WITH Christmas Day out of the way, many people’s thoughts are turning to visits to warmer climes.
If you are a Rotherham United fan, a short break at Valley Parade is proving just as appealing as any sun-kissed destination currently being advertised on our TV screens.
The Millers secured their third consecutive victory in Bradford – and sixth on the spin against the Bantams – in front of a joyful travelling band of 2,501 visiting supporters who broke into a chorus of “You’ll Never Beat the Millers” at the final whistle.
United’s last five wins over Bradford have arrived without even the concession of a goal and while controversy dogged their success here last April, there were no such issues yesterday.
As 1-0 triumphs go, this was as emphatic as they come with the Millers claiming their fourth consecutive away win in League One, thanks to a fine 21st-minute goal from loan attacker Haris Vuckic, who spent a spell at City on trial in the summer.
For Millers chief Steve Evans, who basked in the glow of victory in front of the travelling hordes at the finish, this was the best Christmas present he could have wished for against the team he loves to beat.
Evans said: “It was a thoroughly deserved win. On another day, with the good chances we had in the second half, we might have embarrassed them and maybe won by five or six.
“If it had been anything other than three points, we would have looked back on a sad day.
“At least, the Bradford public might go away thinking, ‘Rotherham are not bad, are they?’”
Evans’s satisfaction compared markedly with the mood of his City counterpart Phil Parkinson, who admitted he could not gloss over a hugely disappointing result in front of a season’s-best home crowd.
A calendar year which started with much joy and fervent optimism among the claret and amber is finishing with a whimper and a fair few worries after a run of one win in 13 league matches.
The problems are particularly manifest on home soil where City are without a Valley Parade success since September 28.
Admitting his side “let down” fans – some of whom booed them off at the end – Parkinson added: “It was a big game in front of a Boxing Day crowd and I know the supporters will be feeling this result.
“We have let them down a bit to an extent. But I know the ones who will really understand will also know that was a weakened Bradford team.
“When you come up against one of the best teams, you need all your big-hitting players out there.
“But in the second half we were really poor and looked unrecognisable from what we are all about as a team.
“In the past we have always found something in our reserves. But we just didn’t have enough quality out there.”
Bradford badly missed the absent James Hanson with top-scorer Nakhi Wells largely shackled by the Millers’ rearguard throughout, aside from an early chance when he hooked an effort wide.
That aside, there was not much else from the Bermudian, who lined up alongside Leeds-born teenager Oliver McBurnie, with the 17-year-old handed a full debut after making his bow in City colours as a late substitute in the FA Cup loss to the Millers last month.
The lanky striker put in a decent shift in the first half before tiring after the break, a period which saw City fail to significantly test the Millers.
With his attacking options somewhat depleted, Parkinson was forced to throw on Luke
Oliver as an auxiliary striker at the end, to no avail.
It was the Millers who possessed the composure and the polish, with Evans’s side slowly but surely building up a head of steam and looking every inch play-off candidates.
After taking the lead thanks to a cracking goal from Vuckic, they maintained a stranglehold on proceedings for most of the rest of the game.
The goal arrived after Lee Frecklington’s probing run into Bradford territory saw the hosts’ fail to clear their lines. Kieran Agard took advantage to tee up Vuckic, whose lovely curling shot flew past the stationary Jon McLaughlin.
It was the Slovenian’s first goal for United and a sweet moment for Evans, who confirmed he only elected to start him at 1pm.
City’s liveliest spell arrived in the run-up to the interval, with their best moment coming in the 35th minute when Adam Collin tipped over a rasping strike from Garry Thompson.
Attacking the Kop on the restart, Bradford lacked punch and conviction against the Millers, who broke in numbers and whose work-rate was prodigious.
The only surprise was that the visitors could not add to their tally, with their best moments arriving at the feet of Bradford-born full-back James Tavernier, who went close with efforts which were saved by McLaughlin.
Bradford City: McLaughlin; Darby, Bates, McHugh (Oliver 87), Meredith; Thompson (Yeates 60), Doyle, Jones, Reid; Wells, McBurnie (Connell 73). Unused substitutes: Ravenhill, Kennedy, Taylor, Ripley.
Rotherham United: Collin; Bradley, Davis (Milsom 25), Morgan, Tavernier; Agard, Frecklington, Arnason, Pringle; Revell (Mills 90), Vuckic (Skarz 46). Unused substitutes: Shearer, Brindley, O’Connor, Tidser.
Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).