Rotherham United have clicked despite defeat, says Joe Mattock

On target: Millers scorer Michael Ihiekwe beats goalkeeper Daniel Iversen to head home. Picture: Steve Ellis
On target: Millers scorer Michael Ihiekwe beats goalkeeper Daniel Iversen to head home. Picture: Steve Ellis
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JOE Mattock insists Rotherham United are coping with expectations despite a sobering defeat to Oxford United.

READ MORE - Paul Goodwin’s analysis from the New York

The Millers were expected to be in the mix for a play-off spot this season and a third straight league win would have seen them move into the top six.

But Paul Warne’s men were brought back to down earth with something of a bump by an impressive Oxford side who looked every inch a team equipped to challenge for promotion.

“I think we’re coping with those expectations fine,” said Mattock, who signed a two-year contract extension last week.

“A team coming down from the Championship is always going to feel that sort of pressure.

“We can’t dwell on that too much. That’s just football.

“You’ve just got to put that on your shoulders and take each game as it comes.

“Unfortunately, we lost this game but the best thing we can do is bounce back on Wednesday at Ipswich.”

Impressive league wins over Coventry City and Blackpool have seen the Millers kick on during October.

But Rotherham could have few complaints as they came unstuck against a well-drilled Oxford side which showed exactly why they are now unbeaten in nine games.

Karl Robinson’s team had a clear method. They stood up physically to what was thrown at them, and in Cameron Brannagan and Tarique Fosu-Henry they possess the stardust required to win any game at this level.

Nevertheless, Mattock feels the Millers have made great strides since August – even if it did not show on Saturday.

“I feel like it has clicked, compared to right at the start of the season,” said Mattock.

“It is always tough when a lot of new players come in. It takes time for a team to bond, gel and get to know one another.

“I think that has happened but it’s hard to say stuff like this on the back of a loss. It’d be easier to say it if we were sat here talking about a win.

“But that shouldn’t matter. We didn’t lose this game because we’ve not gelled, we lost because we under-performed. There’s no doubt we’ll be getting behind one another and move onto the next few games and, hopefully, pick up some more victories.”

Rotherham actually matched the U’s before the break and ended the half on top.

Fosu-Henry’s super 23rd-minute strike from outside the area had put the visitors ahead out of nothing.

But the hosts responded well, levelling courtesy of Michael Ihiekwe’s brave header on 35 minutes.

The Millers, who also thought Chris Cadden blocked Jake Hastie’s goalbound shot with the help of a hand, looked well placed to push on but the second half was bossed by Oxford.

They regained the lead just before the hour mark when Matty Taylor headed home Brannagan’s perfect cross and only a fine save from Daniel Iversen, to prevent Taylor from close range, and a goal-saving tackle from Jamie Lindsay, with Brannagan clear on goal, prevented further damage.

“It was a frustrating day because I think we’re better than how we played,” said manager Warne.

“I thought we were the better team in the first half – we limited their chances – but when we got ourselves into good positions to create something we just didn’t.

“That was the frustrating bit for me.

“Box-to-box, I think we were okay but we just weren’t good enough to create those magical moments from which you can score a goal.

“It’s a great camp,” he added.

“The lads are brilliant and we’re three points off the play-offs.

“We’ve got two tough games coming up but I feel like we’re going in the right direction. All my players are coming back from injury and everyone knows what is expected of them.

“I just think we were beaten by a team on a better run than us and there’s no shame in it.

“I’m disappointed but my job is to pick us back up again for the next two.”

Rotherham United: Iversen, Olosunde, Ihiekwe, Wood, Mattock, Wiles, Lindsay, Barlaser, Hastie, Crooks, Smith. Unused substitutes: Price, Jones, MacDonald, Morris, Clarke, Ogbene, Lamy.

Oxford United: Eastwood, Cadden, Moore, Rodriguez-Gorrin, Ruffels, Mousinho, Sykes, Brannagan, Fosu-Henry, Henry, Taylor. Unused substitutes: Stevens, Hall, Long, Baptiste, Mackie, Agyei, Jones.

Referee: S Oldham (Lancashire).