Rotherham United match verdict and reaction: Charlton Athletic 1 Millers 1

Farrend Rawson scores. Pictures: Jim Brailsford
Farrend Rawson scores. Pictures: Jim Brailsford

His first goal in senior football will grab the headlines, but young Farrend Rawson had announced himself in less glamorous but just as important fashion well before he put Rotherham United in front at Charlton Athletic.

Three times in the opening 10 minutes the home side broke forward and the Millers were on the back foot.

Lee Camp saves

Lee Camp saves

Three times the ball unceremoniously ended up in rows F, N and Z as the 19-year-old centre-half, making his first appearance of the season, intervened. No fuss, no danger, a chance for the visitors to regroup. Proper, solid defending from a proper, solid defender.

It was a far cry from Rotherham’s defensive frailty in the opening five league matches. Rawson’s influence was significant and the entire back four, with left-back Joe Mattock making a welcome return from injury and Danny Collins looking happier with the teenager’s rugged presence alongside him, had a committed and organised air about it.

Plus, they had Lee Camp in the net.

Behind proper, solid defending, here was a keeper, making his debut, who was just as proper and solid and, once or twice, inspired.

Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe

Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe

Six minutes, decent save from former Rotherham target Johann Gudmundsson’s shot; nine minutes, good diving stop to deny Jordan Cousins; 15 minutes, superb flying leap to turn away Cousins’ effort; all 95 minutes, assured distribution, impeccable handling and commanding penalty-area presence.

Good luck to Kelle Roos now he has returned early to Derby, but this is the keeper the Millers should have recruited before the season started.

“We made lots of attempts to sign Lee in the summer,” manager Steve Evans said of the transfer-deadline-day arrival. “He keeps the ball out of the net. That’s what he’s done today, that’s what he did when he was at Bournemouth.

“Bournemouth were ready to go to the next level, spending amounts on a goalkeeper that woud probably cover my starting 11.

Tony Andreu

Tony Andreu

“There were two or three Championship clubs who probably thought they’d got his signature done but I never stopped going at Lee and the people who look after him for the best part of a week and, thanks to (chairman) Tony Stewart, we managed to get it over the line.”

Rawson’s big moment at the other end of the pitch came in the 38th minute when he arrived, completely unmarked at the back post, to steer in Joe Newell’s inswinging corner from the right.

Keith Stroud is a referee Evans really rates - yes, that’s right, rates, not hates - but the abuse was raining down on the Hampshire official from the stands as the flag-kick came from a deflected Jonson Clarke-Harris free-kick which home fans swore had come off a Rotherham player.

I couldn’t tell, although I generally believe that when a crowd rises as one it’s usually right. However, it was interesting to hear Addicks player Johnnie Jackson admit on TV on Saturday night that his first reaction was ‘corner’.

This was a big test for the Millers, bottom of the Championship after five matches, as they emerged from the international break with a trio of new signings in the side and striker Matt Derbyshire, so deadly in the second half of last season, dropped to the bench after a series of missed chances.

Evans had labelled it a new start to the season, and it was much better than the real one, which had brought an opening-day 4-1 defeat at home to MK Dons.

It wasn’t perfect. There were misplaced passes and, now and again, a lack of cohesion understandable in a team with theee new faces. But there was a good shape about them as they became the only side to score first against Charlton so far this season and the spirit which had been questioned last time out against Fulham was back. The Millers looked liked an Evans team again.

Loan signings Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and Tony Andreu both showed promising signs of things to come. Both can see and pick a pass, although Andreu’s touch was a bit off, and Evans is keen to get more game-time into them to sharpen them up.

Vadis’ most memorable contribution came in the 28th minute when dazzling footwork saw Odjidja go one way and Ofoe the other to leave two opponents for dead only for the hyphen to shoot wastefully wide.

Andreu, who would have been clean through late in the first half had he manged to control Richie Smallwood’s lovely dinked ball over the top, missed a glorious chance to put the visitors further ahead in the 61st minute. His header from Mattock’s left-flank cross was too near keeper Nick Pope but it still required a stunning save to keep it out.

“At 2-0, it’s game over,” Evans rued.

Defending has been the Millers’ Achilles heel this campaign, but it was becoming their biggest strength as they held the home side at bay. Collins, twice, and Rawson matched each other for brilliant blocks, although neither could do anything about Patrick Bauer bundling in a close-range 65th-minute equaliser from Simon Makienok’s assist from the left.

Charlton, beaten only once this season, huffed and puffed in the second half, but Rotherham’s resistance was resolute and they finished the match looking the team most likely to score again, with Chris Maguire’s piledriver bringing the best out of Pope again.

Afterwards, Rawson - enjoying his second spell with the Millers after four loan starts last season - cut a figure almost as impressive as the one on the pitch, a boy with a man’s assuredness as he handled the press for the first time.

Click here for news of Farrend Rawson’s waiting game

“The back five was very solid,” he said, “The manager gave us a message early on in the game saying that they wre going to be on us, they were going to be direct, that we were going to have to defend, we were going to have to do what we’re paid for, head it, kick it, and I think the lads did well.

“DC (Danny Collins) looked after me all game. He talked to me the whole game. It was a great performance from the whole back five.”

As for the goal ... “I’m not known for getting many,” he grinned.

“I was excited, definitely. It was a good ball in by Joe. It was all over in a second. I was just concentrating on getting my touch right and making sure I got enough on it.”

Next up, Brighton away tomorrow. Top v bottom. Life in the Championship is never easy.

But Saturday put a spring in the Millers’ step and it was an optimistic bunch of players who left the Valley preparing for three nights in the South before the Seagulls challenge.

A positive performance, a fresh start, a first away point and a sound defence backed up by keeper Lee.

Happy Campers.

Charlton (4-4-2): Pope 8, Solly 6, Diarra 7, Bauer 6 (Bergdich 79), Fox 6; Gudmundsson 7, Ba 6, Kashi 5, Cousins 6; Watt 7, Vetokele 5 (Makienok 63, 7): Subs not used: Mitov, Sarr, Jackson, Kennedy, Ahearne-Grant.

Rotherham (4-4-1): Camp 8; Buxton 7, Rawson 8, Collins 8; Frecklington 6 (Green 74), Smallwood 7, Newell 6, Odjidja-Ofoe 6; Andreu 6 (Maguire 71); Clarke-Harris 6 (Derbyshire 79). Subs not used: Collin, Halford, Ledesma, D Ward.

Goals: Rawson 38 (Rotherham); Bauer 65 (Charlton).

Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).

Attendance: 15,220 (501).