FT:ROTHERHAM V DERBY COUNTY (Monday 26th August)
ROTHERHAM UNITED 2
DERBY COUNTY 1
Paul Boertien and Lee Morris returned to John Gregory’s starting line-up for the trip to Rotherham. Gary Twigg and Adam Murray dropped out of the side that lost at home to Wolves with Twigg and Murray dropping to the bench.
Paul Boertien started in the centre of midfield with Adam Bolder moving out to the right. Mart Poom, Fabrizio Ravanelli, and Chris Riggott were all still sidelined with injury for the Rams.
Darren Byfield immediately gave notice of his speed by bursting on to a throughball but Andy Oakes was out quickly out to gather. Francois Grenet then headed behind to concede a corner with three minutes on the clock. Darren Garner whipped-in the dead-ball and Oakes had to turn the ball over for another corner after Rob Lee’s flick headed goalward.
The Rams responded with their first attack in the fifth minute. Branko Strupar held the ball up well after Barton crossed from the right. The Belgium international teed-up Malcolm Christie with a great chance on the edge of the Rotherham box but the 23 year-old striker blazed over.
Christie did not let the miss bother him and he again linked up with Strupar to get a shot on target with ten minutes on the clock but it was comfortable for Mike Pollitt. The former Nuneaton Borough striker was finding room around the Rotherham United backline in the early stages.
At the other end, Darren Byfield was determined to remind John Gregory of the promise he showed at Villa Park. Another long ball saw Ian Evatt and Oakes indulging in a bout of ‘after you Claude’ but Oakes slid in to stop Byfield at the expense of a corner.
The game was quite open in the first quarter with Rotherham showing the confidence hewn from a four-game unbeaten run and the Rams finding space with some quality passing but Rotherham began to dominate as the game went on.
Alan Lee has already netted twice for the Millers this term and he was beginning to give Evatt a hard time; first winning a throw-in in dangerous territory before heading into the box for the return. The former Ireland under-21 international went down under a challenge from Oakes and appealed loudly for a penalty but to no avail. The big striker then won a free-kick from Evatt as the home crowd got involved in the action.
As the midpoint of the first-half approached the Rams were hanging in there as the Millers won a pair of corners the second of which fell to John Mullin. The former Burnley man whipped in a cross-shot that just slid over the bar and then Higginbotham blocked out another effort from the former the midfield runner.
As John Gregory anxiously looked on at the increasing workload at the back, Adam Bolder broke away on the right. Last week’s matchwinner fed Christie whose cross for Strupar was well taken by Pollitt in the Rotherham goal. Bolder made another fine run as the game reached the 27th minute but he couldn’t find Strupar in the box – at least the Rams were playing in the Rotherham half again.
Last season’s player of the year Danny Higginbotham was beginning to impose himself on Lee and Byfield as the game wore on and he stepped in well to dispossess Byfield as the Rotherham striker threatened.
Byfield was still proving elusive in wider positions and having skipped past Evatt the pacy frontman was brought down by Grenet who became the first booking of the game as he cut across his forward run. Warren Barton did well to clear from the resulting free-kick.
The Rams began to settle into a better pattern as half-time approached, Christie was treated for a knock which gave John Gregory’s team a chance for a bottle of water and time to reflect. After a rocky period Derby were beginning to assert themselves defensively. Although the game was becalmed as a result that was probably an outcome that the Rams were happy with at the time.
Lee Morris then showed a clean pair of heels to the Rotherham backline as the Rams looked to break the deadlock. Morris sped forward but frustratingly Christie had strayed offside in a good position. John Gregory will be looking for his side to play more attacking football in the second period.
Oakes was forced to tip over from Mullin as the game entered three minutes of stoppage time. It was the Miller’s ninth corner of the afternoon but Oakes claimed the cross comfortably and cleared.
The teams left the field level but the game was well poised as a contest although the corner count favoured the home side. On a tight pitch there had not been much room for the beautiful game so far and the travelling support were hoping to see more football from the Rams in the second period.
The second-half began with Lee Morris being tripped by Rob Scott who was booked. Even the most optimistic Ram would not have expected to get a goal so quickly into the second period but there it was as Branko Strupar got due reward for his hard work.
Rob Lee floated in the free-kick from the left in a training ground move that worked to perfection. The cross was flicked on by Christie at the front of the crowd towards Strupar who left Mike Pollitt’s rooted to the spot with his perfectly placed header and wheeled away to celebrate in front of the travelling support.
Rotherham skipper Martyn McIntosh almost levelled five minutes later but after Oakes blocked the first effort from the Scottish defender and Chris Sedgwick could only lift the ball over the bar.
The Millers showed why they were unbeaten for four games as they responded with some enthusiastic surges forward but the Rams were now playing on the break as the game entered another crucial period. Ronnie Moore’s men were still winning corners and throw-ins and playing the percentages but the Rams were 100 percent in front.
A lung-bursting break by Lee ended with Strupar’s cross falling to safety and then at the other end a Sedgwick run earnt the Millers corner number 14 but Mullin was stopped in his tracks and Andy Oakes had a goalkick. Darren Byfield found the side-netting to remind the Rams there was life left in this game as Ronnie Moore warmed-up his subs.
Fine interplay between Bolder and Barton almost got Derby’s second but the Rams then conceded at the other end in the 64th minute. The Rams could have cleared early on in the move but Mullin cut in from the left and hit a fine hard, low shot that Oakes did well to save but the ball dropped to Alan Lee who hammered the ball high into the Derby goal for his third of the season.
The Rams would have to regain their composure quickly as the home fans celebrated. Ronnie Moore instructed his subs to retake their position on the bench as he weighed up his options in the final quarter of the game.
Sedgwick again powered down the right towards the by-line as Ian Evatt went down injured, the ball came back to Byfield who hit a bicycle-kick that Oakes did well to save for another corner for the home side.
In the 73rd minute Bolder lifted Derby hopes with a fine shot but the whistle had already blown. Strupar and Christie combined to find Morris at the far-post but the angle was too tight for the winger. Byfield then sprinted clear but Higginbotham was on hand again to concede the corner.
Neat play between Morris and Boertien on the left earnt the Rams a corner that Scott could only clear for a throw-in under pressure from Strupar. Byfield – a recent flu victim – was replaced by Richie Barker with 12 minutes to go and then Adam Murray came on for Rob Lee.
With nine minutes to go it was Rob’s namesake who sunk the Rams. A free-kick on the right was shielded by McIntosh towards Alan Lee who turned and hit a powerful shot into the top corner from only eight yards out. Andy Oakes got a fingertip to the ball but had no chance of stopping the Irishman getting his second of the game and his fourth of the season.
Malcolm Christie then broke through at the other end but Pollitt came out and stopped the danger as the Rams tried to get back into a game that they had led. Strupar released Bolder on the right but the midfielder’s cut-back was claimed by Pollitt much to the relief of the home support.
Gary Twigg came on for Francois Grenet as the game entered the final four minutes but Rotherham could have scored again before the 18 year-old won a corner. Higginbotham could not get his header on target and when Bolder was flagged off-side the game looked up for the Rams.
With the home fans whistling wildly Christie ran on to Strupar’s flick but he couldn’t get the purchase on his shot that he needed and Pollitt held on gratefully as referee Cain delivered the final whistle.
This was a third disappointment in five for the Rams as Rotherham followed the example of Gillingham and Wolves by taking all three points from John Gregory’s side to hit the promotion places. Having seemingly weathered the storm in the first-half John Gregory’s side grabbed the lead and had every chance to go on and take the game but Alan Lee had other ideas with two goals to turn the game on its head.
Stoke City visit Pride Park on Saturday with Derby’s need for a victory paramount after two defeats within 48 hours.
Referee: G Cain
Rotherham: Pollitt; Sedgwick; Mullin; McIntosh; Lee; Garner; Byfield – (Barker 76); Hurst; Warne; Swailes; Scott;
Subs: Barker; Monkhouse; Gray; Daws; Beech
Derby County: Oakes – Barton (Captain); Grenet – (Twigg 86); Evatt; Higginbotham; Bolder; Boertien; Lee – (Murray 78); Strupar; Christie; Morris.
Subs: Grant; Tudgay; Murray; Twigg; Jackson
Booked: Grenet; Scott
Another bad loss for Derby County
. We were outplayed the whole game and we never had a chance! 6 points in 5 games is dissapointing! We have to start playing with heart, I think a few of these "premier league" players are not playing as good as they can play. now im starting to think that selling Malcom Christie is a good thing. On Saturday we are playing Stoke city at Pride Park. Hopefully we get the 3 points we need!