Saturday, 13 February 2016

Rotherham United 0 v Birmingham City 0 - SkyBet Championship

Saturday 13th February 2016
SkyBet Championship - Football League
at the Aesseal New York Stadium
Rotherham United (0) 0
Birmingham City (0) 0
Admission £23.00  Programme £3.00
Attendance 11.018 (inc. 2,614 in away end)
For a very brief history of the Millers ground; the New York Stadium, click HERE
Please note since the article the link opens was written, the Don Valley Stadium has been demolished.
Rotherham United:
Camp, Mattock, Broadfoot, Wood, D Ward, Green, Burke (G Ward 78), Richardson, Newell (Halford 78), Derbyshire (Clarke-Harris 64), Smallwood.
Unused subs - Cairns, Buxton, Collins, Yates.
Birmingham City:
Kuszczak, Grounds, Robinson, Kieftenbeld, Gleeson, Donaldson, Maghoma (Solomon-Otabor 78), Toral (Fabbrini 82), Morrison, Buckley (Cotterill 85), Shotton.
Unused subs - Legzdins, Spector, Davis, Caddis
Neil Redfearn lasted only 21 games as Rotherham United manager, before he was dismissed earlier this week and replaced on Thursday by the experienced 67 year old 'firefighter' (and former Millers player) Neil Warnock, who has been given the job until the end of the season. It's an appointment that seems to have gone down very well with local fans.
Birmingham City needed the points today to consolidate their play off push, while the home side urgently need to get a winning run together ASAP, to steer them away from the relegation battle they are currently embroiled in.
A point apiece was a fair return, from this game that produced very few clear cut goal chances, three for Rotherham and two for Birmingham to be precise.
The solitary point for Birmingham, was Gary Rowett's 100th as their manager, most of the others were probably gained in a more aesthetically pleasing manner, but it's fast becoming that time of the season where results take prominence over pretty football. A draw wasn't such a bad result for the visitors, when all is said and done.
Last weekend Rotherham suffered a 2-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers, who are one place below them in the bottom three, while they lost 4-1 at home against Charlton Athletic, who are bottom of the table, the previous week.
Birmingham lost 2-1 at St. Andrews against Sheffield Wednesday a week ago, a result that saw the Owls leapfrog them to occupy the last play off berth in the table, but prior to that they had been unbeaten in the league for 6 consecutive games, since their last visit to south Yorkshire when they lost at Hillsborough on Boxing Day.
Back in September, the Millers triumphed 2-0 in the reverse fixture at St. Andrews, with goals from Matt Derbyshire and Tony Andreu.
At his press conference yesterday morning, Blues manager Gary Rowett said: "Rotherham will be fighting for their lives and will look to impress new manager Neil Warnock. Our players are motivated and looking forward to improving their form against bottom six sides. I want them to do what we do best".
Meanwhile, during his official introduction to the media, Neil Warnock the third incumbent of the Millers hot seat this season (fourth if you count caretaker boss Nicky Eadon who had prepared the side in readiness for today's game, with Warnock also attending yesterday's training session) cracked, in characteristic fashion: "My wife hasn't been very well and I think I got on her nerves this week. I told her that the Rotherham job came up and she said go for it"
I suspect that Warnock will keep the Millers in the Championship this season, but couldn't possibly speculate on which of the four or five teams above them, who must now be looking worriedly over their collective shoulders, they could possibly overhaul in the table, to avoid the drop to League 1.
I know who I hope it is, but let's keep it clean and not offend anybody at this juncture.
Fulham, MK Dons and Bristol City all won this afternoon, which of course means they all gained two more points than the Millers, but the Dons win was a bit of surprise at Pride Park v Derby County, who dropped to sixth in the table, into the last play off berth, just three points ahead of City, who also benefitted from Bristol City's win against Ipswich Town who are level on points with Rowett's side after today, but with an inferior goal difference. No wonder then, that the Blues manager seemed fairly content with this result. In his post match interview, that I listened to on the way home he said: "We have not done enough to win the game in the final third, it was a fair result." And added: "We can't be too displeased with a draw away from home and a clean sheet."
Which is a perfectly understandable response, especially with all of the fanfare and furore surrounding Warnock's appointment this week. Sheffield Wednesday, for their part, continued the current run of form they're enjoying and moved up to fifth in the table, courtesy of a 4-0 home win v Brentford.
Well, that swung it... Rotherham gets my sympathy vote then.
We tipped up in Rotherham at around 1.30pm, to utilise the free parking around the disused Masbrough train station, which is only a few minutes walk from the New York Stadium and virtually opposite the Millers old ground.
There used to be five public houses within a couple of hundred yards of Millmoor, that we'd frequent on away trips here and, of course, the legendary 'Tivoli' nightclub, with it's infamous "£15 all you can drink" nights, attached to the ground itself. One is now a homeless hostel, another is an Indian restaurant, one was shuttered up and our two favourite drinking dens had vanished from the landscape altogether, along with most of the local industry.
At least the matchday announcer tipped a nod to those halcyon days with his music selection as we entered the ground, playing a decent selection of Sex Pistols, Joy Division, Eddie the Hot Rods and Jam tunes. Though even I draw the line at Martha and the Muffins!
The game itself, won't be remembered as a classic.
Rotherham had the better of the first half and the visitors moved the ball around much better than their hosts after the break, but there wasn't very much in it on the balance of play in and around either goalmouth to be honest.
Neither side seemed to be in any hurry, or prepared to take any risks.
And even with the clock ticking down there wasn't much in the way of any urgency to make a claim for all three points.
I've seen worse games, but 0-0 was a fair result and that speaks volumes about how this Championship football match padded out.
Rotherham's Richard Wood, in the 79th minute and Joe Mattock, 6 minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game, were both red carded by match referee Richard Clark for receiving two yellow cards apiece. Wood could have no complaints as he clattered into Clayton Donaldson, high and late, but Rotherham were dismayed when Mattock received his marching orders.
Initially he'd been booked for a bad foul on Will Buckley, shortly before the half time break, which meant that when he received a second yellow card for time wasting in the 96th minute, for deliberately delaying taking a throw in, just moments after Lee Camp had dragged his feet for ages over taking a goal kick; in applying the letter of the law, Mr Clark had no option but to dismiss the Millers left back.
Could he maybe have just added an extra thirty seconds on and told Mattock to get on with the game?
Well, that's at the referee's discretion, isn't it?
But why would any player take that chance when he's already sitting on a yellow card?
Warnock, speaking about the referee after the game, as he often does, remarked: "That's one thing I haven't missed, because nothing has changed has it?". Rules are rules though and it is the match official's job to uphold the laws of the game. That said, over the course of the game, the referee had turned a blind day to a several 'theatrical moments' and let a few things go in a bid to keep the game flowing.
Either way, it didn't influence the final result. But Mattock will now face a one game ban.
"Bloody hell, call ourselves play off contenders when we can't even beat nine men!" shouted out a disgruntled Blues fan on the final whistle. I think, or at least hope, he was being ironic.
Kirk Broadfoot found himself unmarked when he got onto the end of Joe Newell's corner kick and headed the ball down to Paul Green, who came close to breaking the deadlock for the Millers.
Former Blues player Matt Derbyshire  slipped past Paul Robinson (not the one out of Neighbours, in case you were wondering) and the visitors had Tomasz Kuszczak to thank for keeping them on level terms, as he twisted backwards to tip the ball over his crossbar.
Kuszczak went up with Richard Wood to deal with a cross and the loose ball fell invitingly for Danny Ward, but Michael Morrison bravely threw his body into the way of the Millers number 9's shot and the ball cannoned off of him to safety, with the referee ignoring some loud claims for "Handball!"
The home supporters possibly had a case, but the way that some of them reacted to the incident, as they turned towards the visiting supporters end as if it was the travelling Blues fans fault was quite amusing, as the paramedics stood by because one particularly apoplectic local looked as though he was going to suffer from a coronary attack, before offering the whole away end out to fight.
Chill dude, it's only a game!
After the interval the Millers keeper twice kept a Blues side who had picked upped the tempo since the break out, with a great reflex save from Clayton Donaldson, and a brave stop at Jaques Maghoma's feet, when Jon Toral had played him through, one against one, with the home side's keeper with a defence splitting pass.
Diego Fabbrini came on for Birmingham with around ten minutes to go and injected a bit of pace and trickery to the visitors attack. But ultimately, the home side had worked bloody hard and chased down any opposition player who had found him self in possession, in suffocating numbers all afternoon, with Paul Green impressing has he marshalled his troops from the middle of the pitch.
Rotherham's direct approach wasn't pretty at times (I did double check to see that it was ex Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock on the bench and not Dave Bassett), but it was effective, and for the most part stopped City from playing an high tempo passing game and creating many chances for their front men and wide players, from midfield. The Millers have fifteen games left to preserve their League 1 status, their fans will have to get used to more of these 'horses for courses' performances, as Warnock plays to his teams strengths and compensates for their shortcomings.
FT: Rotherham United 0 v Birmingham City 0
All in all, a game that probably provided both managers with more questions than answers and plenty of 'food for thought'.
Rowett's Blues don't have another league game now for ten days, when they face struggling Bolton Wanderers at home. While the Millers are away to Reading in midweek and then face Brentford at the New York Stadium next Saturday.