Red-card day when '˜sorry' wasn't enough for the Millers ... Rotherham United 1 Gillingham 3
Shaun Cummings held up his hands and admitted his defensive guilt.
Joe Mattock stood up and was full of remorse for his red card.
It was one of those days for the Millers.
A sorry one.
They went into the match riding high In League One against opponents next to bottom and without a permanent manager. It was supposed to be a sixth straight league victory at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Instead, Paul Warne’s men turned in their worst home display of the season and shipped three goals for the third successive game.
For the first time, they were outfought.
Boss and players had their say in a long dressing-room inquest after a shock but deserved loss had dropped them one place to sixth.
“A few lads under-performed and didn’t do what I want them to do,” Warne said. “We can’t carry that many. I told them that, as did Richie (No 2 Barker), and then we got some feedback.
“If we’re going to get better - we’re not going to win every game; I get that - then we need to learn from that game.”
Warne sometimes jokes that he has a soft spot for Mattock but wouldn’t want him on his quiz team.
In truth, the experienced left-back isn’t that dopey. But he took stupidity to a new level in the 85th minute when the Millers had hauled themselves back into the match at 2-1 down and were chasing an equaliser.
He was rightly cautioned for clattering into Sean Clare, then, in the melee that followed, lost his head, pushed an opponent and was sent off for a second yellow card.
“I accept his apology but it doesn’t make me any less disappointed in him,” Warne said.
A single booking would have worked out well for the Millers. Mattock would have served a one-match ban, for picking up five yellows, in next Saturday’s FA Cup clash at Crewe Alexandra and returned with his slate wiped clean for the league derby at Doncaster Rovers on November 11.
Following his double caution, he comes back after his suspension with four bookings still on his record.
Anyway, a quiz question:
Was Mattock A) Unlucky? B) Within his rights to lash out seconds after his first offence? C) Plain daft?
When the ultra-reliable Darren Potter pinged a long ball to no-one, you knew something wasn’t right.
Rotherham had too many players off their game at the same time.
Again, they failed to defend set-pieces, while Ryan Williams, Joe Newell and Anthony Forde were shadows of the attacking threats they can be.
Williams had taken the shears to his long hair in the build-up to the game, much to the consternation of Warne who believes players should change nothing when they’re in a good run of form. Maybe the winger should have borrowed the ponytail from the female referee’s assistant and just gone about his business as normal.
The Millers were behind in the third minute when a defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Marek Rodak and centre-half Michael Ihiekwe gifted the Gills a corner and Josh Parker duly headed home.
Cummings was nowhere to be seen, and it was a similar story three minutes from the end when Parker claimed an identikit second to settle the contest.
Warne didn’t name and shame his defender, but TV footage made it clear who he was talking about when he said: “For someone to leave their man at a corner and them score and then same thing then happen late on, that’s hugely disappointing.
“The player has stuck his hand up and apologised, which I give him credit for, but it doesn’t help us now.”
Old boy Tom Eaves headed the visitors 2-0 in front just after half-time before Kieffer Moore brought the home side back into contention by lashing in his 12th goal of the campaign as he latched on to Potter’s ball over the top.
Rotherham had more than half an hour to level proceedings, and substitute Jon Taylor’s cracking volley brought a fine save from Tomas Holy, but quiz man Mattock departed, leaving Parker to come up with his final right answer.
Being in front gave a limited but organised Gills side something to fight for. At their best, Rotherham are a match offensively for any side in the division. This wasn’t their best, and their defending continues to cost them.
“If you go 1-0 down at home when the crowd expect to be winning, you have to be brave and take that little bit of anxiety from supporters,” Warne said. “You have to rise above that and get on the ball. If you get on the ball and make a mistake, just get on the ball again and keep getting on it and on it.
“You have to take chances, otherwise you just end up going up, back, sideways, up, back sideways and you’re not going to create anything.”
It’s now two and half years since the Millers last went behind and came back to win. That was the infamous 2-1 triumph over Millwall on February 28 2015 when Kari Arnason’s late clincher saw the Lions’ febrile following wreaking damage and havoc on New York.
This encounter brought no violence, just a frank exchange of views in the home changing area.
“We’re trying to be honest and open,” Warne said. “I don’t want to stand in there spitting and ranting and raving. I was just telling them - in passive way, I think - what we thought of their performances.
“Quite a few of them spoke. I want to get better as a manager, Richie wants to get better as a coach, the players want to get better. If we’re going to have a successful season, it’s all about the people in that room.
“They’re not easy conversations. People don’t like to be told the truth, as I don’t. I don’t want someone to tell me I’m a rubbish manager, or I’m coming for you.
“I’d rather get some reaction than have 11 mutes sit there and then go home and have a little cry. I’ve also said, if we make changes after that, don’t come boo-hooing saying that you thought you played well, because none of you can do that.”
He held them back for 40 minutes. And he made no apologies for that.