, , , , , ,

17th February

Rotherham United    3    Paul Green 35, Richard Smallwood 49, Matt Derbyshire 55

Derby County   3  Tom Ince 36,64    Darren Bent 83

Football eh? – Bloody hell.

Given the chance to go top of the league with a win we escaped with a point from the New York Stadium after being 3-1 down with half an hour to go.

Our defence seems to veer between rock solid and accident prone and the defending tonight was as poor as it has been for a very long time – or as Steve McClaren put it darkly afterwards – “You can’t win games defending like that….”

So a choice confronts us between being disappointed about missing out on going top or acknowledging a barnstorming comeback to win a hard earned point.

There was one change for the Rams from the last league game at Bournemouth as Darren Bent started in place of the injured Chris Martin.

The hosts had two former Rams in their team with Paul Green as captain and Ben Pringle also featuring. Watching on for the Millers was on loan Conor Sammon unable to play against us as part of his loan.

The hosts made a good start keeping us in our half for the first few minutes without really creating anything in the early minutes apart from a dangerous Ben Pringle free kick that Danny Ward headed straight at Lee Grant.

The Rams first attack had seen us break away on a move that saw Tom Ince shoot on goal but the save was easily made by Adam Collin.

Darren Bent drew a more difficult save from the Millers keeper and one of his defenders who just kept the ball off the line after a pass from Jeff Hendrick and, as the Rams stepped up their momentum Jamie Ward had two excellent chances as the game moved to the half hour.

A break for a serious looking injury to Rotherham’s Jack Hunt seemed to stall our momentum and we paid the price for losing focus as, inevitably, Paul Green was left unmarked to stab home from close range to put the Millers ahead.

It was obviously the kick up the backside that we needed as we were level within a minute thanks to a terrific goal from Tom Ince, again putting in a terrific performance, making some room for himself on the left hand side of the area and firing home.

We settled after the equaliser and controlled the rest of the half without ever creating a clear chance, the closest being when Tom Ince swung in a dangerous free kick that Darren Bent just missed.

As happens too often we made a slow start and fell behind again, giving away a sloppy free kick swung in by Richard Smallwood, Lee Grant went for the punch, missed and the ball went in to put the Millers ahead again on 49 minutes.

Bad became much worse as Matt Derbyshire was released by a mix up between Omar Mascarell and Richard Keogh and found himself through on Lee Grant firing home to make it 3-1 on 55 minutes.

The top of the table seemed a long way distant but our Head Coach is nothing if not a man of action and we saw a triple substitution on 59 minutes with Craig Bryson, Simon Dawkins and Jesse Lingard replacing Omar Mascarell, Jamie Ward and Jeff Hendrick.

Just after the changes Matt Derbyshire nearly made it 4-1 forcing a terrific save from Lee Grant but the substitutes then began making an impact and the roller coaster took another turn with man of the moment Tom Ince scoring again firing home a cross from Craig Forsyth to score his fifth goal for the Rams and pull it back to 3-2.

Rotherham started pulling back into their shell then, trying to hold what they had as the Rams showed more energy and invention and approximately 30 seconds after Steve McClaren moved Jesse Lingard over to the left wing, swapping with Simon Dawkins, the Manchester United loanee surged down the left, crossed and Darren Bent stole in front of the goalkeeper to pull the game level on 83 minutes.

From considering a demoralising defeat we were suddenly dreaming of an unlikely win but despite more pressure we could not complete the most unlikely of victories.

If we are to win promotion we must defend better than this and it was interesting to hear Paul Simpson speak before the game about how close Kelle Roos is running Lee Grant for a first team place. That was a surprise to hear and maybe Granty revels in a little pressure but we may well see changes on Saturday when we face Sheffield Wednesday – not least the return of Ryan Shotton.

Consider the impact of Tom Ince and Darren Bent since their arrival at the club – ten goals between them already and so influential to the team with the threat they provide – very little settling in required for both of these players, particularly Ince who is showing the explosive form that made him a hot property not so long ago.

So we are in 2nd place tonight – tomorrow Middlesbrough travel to Birmingham City with a chance to go 3pts clear at the top, quite an incentive when the table is as tight as this.

Played GD Pts
1. AFC Bournemouth 31 +33 59
2. Derby County 31 +30 59
3. Middlesbrough 30 +28 59
4. Ipswich Town 31 +19 57
5. Watford 31 +26 56
6. Norwich City 31 +23 53