WHEN Rotherham United slumped to defeat at Huddersfield Town last December, then manager Neil Redfearn was scathing in his assessment.
Some United players, the former midfielder icily suggested post-match, had a mental attitude more suited to “working from 9am till 5.30pm at B&Q on £5 an hour” than enjoying the rewards of life as a footballer.
When the Millers last night fell a goal behind inside 86 seconds on their first return to the John Smith’s since that wretched loss, the boss of the nearby B&Q branch that sits on Town’s old Leeds Road home must have feared arriving at work today to find a huddle of United players reporting for duty after being dropped off as the team bus returned to South Yorkshire.
The reality, however, was Rotherham emerging with credit if not points from a derby clash in which their effort levels couldn’t be faulted despite Huddersfield being comfortably the better team.
United could even have returned back down the M1 with a point but Tom Adeyemi wasted a glorious opportunity when he headed wide from close range with just five minutes remaining.
Perhaps the most heartening aspect of the night for Rotherham was that heads didn’t drop despite a fifth straight loss on the road – equalling an unwanted 25-year-old record – meaning Alan Stubbs’s men slipped to the bottom of the Championship.
As for Huddersfield, they returned to the summit thanks to maintaining their own, rather more impressive, 100 per cent record thanks to goals from Elias Kachunga and Nahki Wells.
It was a deserved reward for a dominant display in which they once again combined a high-energy approach with some lightning quick attacking play.
Kasey Palmer was the pick of the Town players, though he was run close by the ever dependable Aaron Mooy in central midfield.
The Australian sets the tone for the Terriers and it was no surprise he should be involved in an opening goal that saw Rotherham fail to take three clear opportunities to clear the danger.
Kachunga made the Millers pay by prodding in from close range after the ball had ricochet around the six-yard box.
For a side who had lost all their games on the road this term, it was the worst possible start. Credit, though, is due for how Rotherham then hung in there despite being pinned back for long periods of the first half.
And when Stubbs’s men did finally break clear on 34 minutes, they did so with such speed and passing precision that it brought the equaliser.
Joe Newell’s vision saw play switched to Jon Taylor on the right flank.
He took a touch before whipping in a cross that Danny Ward, on his return to the John Smith’s, deftly diverted past his namesake in the home goal.
Huddersfield’s response was impressively swift. Less than four minutes later, Sean Scannell dispossessed Izzy Brown on halfway and raced forward before threading a pass through to Wells.
The Bermuda international took a couple of touches but, just as he looked to have over-run the ball, a swift right foot shot saw the ball roll past Lee Camp and into the net off the post.
Michael Hefele came close to adding a third just before the interval but Camp scrambled his header to safety.
The German defender also went close early after the restart from a set-piece before Lee Frecklington drove just wide from 18 yards at the other end.
Huddersfield continued to dominate territorially but their final ball often went awry. Despite that, Town did have sufficient chances to kill off United’s gutsy challenge.
An exchange of passes between Palmer and Kachunga ended with the Chelsea loanee firing high and wide. Minutes later, Palmer again opened up the visitors’ defence but no-one was on hand to touch in his cross as the ball flashed across the face of goal.
Adeyemi really should have made Town pay when picked out by Anthony Forde’s left-wing cross but, instead, his header flashed wide to the disbelief of the 742 Millers fans who were ready to celebrate a rare point at Huddersfield.
Instead, the Millers slipped to a 15th defeat in 17 visits to the west Yorkshire side.
At least this time, though, they left with a sense of pride restored following last December’s DIY bodge job that had so infuriated Redfearn.
Huddersfield Town: Ward; Smith, Hefele, Schundler, Holmes-Dennis; Whitehead (Hogg ), Mooy; Scannell (Stankovic 89), Palmer (Payne 75), Kachunga; Wells. Unused substitutes: Coleman, Bunn, Cranie, Paurevic.
Rotherham United: Camp; Fisher, Fry, Ball, Mattock; Taylor, Adeyemi (Halford 89), Frecklington, Newell (Forde 84); Brown (Blackstock 84); Ward. Unused substitutes: Price, Vaulks, Forster-Caskey, Wilson.
Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).
Results and tables: Page 22.