THIS match put me in mind of going to a restaurant and having a meal that was okay but not quite as piping hot as it should have been, not quite as succulent as it might have been, and which was served by a waiter who was pleasant enough but slightly gormless with it.
It was not a total write-off by any stretch, but nor was it a deeply satisfying experience that left one yearning to extend the footballing equivalent of the words: “And please pass on my compliments to the chef.”
For Rotherham United, it was just a deeply frustrating, maddening experience, their performance neither good nor bad – just plain indifferent.
For Rochdale, who gave a mundane game the incongruous gift of a brilliant winner, it was the proverbial smash-and-grab raid, the three points most likely whizzed back to Lancashire in a stolen van pursued by police on the M62.
As Rotherham manager Paul Warne lamented: “I could come up with loads of reasons why we didn’t win this game but, fundamentally, they bent one in from 20 yards and we didn’t.”
The man who settled it was midfielder Aaron Morley, who curled a splendid effort beyond the outstretched right hand of goalkeeper David Iversen in the 42nd minute after Luke Matheson rolled the ball across the edge of the area and Callum Camps cleverly dummied.
Apart from a couple of late attempts, Rochdale carried about as much threat as someone trying to attack a pit bull terrier with a paper aeroplane, although they did have most of their usual starting line-up missing through injury. They have now won on all four visits to New York Stadium, this result ending a sequence of five successive league defeats.
Warne, whose side slipped from fourth to eighth, bemoaned a lack of cutting edge. “I felt if we’d got one we might have got two or three,” he said. “If we’d got the first goal, the game might have taken a different path.”
However, referring to the incredible comeback from 3-0 down to beat Solihull Moors with four late goals in the FA Cup, he added: “Perhaps we’d used all our luck up.”
It was certainly not in evidence when Matt Crooks headed against a post in the seventh minute, meeting a left-sided cross from Joe Mattock from a tight angle at point-blank range on a lovely, crisp afternoon, with the moon visible above stands touched with soft sunshine.
It was the closest that Rotherham came with Crooks also narrowly missing with a right-footed effort in the second half, and Clark Robertson testing the goalkeeper with a shot not entirely dissimilar to the one from which Rochdale netted.
Warne pointed to the fact that his side had 48 crosses and numerous set-plays but made no attempt to fudge the matter. “We’ve got a bit of an issue with our home form and I apologise to the fans because they haven’t seen us play at our best,” he said.
One had spent much of the afternoon, indeed, fully expecting Rotherham to score, so likely did it feel.
They were the better side, busier on the ball and more confident in possession.
The same match could be replayed 10 times and Rotherham would win it on nine occasions.
However, rather like those restaurant meals that are okay without being anything better, the game and Rotherham’s display left only a modest impression on the palate.
Rotherham United: Iversen, Olosunde (Vassell 73), Ihiekwe, Robertson; Mattock, Wiles, Lindsay (Smith 46), Crooks, Ogbene, Ladapo; Morris (Hastie 60). Unused substitutes: Thompson, Barlaser, Price, Clarke.
Rochdale: Sanchez, Matheson, O’Connell, Norrington-Davies, Keohane; Ryan (Gillam 66), Morley, Camps, Done, Henderson (Tavares 90); Pyke (Baah 76). Unused substitutes: Lynch, Bradley, Hopper, Brierley.
Referee: C Sarginson (Staffordshire).