Rotherham United: Arrogance at New York? Rival boss Keith Hill says so ... Millers 0 Rochdale 1
Whoever it was being arrogant at AESSEAL New York Stadium, it certainly wasn't Paul Warne.
His team had just lost after going 14 matches unbeaten, they’d failed for the first time in 28 games to score, their run of seven successive wins was over.
The Rotherham United manager had nothing but praise for the League One strugglers who had deservedly toppled his promotion-chasing side.
“That was the hardest game we’ve had at home in a long while,” he said. “Rochdale didn’t let us play. I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that they won’t go down.”
So who knows who Dale boss Keith Hill was talking about when he said this:
“When you come to big clubs, there is an arrogance, and rightly so. I’m not saying it’s a bad arrogance. It’s a good arrogance. They were expecting to beat us today.
“I spend a lot of time outside the changing rooms on matchdays. The general sense in and around the stadium, from the staff, was that they were going to roll us over. I heard some of the staff talking about them winning 3-0 today, then it was: ‘Well, we ‘ll give them a goal and call it 3-1.’
“Karma’s a strange thing, isn’t it? It wasn’t anything to do with karma today. We were just miles better than them. Miles better.”
Warne, probably because there is no person less arrogant than him, didn’t take the bait.
“I’d like to think he doesn’t think the coaching staff are arrogant,” he responded. “When he says ‘staff’, it could be security staff around the ground, it could be someone in the tunnel, anything.
“None of my staff at any time thought we would be winning 3-0 or 3-1. We’ve been banging the drum all week about what a hard game this would be
“That definitely hasn’t come from my lips and I haven’t heard any of my coaching staff say that.”
Hill was right about one thing. His team, on the day, were better.
Rotherham were worse than anyone thought they would be, Rochdale sharper than anybody thought they could be.
The Millers hadn’t suffered a defeat since December 2 as they’d climbed right into the play-off mix, but this was an afternoon when too many players dipped below the standards they’ve set themselves in the last three months.
Rotherham lost their battles all over the pitch. Will Vaulks and Richie Towell have earned central-midfield bragging rights in most matches, but were second best to Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon who had had snap and vigour in the tackle, snap and vigour in their movement and snap and vigour on the ball.
Up front, visiting duo Ian Henderson, a Miller in 2007, and Stephen Humphrys were as dangerous as any strike pairing seen at New York this season. No way should Rochdale be in the bottom four.
Poor as they were, no Millers player performed as badly as referee Graham Salisbury. Virtually every challenge by a niggly Dale team was a foul. They played on that, knowing the ref wouldn’t blow every time. Salisbury didn’t blow anywhere near enough.
And he ruled out a perfectly good headed opener on the stroke of half-time by Rotherham skipper Richard Wood.
“The referee disallowed a fair goal,” Warne said, although the boss was quick to stress: “We didn’t lose the game because of him.
“It’s the first time in a long time I’ve seen the ref and his assistants walk straight off the pitch at the end. Normally they stand on the pitch and let the players shake hands. That’s indicative of how they felt their performances had gone possibly.”
Humphrys, on loan from Fulham where he has been a prolific scorer in the youth set-up, grabbed the game’s only goal in the 66th minute.
Taking Brad Inman’s pass, the 20-year-old, with an arrogance of youth Hill no doubt appreciated, worked the ball on to his left foot with a step-over before despatching a clinical low shot from the left past Marek Rodak.
“Second half, we had a go, but every time we had a set-piece they broke on us,” Warne said. “We’d had a couple of warning signs before they scored.”
Salisbury was booed off at half-time, booed back on at the start of the second half and booed off again after the final whistle.
Rotherham winger Joe Newell, one of the most mild-mannered men you could wish to meet, had to be led away from the officials at the end.
Much of the frustration simmering in New York centred on the goal that was given then not given.
In the dying seconds of the opening period, Newell swung in a free-kick from the left and Wood rose to power in a header. Salisbury signalled a goal and home fans were deep in celebration before the ref then decided there had been a foul on Dale goalkeeper Josh Lillis.
Indeed there had. But Lillis had been taken out by one of his own defenders, with no Millers player touching him before the ball was in the net.
“It was their player who fouled their goalkeeper,” said Warne. “Goals change games.”
The unbeaten record had to go at some stage, and this was a disappointing way to lose, but no real harm was done as the Millers remain comfortably in fourth place and fanciful talk of finishing in the top two will quieten.
A final thought: did anyone at half-time at freezing Blackpool on December 9, when Warne’s men were 1-0 down, believe Rotherham would go undefeated for the following three months?
Now that would have taken some arrogance.