Rotherham United 1 Blackpool 1 match verdict as Adam Collin howler costs Millers deserved victory

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He trooped away from his net at the final whistle after probably the worst moment of his professional career with his head bowed and the pain of what he’d just done etched across his face.

Lovely kid that he is, Rotherham United goalkeeper Adam Collin was still big enough to embrace the opposition, every handshake, each hug, hurting him.

But as Millers manager Steve Evans said afterwards: “I don’t want lovely kids, I want winners.”

Collin had ruined Evans’ bold new dawn with five minutes to go against the Championship’s bottom club, Blackpool.

He came to deal with a long punt downfield that was going nowhere but somehow missed his kick and Blackpool substitute Steve Davies ran on to the bouncing ball to plant an equaliser into the vacant net.

“Blackpool were never going to score, were they?” said Evans. “They didn’t have a chance second half. It’s just a big hoof from Jamie (O’Hara) down the middle and Craig Morgan slips - he slipped last week - and Adam Collin ... a 10-year-old should come in and deal with that.

“He’s apologised, of course he has. He’s a lovely kid. He should hit it away. It’s a huge error. But the ball shouldn’t get to him because our captain should deal with that first. He shouldn’t be slipping. He slipped last week on the halfway line, which led to a Birmingham goal. And he slipped today.

“We’ve just said to him he needs to sort his footwear out or it’s just going to become an excuse really.”

Evans had pitched in signings number 18, 19, 20 and 21 since May into his side after finally losing patience with some of the heroes of the back-to-back promotions from League Two and League one.

With his side slipping into the bottom three after last week’s home defeat against Birmingham, Evans put striker Alex Revell, midfielder Lee Frecklington and centre-half Kari Arnason on the bench while left-back Joe Skarz disappeared completely in a total of seven changes.

In came loan quartet Tom Lawrence, aged 20, 21-year-old Reece James, Scott Wootton, 23 and Emmanuel Ledesma, 26, and for 25 minutes the Millers were unrecognisable from the side which had surrendered to Birmingham.

Lawrence and Ledesma struck up an instant understanding, good control, clever movement and cute little passes shredding the Blackpool defence at times.

Recalled Matt Derbyshire somehow failed to connect as a Ledesma shot fizzed across a gaping goal as early as the third minute and, as the home side dominated, former Manchester United youngster Lawrence showed Premier League class, never mind Championship quality, as he collected James’ pass, turned, glided past his marker and brought a flying save from Joe Lewis

The crowd, sensing this could be a watershed period in the progress of the club, responded with noisy, fevered backing.

“We worked ever so hard. In the first 25 minutes we blew them away,” Evans said.

“I think it’s the most exciting passing, one- and two-touch football I’ve seen us play. We just didn’t get the goal. If we had scored the goal, we could have laid them to bed by half-time.”

The Millers’ threat receded after such a bright opening, until Jordan Bowery’s introduction for a tiring Lawrence - the pick of the new boys - gave Derbyshire some company up front.

Derbyshire’s 78th-minute header found the big sub and he did everything right as he took a touch, moved the ball to the right and fired a well-placed shot into the bottom-left corner.

Job done. Until Collin’s non-intervention. At least the point eased the home side out of the relegation places.

“We felt that young Tom had dropped a bit deep for our liking,” said Evans. “I think, first half, he was round Derbyshire and getting in great little pockets. He got a knock and then he couldn’t really get there.

“The change was almost made for us. But it wasn’t made for us in terms of who could come on. Jordan and Derbs linked up really well on Tuesday on the training ground. We thought we’d give it a go.

“We were desperate for the win. We certainly played well enough to win today. There’s no disputing that.

“We created wonderful openings. In the second half we’ve not been as effective but we’ve still had a lot of the ball, Jordan comes on and he gets us a goal. The game looks dead and buried. It looks as if we should perhaps get a second. We’ve kept our shape.

“But if a team is going to put one 75 yards down the middle of the pitch, just a punt forward, a hope, and they’re going to get a goal from it, then some people need to look inside themselves.”

Ironically, Collin had earlier produced one of his saves of the season in the first half, diving to his left to superbly claw out a Nile Ranger header, but, no matter which signings a manager brings in, what formation you opt for or what changes you make, you simply can’t legislate for indivdual errors on this scale.

Even Blackpool boss Lee Clark admitted afterwards he hadn’t seen a way back for his side.

And it meant the mood at the end, after a home draw against a side with only one win all season and cut adrift at the foot of the table, was one of frustration rather than relief and optimism.

“Second half, we weren’t on the front foot as much as we were in the first half, and some of the young lads get tired. They get tired because it’s 0-0 and it’s a pressured environment,” Evans added.

“It’s fine margins and you can see the fine margins today. Do we deserve to have won a football match today? By a country distance we deserve to. But if you make cardinal sins you can get punished.”

The Millers almost won it at the death. In time added on, centre-half Wootton, who had played at right-back in the injury absence of Frazer Richardson and looked assured in possession, met a Pringle corner with an emphatic header only for Lewis to outdo his earlier save from Lawrence.

With a number of his summer signings not regularly making the starting 11 this season, Evans knows the latest batch of loan arrivals need to pay off. These are the young men he intends to go with between now and January.

A sterner test awaits next week: Cardiff away; Cardiff with a certain striker called Le Fondre.

Evans will find out plenty more about his new men then.

After that match and the visit of high-flying Nottingham Forest the following week week, the picture will be much clearer.

Meanwhile, lovely kid Collin, in his dark hour, again showed his decency when, late on Saturday night, he used his Twitter page to thank fans who had tweeted him messages of support.

“Amazing,” he said, before adding a hashtag which sums up the only approach the Millers can take really.

#onwards.

Manager’s view: Steve Evans: “It will take time (for the new boys to gel) but we’ve seen enough in training. They didn’t know each other but they were popping it about. They did today in the first half. I don’t think Blackpool knew where they were for 25 minutes. Probably if Lee is an honest man, which I think he is, he’ll know what the score should have been today. But you get nothing for ‘what it should have beens’. It’s what the stats show at the end of it, and the stats show they’ve scored one and we’ve scored one.”

Manager’s view: Lee Clark: “You think it’s gone when they score that late. We obviously got a bit of luck with the goal but I felt at the time we were probably the team on the front foot.”

Hero: Richie Smallwood. Does so much good, unglamorous work. Nile Ranger had nearly scored once with a header and was presented with a similar opportunity. Smallwood did just enough to affect Ranger’s timing and balance and the chance was missed.

Key moment: The 85th-minute Adam Collin gaffe. The game was in the bag until he swung and missed at what had appeared a harmless long ball out of the Blackpool defence. Will no doubt appear on a bloopers DVD some day.

Viewpoint: You have to feel for Adam Collin, but there is no room for sentiment in football. Two crucial points went begging. The Millers need to produce their form of the first 25 minutes at Cardiff next week, but Cardiff will be better than Blackpool.

Rotherham United: Collin 5, Broadfoot 7 (Arnason 42, 6), Morgan 7, Wootton 7, Ledesma 7 (Revell 81), Green 7, Smallwood 7, Pringle 7, James 6, Lawrence 7 (Bowery 69, 7), Derbyshire 6. Sub not used: Thompson, Frecklington, Taylor, Clarke-Harris.

Blackpool: Lewis 8, Perkins 5, Clarke 7, Eagles 6, Ranger 6 (Davies H-T, 6), Murphy 7 (Miller 79), Foley 6, O’Hara 6, Kennedy 6, Nosworthy 6, O’Keefe 6 (Delfouneso 57, 6). Subs not used: Parish, Orlandi, Dunn, Waddington.

Referee watch: Tony Harrington (Cleveland): Didn’t notice him too much, which suggests he got most things right and had a decent game. Could have given Emmanuel Ledesma more protection when the Argentine winger was being clearly fouled.

Attendance: 9,381 (863).