It’s been a titled a make or break couple of weeks for City in terms of their playoff ambitions, which began with a more ‘break’ outlook after defeat at FLD last Saturday. But the next couple of home fixtures would surely see a return to winning ways and the tickling of the top six’s bums with a City feather. Right? Hmmmm.
The match stats for our opponents Rotherham looked ominous for the visitors. The Millers had not won away on a Tuesday night in the second tier for 25 games, shipped 49 goals this season and sat 21st above the bottom three by one point. You have to go back to when George Michael’s god awful ballad Jesus to a Child was number one (I’m more an A Different Corner man myself) for the last Rotherham win here. City’s form at home since December speaks for itself: WWWWW.
Looking to make it six home ‘W’s in a row City lined up a 4-2-3-1…
Lichaj. McKenzie Ridgewell. Kingsley
Bowen Evandro Grosicki
After the epilepsy inducing light display and a minutes applause for Gordon ‘Banksy’ Banks, City kicked off towards the north stand. And before many had sat down or finished their bovrils and pizza pods City go one up. A lovely through ball by Evandro finds Bowen in acres of space on the right and riding a challenge unleashes a shot into the bottom left. 1-0. Hurray!
City really start off they way they mean to begin by dominating challenges, smartly passing and making general mugs of the Millers. Evandro brilliantly tackles and dribbles. Henriksen shields the ball well and helps cover the back four. Irvine pace causes problems but his distribution is sometimes poor. At the back we look comfortable and wise to Rotherham’s threat of crosses, long balls and Delap-like long throws into the box. Up front for them alleged City target Michael Smith rarely sees the ball and cuts a forlorn figure; a bit like Paul Chuckle does these days. All things looking reasonably comfy.
Millers boss Paul Warne lamented earlier this week that both Grosicki and Bowen hadn’t been sold in the transfer window making his job harder tonight. By 60 minutes he would be happy to see our Polish winger still on the field, but for now it’s us who are on the front foot and it’s no surprise when we score again. Campbell pokes in after some comical attempts by the Rotherham defence to clear the ball when Grosicki crosses. 2-0 and thoroughly deserved. This is heading for another tanking surely? Four, five, even a six goal thrashing? Pa!
Recognising that something needs to be done Warne replaces Yates for Forde and changes the formation to a 4-3-3 (I think). This appears to bring a reaction to Rotherham who press forward and look a bit more of a threat. Looking back I think it is the real turning point of the game. On 35 Vaulkes unleashes a piledriver which stings Marshall’s hands, then Smith should do better after a spooning a cross into the south stand. But City are equal to it with Grosicki and Bowen both spurning decent chances.
Then referee Duncan blows his whistle for HT and I can enjoy a lemon drizzle cake; one of the fruits of my wife’s new vegan regime. Whilst I was munching away, Adkins will have been giving his half time talk. I would imagine it would not have involved much Warnock style language or throwing of tea cups, more a praising of the positives of such a dominant first half display perhaps finishing with a namaste. Well whatever Adkins said it certainly had an effect – just not the desired one.
From the off Rotherham continue to press but appear more of a threat as City retreat into their own half. On 48 the impressive Vyner spins and clips a pass to sub Taylor whose shot is spilled by Marshall into the path of Forde. 2-1. OkayCity, take a breathe and keep possession for a bit. The massacre is still on. On 54 Vaulk throws long but instead of heading out City decide to miss a clearance to which Taylor juggles the ball then unleashes a grass cutter which hits the unfortunate McKenzie and changes the trajectory of the ball past Marshall. 2-2. Christ on a bike! This is not meant to happen.
For the next 15 minutes the Millers pummel City onto the ropes by cross, long throw and general bullying. Marshall tips over two point blank headers from Robertson. Lichaj appears to be battling on his own out on the left. Where’s Grosicki you may ask? Upfield I may answer politely. Where are the “holding midfielders”? Outbattled or on the bench. In his one effective contribution to the 2nd half Grosicki shoots from a wide angle after Marshalls direct kick to him, but it is saved well by Rodak.
We make a couple of subs introducing Pugh and Milinkovic. This is to some effect as the game starts to even out a bit and City create a few chances but the feeling that the game is petering out is confirmed when Adkins goes for the nuclear option and brings on Marshall for Campbell. There’s just time for City to almost snatch it when Kingsley crosses to an unmarked Irvine, who in keeping with his second half display heads wide with the goal gaping. The match finishes with the ball firmly in City’s half to a chorus of boos.
So there ends City’s unlikely accent towards the playoff places. Yes, it’s still mathematically doable but we all know that this result has put the kibosh on that. The battle is now on to stay in the top half with much tougher matches on the horizon.
Two things spring to mind when thinking about this game before it deserves to be kicked into the dustbin of Tiger history. Firstly the phrase ‘throwawayability’. Secondly, that the thought that football is not fun. In fact most of the time it’s agony. But give me agony over apathy any day, because the danger of fixtures with nothing to play for by mid March in front of 5000 fans is not a pleasant thought.
Dominic Fellowes (via Tiger Chat)