Swindon 3 Rotherham 2: Match Report

Swindon Town v Rotherham United FC - Npower League 2 - 03/09/11 - Tom Newey fires the ball forward as Alan McCormack lunges in to challenge
Swindon Town v Rotherham United FC - Npower League 2 - 03/09/11 - Tom Newey fires the ball forward as Alan McCormack lunges in to challenge
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ALEX REVELL: . Two excellent goals (Alf would never have scored that type) and led the line willingly.

THIS was a defeat probably waiting to happen you might reckon. Perhaps not as predictable, though, as the expected touchline antics or the TV obsession with League Two’s volatile Italian manager.

But there was a sniff in the air from the moment the cameras rolled that this might be the afternoon when Rotherham’s unbeaten record could come unstuck.

From their point of view, you might reckon too many had poor or unproductive afternoons.

Yes, they did get in front twice thanks to early evidence of Alex Revell’s capabilities but there were those below par and, if it didn’t answer some questions for Andy Scott, may well have posed him one or two. But it’s still early days, things still to be sorted out and one defeat in six is more than half-decent.

There’s no doubt Sky had this one down as the Paolo Di Canio Show. The excitable Swindon manager didn’t disappoint them either and milked every moment.

But if he carries on like this - Italian passion and emotion accepted - he’s either going to end up in a straitjacket or there’s going to be bust-ups on the touchline just about every other week.

But, with five defeats from the last six behind them, somebody and something got these Swindon players buzzing.

That somebody, initially one suspects, was Di Canio who made six changes and clearly had his players fired up. The something may well have been the live TV cameras which, when they venture lower down the scale and particularly to League Two, often seem to have a particularly galvanising effect on the underdogs.

Scott says they were aware what they’d be getting into on and off the pitch - and there was enough action, verbals and confrontation around the dug-outs to keep a small army of fourth officials busy.

They are certainly trying to turn this part of Wiltshire into Little Italy, complete with Nessun Dorma and Mario Lanza being belted out over the PA.

But there was a bit too much stuff on the pitch too and Scott touched on his dislike for the histrionics, some diving and the odd thing that saw Rotherham get niggled and a bit frustrated.

But, at the end of it all, Rotherham didn’t handle it all well enough.

The sort of indecision we saw in Swindon’s first attack, which ended with Conrad Logan having his nose broken and teeth smashed, was prevalent too often.

And a key factor was that they never buttoned down the lively Matt Ritchie, a left-footer playing on the right who caused trouble throughout.

Long before the end it had become like a cup tie. Rotherham, their unbeaten run and top-of-the-table position in a big spotlight for the first time, found they did not deal with it all. They’re not the first and they won’t be the last.

The upside, of course, was the debut of Revell. He’s not a like-for-like replacement for Alf but this wasn’t a bad start, with two goals that were excellent headers, and his general performance, his willingness to work, was all that we had been led to expect.

The response around him, however, was inadequate. Swindon, running, harrying, rushed the Millers into hurrying things. Perhaps the Millers felt by taking the lead twice that they were on the way to quelling Swindon’s fire but they never really could and Rotherham’s overall attacking didn’t produce quite enough threat, although two goals away isn’t bad, of course.

In the end a goalscorer signed for £150,000 from Grimsby in the summer, Alan Connell, equalised with his first touch after going on straight after Danny Schofield’s dismissal for a second yellow card.

That goal looked an identical concession to a far-post header from a corner that Barnet got against the Millers recently, also squeezed in at an unmanned post.

Thereafter, only one side suggested they’d win and Connell got in with another header from a delicious centre by the ever-dangerous Ritchie who, if he continues this sort of form, will probably find his manager shipping him off to some pal’s club in Serie A for a few billion lira.

Revell’s opener, heading in a Ryan Cresswell header after a poor clearance, was just what Rotherham needed to put a check on Swindon’s all-over eagerness with their manager alternately complaining over or applauding everything that went wrong or right, all with accompanying expressive gestures. Swindon, often erratically and in a game riddled with stoppages for petty offences, were eagerness personified and you could not argue over their right to the 38th-minute equaliser, technically an own goal off Newey following Ritchie’s volley off a corner to the far post.

Ritchie fluffed a great chance in the second half and Czech international Lukas Magera struck the far post with a wonderful effort.

However, when Revell headed in Schofield’s free-kick - his fifth goal against Swindon in four games in the past 12 months - you felt Rotherham could go on and win it.

However, Schofield’s rash challenge reduced Rotherham to 10 men and then Connell’s instant intervention, with the red card barely back in the ref’s pocket, galvanised the home side and crowd some more and his second header with ten minutes left booked in the Millers for that first defeat.

Was it the Di Canio factor? Underdogs raising their game on live TV? A few having off days?

Yes, all factors that might be tipped into the mix.

At least they didn’t name League Two’s Manager of the Month before the game (he’s named tomorrow) or we’d have had to factor that in as well!

Manager’s View

We probably deserved a draw and at 2-1 had a strong shout for a penalty. If we’d got that then we’d have gone on and won the game.

But we didn’t play well and made a lot of poor decisions. Danny Schofield dived in and got himself sent off and then we didn’t mark at the set-piece for the second goal and from there we were on the back foot. We did show some quality going forward and they were two excellent finishes.

There were a lot of histrionics and you had people rolling around but there was a lot going off and it was a bit of a circus. But we knew what we would be walking into.

Conrad Logan did magnificently in staying on. He broke his nose and half his teeth are missing after that clash in the first minute. He had plugs up his nose which was still bleeding afterwards.