Thursday, 29 December 2016

Rotherham United 1 v Burton Albion 2 - EFL Championship

Thursday 29th December 2016
SkyBet EFL Championship
at the AESSAL New York Stadium
Rotherham United (1) 1
Tom Adeyemi 45+4
Burton Albion (2) 2
Chris O'Grady 36
Jackson Irvine 41
Admission £27 Programme £3
Attendance 9,806 (inc. 775 away)
Rotherham United are currently cemented to the bottom of the Championship table, some ten points adrift of safety as a consequence of this result and it was easy for all to see the most blatantly obvious reason why they are accelerating their plight rapidly down a very steep and slippery slope towards an almost irretrievable situation tonight.
The Millers created approximately fourteen decent chances over the course of the game, but only managed to convert one of them. And therein lays the problem.
And although I'm loath to single any individual out, when football is supposed to be a team game, based on collective responsibility; Lewis Price, the home side's keeper, had a 'mare' with both of Burton's goals.
For the most part, Paul Warne's side bossed the tempo of the game and saw far more of the ball than their Staffordshire visitors (go on, fess up, who thought Burton upon Trent was in Derbyshire?); but goals win games and Rotherham were ultimately cut down to size, by a two strike smash n' grab raid, in the space of five minutes towards the end of the first half, which by and large was very much against the run of play.
Rotherham United: 
Price, Mattock (Blackstock 85), Wood, Forde (Odemwingie 67), Frecklington, D Ward, Fisher, Newell, Adeyemi (Halford 79), Belaïd, Brown. 
Unused subs - Bilboe, Kelly, Broadfoot, Taylor.  
Burton Albion:
McLaughlin, Brayford (Flanagan 46), Mousinho, McFadzean, O’Grady (Harness 72), Akins, Dyer, McCrory, Naylor, Palmer (Barker 90), Irvine. 
Unused subs - Bywater, Williamson, Beavon, J Ward.
Jon McLaughlin, the Albion keeper, had been called into action and thwarted the Millers several times, before his side had even made any real kind of impression inside their hosts half, but the 'heat map' percentages won't trouble Nigel Clough any, as his side chalked up their first victory on the road this season, which also means that they finally picked up their first ever Championship away win too. 
It was a result that saw them climb from twenty first in the table to nineteenth, though the two teams they climbed over as a consequence of this vital scoreline, do both have a  game in hand.
Rotherham for their part proved true that old adage, that when you are at the bottom of the pile, nothing, or very little, ever goes your way.
On the way home I listened to the local radio discussion about what the Millers need to do in the forthcoming transfer window.
Might I politely suggest that they get their scouting network to go out and about to see if anybody has got a miracle for sale at an affordable price.
With players of the calibre of the former England youth international Izzy Brown, who is currently on loan from Chelsea until the end of the season, it is difficult to see why Rotherham are struggling quite as badly as they are in front of goal, especially after Peter Odemwinge entered the fray from the bench in the second half.
Worryingly, for the home supporters, who to their immense credit, stuck with their side tonight in lieu of the unrelenting hard work and effort that the players were obviously putting in, it would seem that fate has a big part to play in the final outcome of this now monumental struggle against the drop to League 1.
They aren't in a completely impossible position, as of yet, but it's a very close call... and losing twice against Burton, away and then at home, at either end of December is probably the last thing they needed.
Former Bradford City keeper Jon McLaughlin saw plenty of the ball tonight and was a pivotal figure in his sides much needed win.
Prior to playing for the Bantams, McLaughlin, a native of Edinburgh, had turned out for Harrogate's two non league clubs: Town and Railway Athletic.
But try as they might, a mix of profligate finishing, no nonsense defending, McLaughlin's agility and a whole lot of bad luck, was keeping United at bay and stretching Albion to the limit.
Lloyd Dyer was showing some neat touches and making a nuisance of himself, across the width of the pitch, in a free roaming forward role for Burton and it was he who carved a moment of respite for the visitors, from the shooting practice session that Rotherham were having at the far end of the pitch, when he put on  burst of pace to bi-line, on the left hand side of the Millers area and hooked a cross beyond the back post, that Joe Mattock headed away at the expense of a corner, just to make sure.
775 Burton Albion fans
If Akins had looked up before he crossed he might have spotted than Tom Naylor had made a good run forward and had arrived, completely unmarked on the right hand side of the eighteen yard box, level with the penalty spot.
From the resulting corner, Akins and John Brayford arrived in unison to clatter into Price and a rare Brewers opportunity had gone.
McLaughlin kept out an angled shot from Joe Newell, pushing the ball around his left hand upright at full stretch... and to all intents and purposes, it looked more of a when than an if, as regards Warne's side taking a deserved lead.
But it's a funny old game Saint!
In Chris O'Grady, Burton have an attacker who hadn't found the net in over a year, but he ended his fallow run in the thirty sixth minute, from an opportunity that I reckon just about anybody in tonight's 9,806 could have scored blindfolded, as Price got down to save Akins shot from the edge of the area, but let the ball roll from his hands to the feet of O'Grady, who opened the scoring from close range.
Within five minutes the visitors supporters were up on their feet feet celebrating again, breaking into a mocking variation based on the Beach Boys song 'Sloop John B', which contained the amended lyrics: "How  shit must you be!? We're winning away!"
The Australian international Jackson Irvine, who joined the Brewers from Ross County earlier this years, towered above the Rotherham defence and emphatically planted his header over Price, from Brayford's cross, that the beleaguered keeper flapped his arms at in a vainglorious attempt to keep the ball out as it crashed down off the crossbar, but could only help it on it's way into the back of the net. 
I have asked this one before, several times, but what are Sheffield United thinking off, allowing Brayford to go out on a season long loan?
He barely put a  foot wrong all night, as he linked Burton's three man defence with some fairly eye catching wing play down the right flank.
Four minutes into an elongated spell of first half stoppage time, Darnell Fisher was released by Danny Ward with a defence splitting pass, but his shot was blocked, smothered and cleared by the Albion defence.
Damien McCrory fouled Izzy Brown just outside the left hand side of the Burton area. Joe Newell’s free kick picked out Richard Wood at the back stick, but McLaughlin saved superbly from the Millers number six's close range header, but the ball fell kindly for Tom Adeyemi, who had the simplest of tasks as he nudged the ball into the open goal, to half the home side's deficit.
Right on the stroke of half time Akins floated a right wing cross into the home side's six yard box, Naylor connected with the ball, but his header flew inches over the cross bar.
If Rotherham had the better of the first half, play wise in spite of the result, they actually owned the game after the interval and must be wondering what kind of witchcraft McLaughlin practices to be able to throw up a teak solid invisible force field around his goal. 
Do this Burton defence moonlight as doormen? One must ask, because the Millers name wasn't on their list, so they were most definitely not getting in.
Burton had two early chances after the break, when Dyer and O'Grady both went close, but the visitors then stuck out their chins defiantly and offered the Millers to come and have a go.
In the aftermath of defeat in this six pointer, the home side's manager had claimed that Burton had come to play for a draw.
But they only shut up shop once they had surprisingly taken a two goal lead, though I can see what he's getting at given the visitors ultra cautious approach to the second half, where you got the impression that while they were defending a lead, they were already taking a damage limitation, backs to the wall approach, in case one of Rotherham's many attempts to break them down, eventually led to another goal.
A point would've suited Albion more than the Millers, but they fought tooth and nail to hold on to their spoils now, all the way to the final whistle.
With twenty minutes or so to go, Peter Odemwingie, was let loose on  the visitors, but he too was frustrated by McLaughlin and his vastly over worked defence. 
Perhaps if Odemwingie had been introduced earlier and and Rotherham had switched to a 3-5-2 with Brown up front alongside him.
But while Warne made several tactical switches, trying to change the shape of the game, in an attempt to force (at least) a second goal, Burton were back in numbers and, to their credit, putting a double shift in.
Both team desperately needed points and when Championship survival is at stake, it doesn't say anywhere in the rules, that you have to satisfy the purists or play 'tippy tappy' football.
Ugly football won the day, make no bones about that, but, by the same token, a failure to turn possession and numerous chances into goals, lost the game for Rotherham.
FT: Rotherham United 1 v Burton Albion 2
On Monday afternoon, Burton entertain Preston North End at the Pirelli Stadium, while Rotherham face a trip to Gary Monk's in  form Leeds United. It's a fixture that probably have come at a worse time for them.