Two events sent alarm coursing through the veins of Rotherham United fans ...
Trevor Kettle walking on to the pitch to referee the Millers’ League One clash with Charlton Athletic.
And striker Jamie Proctor being carried off the AESSEAL New York Stadium turf just over an hour after.
We’ll get to Kettle later.
When a player leaves a stadium on a stretcher and heads straight to hospital, some things matter more than how a referee performed.
As he waited to see the medics, Proctor was comforted by a visit from manager Paul Warne who gave up some of his Saturday evening in a show of support for his summer signing.
If Warne’s presence brought some small degree of cheer, the scans are likely to bring only bad news.
Proctor’s body langage as he lay on the turf after being barged over by Chris Solly during Rotherham’s 2-0 defeat suggested his knee injury is serious. It may be a long time before the £75,000 buy from Bolton Wanderers is seen in a red and white shirt again.
The fact that Kettle didn’t blow for Solly’s challenge and the Addicks scored as the Rotherham man writhed in anguish just added to the misery on a bad day for the Millers.
“I saw Procs rolling and I knew it was something serious,” said Warne. “In fairness to the opposition staff, I think they were trying to tell their team to kick the ball out of play. I am not critical of them.
“He was in a lot of pain when he left the pitch, which is never a good sign. I would expect him to be out for some time.”
It was the 66th minute when blood reached boiling point.
Solly ran into Proctor who hit the deck. Kettle waved play on and man of the match Ricky Holmes crossed for Josh Magennis to head home.
With supporters already frustrated by a poor display from the home side, New York erupted in febrile anger.
The official has previous with Rotherham dating back to his infamous 2005 display at Oakwell when he sent off three Millers players as well as manager Mick Harford and cost them a 1-0 victory by allowing a phantom Barnsley goal to stand in the dying seconds.
Charlton boss Karl Robinsom said there was no foul. Warne said he’d have to see the incident again. Televisions replays showed a clear infringement.
Warne, believing Proctor’s distress was so immediately apparent that Kettle should have halted proceedings, picked his words carefully.
“I thought the ref refereed in the way he thought was correct,” he said. “I thought it was really slow and there was a lot of chatting going on with the players. I would have preferred him to tell people to get on with it.
“I just thought maybe the ref ... if you see the player in that amount of pain, you have to get the medical team on quickly.”
Robinson had watched Rotherham’s 5-0 demolition of Southend United a fortnight ago and described Warne’s men that day as “unplayable”. But, here, too many players didn’t turn up.
They gave their worst display of the season against a slick, sharp, willing side that Warne is tipping for the top two.
It’s been a tough start for the Millers. The three teams they have lost to in their first four league games, Fleetwood Town, Peterborough United and the Addicks, are all in the top six.
Rotherham were second best, well beaten in midfield, picked apart by the skilful Holmes and lacking leadership and nous at the back.
The high press and relentless energy which have given reason for optimism weren’t there as Rotherham launched long forward passes too early and didn’t get enough men around the front two.
“I spoke to them at half-time and at length after the game and told them to tell me why they didn’t look sharp or lively,” Warne said.
“I don’t know if they have shown Charlton a little bit too much respect and not closed them down because they thought they were going to get popped off.
“I have told them to press and we didn’t do it today as well as we have done. We stayed off them a little bit and allowed them to get confidence. I think they will be one of the automatics but the lads just stayed off them, which is disappointing because that is not how we will play.”
Proctor had fluffed a golden chance, scuffing wide from a few yards out after Kieffer Moore’s low cross from the right, by the time Semi Ajayi missed his defensive header at a corner and allowed Patrick Bauer to head back across goal and put the visitors into a 16th-minute lead.
Ajayi was the culprit at the other a quarter of an hour later, somehow directing a free header off target with the Charlton goal gaping, and he was wayward with another header and had a shot saved after Holmes’ floated delivery had set up Magennis amid a tumult of New York boos.
Five minutes before the game’s flashpoint, Moore had broken clear and wasted a simple chance to play in the unmarked Proctor who would have been one on one with goalkeeper Ben Amos.
Winger Ryan Williams, unable to raise a first-half gallop, had to be replaced, as did full-back Josh Emmanuel, with a damaged a toe, leaving Warne restricted in how he could affect the game with his substitutions.
At the end, the referee headed for the tunnel accompanied by his assistants and plenty more booing.
But, as Warne was quick to acknowledge, Rotherham didn’t lose this game because of Trevor Kettle.