All graft and no craft as Rotherham United compete again but lack cutting edge and conviction versus Watford - the story of their season

CONSERVATIVE spin-doctors had a thankless task trying to sugarcoat events in Wellingborough and Kingswood in the week - and Leam Richardson will know how they feel.

There may still be 10 days remaining in February – with only the odd daffodil out just yet – but the game in 2023-24 looks up for Rotherham United, whose position at the foot of the Championship table is starting to look hopeless.

As leader of the organisation, in a football sense, it is Richardson’s job to present something to buy into. Leaders are dealers in hope, as Napoleon once said and the Millers manager admirably had a go after the game.

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“I’ve been in worse situations than this and come through it,” he said.

Rotherham United manager Leam Richardson, whose side lost 1-0 at home to Watford in the Championship on Saturday. Picture: PARotherham United manager Leam Richardson, whose side lost 1-0 at home to Watford in the Championship on Saturday. Picture: PA
Rotherham United manager Leam Richardson, whose side lost 1-0 at home to Watford in the Championship on Saturday. Picture: PA

Which he has, given some off-the-field chaos during his time at his previous club Wigan.

A football man, Richardson will know deep down that it is all about Rotherham now starting to build for next season – highly likely to be in League One.

And taking the good bits they have got right in their time in the Championship, and learning from what they haven’t.

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He said: “As a leader, you have got a vision of how things look.

“A vision of the culture, environment, training ground, your team and how you want to play and your beliefs. That evolves over time and not overnight.

“This is a good challenge. We’ll come out of it. Sometimes, you’ve got to bottom out and go to a place you don’t want to be to make sure you appreciate the strong parts of the football club.

“I don’t think there’s nothing to gain by being negative. It’s easy to support your football club when you are winning.”

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Since arriving, Richardson has made the Millers more competitive, structured and harder to break down in a defensive sense.

In their previous match against Watford, Rotherham conceded five goals and Matt Taylor soon received his P45.

In the return, the Hornets mustered just one effort on target. From a defensive perspective at least, the Millers backline did their jobs.

That one moment for Watford was enough. The game-breaker arrived by virtue of a 58th-minute scorcher from Yaser Asprilla.

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It’s at the other end of the pitch in terms of the creative and finishing department where Rotherham’s deficiencies are there for all to see. Watford may have had just one on-target attempt, but so did the hosts.

They huff and puff and give it a go, for sure – and their honesty, work-rate and commitment among a good group is also plain to see. Those in red and white certainly aren’t cheating anyone on that count.

To survive – and ultimately prosper – in the second tier, you need so much more.

Rotherham palpably lack cutting edge and conviction at this level in an attacking sense. They have willing runners, but no Championship speed of thought or class. All graft, but no craft.

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It helped to explain why Watford were able to record just their second clean sheet in 20 matches.

They won ugly, but produced one stunning moment. Asprilla, who scored a beauty at Norwich in midweek, clearly had the taste forit.

After Giorgi Chakvetadze’s shot was blocked from a corner, Watford’s present-day rocket man blasted home a screamer.

It made up for a wasteful moment before the break when he took the wrong option in trying to tee up Mileta Rajovic when he had a clear sight of goal.

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Big Rajovic was policed well by Sean Morrison and co. Unfortunately, Watford centre-half and captain Wesley Hoedt took care of business at the other end.

Rotherham pushed after Asprilla’s strike. Seb Revan fired just wide, while Morrison planted a header over – and his rueful expression said it all afterwards.

Andy Rinomhota was blocked off in the box. No penalty said the referee to Rotherham. Again.

Watford had their win and are unbeaten in 12 against the Millers.

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Following the game, KC and the Sunshine Band’s famous hit ‘Give it Up’ was the victory song of choice aired in the away dressing room. No sunshine for the Millers, by contrast.

Rotherham United: Johansson; Kioso (Ferguson 79), Odoffin, Morrison, Humphreys (Cafu 79), Revan; Tiehi (Clucas 68), Rinomhota, Rathbone; Nombe (Eaves 68), Wyke (Hugill 68). Unused substitutes: Phillips, Lindsay, Peltier, Seriki.

Watford: Hamer; Dele-Bashiru, Pollock, Hoedt, Lewis (Dennis 86); Sierralta; Kone (Chakvetadze 55), Kayembe (Ince 55); Asprilla (Andrews 85), Rajovic, Sema (Livermore 75). Unused substitutes: Bachmann, Martins, Morris, Grieves.

Referee: A Kitchen (Durham).