstly Oldham were opened up for Frecklington to be brilliantly denied by Oxley, the one-time Millers youngster who left five years ago at 17 in that £150,000 deal with Hull and returned here with a fine display.

Within 30 seconds of that save, it was in the net at the other end after Christian Montano had raced away up the left with the sort of pace and skill Oldham constantly showed out wide and, it seemed, ever more threateningly with ten men.

When Oldham then went in front from their first attack seven minutes into the second half through right-back Matteo Lanzoni following a free-kick, Rotherham were in a fairly familiar place of looking up the mountainside again. Oldham, understandably, now had even more defiance about their defending.

But one can’t accuse the Millers of not being up for a challenge, particularly if it involves swarming towards the opposition goal and the North End spurring them on.

The corner tally mounted and, not a moment too soon, Pringle’s delivery from the right saw Lee Frecklington - captain’s armband attached - burst to the near post to flash home a classic header (mistaken identity by the press-box individual sending goal flashes to national agency the Press Association, who then send it out to all media outlets, and a wrong announcement in the stadium explains why your newspaper or media outlet had it down as a Nardiello hat-trick!)

The equaliser changed the whole complexion, not least because the Millers were now surging forward to get a winner not just a saver. But, wait, Oldham kept on threatening on the break to ensure a thrilling finale and you couldn’t tell what might happen.

Scott Shearer’s fantastic save from Montano was then matched seconds later by Oxley’s superb denial from an Alex Revell header.

I noted a great header by Joe Skarz at the back post, quite probably a goal-saver .

It was breathless stuff as Rotherham surged forwards and, somehow, you knew that Nardiello would end up involved somewhere in a decisive moment.

Not much better than the 90th minute (even with five minutes stoppage time to come). Revell and Arnason headers followed by Nardiello’s first shot stopped by Oxley but not the second.

Cue stadium explosion of noise and it would only be right to then have some Oldham threat after that.

Then we could all go for a lie down! But only after the management teams had separated the warring Paul Raynor and Oldham boss Lee Johnson.

Yes, one of those where you couldn’t take your eyes off anything for a minute! Never like this at Don Valley!