Lowly Rochdale hand promotion-chasing Rotherham United a wake-up call

If Rotherham United are serious about winning the League One title, then they cannot afford too many more afternoons like the one they endured at Rochdale on Saturday.

The Millers were comfortably beaten by a side who kicked-off proceedings hovering just above the relegation zone, a defeat that leaves Paul Warne’s team five points behind leaders Coventry City – and having played a game more.

More concerning, perhaps, than the result and the damage which it does to their hopes of finishing the season as champions, is the nature of the United performance.

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They were not awful, not by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, despite going into the break a goal down, they looked pretty comfortable during the first half.

One could even make an argument that the visitors were the better side for the most part of that opening 45.

In the second, they just never really turned up and ultimately got what they deserved.

For a team with so much to play for, the way that they went about things all seemed a little bit pedestrian.

Warne’s men enjoyed plenty of possession in the final third, but never really seriously extended home custodian Robert Sanchez.

A more ruthless edge is certainly required, and not just in front of goal. This was a game there for the taking against opponents who had lost their last three on the bounce, yet the Millers could not seize the opportunity.

United probably shaded a fairly even opening 25 minutes, managing to muster a few moments of tidy football on a difficult playing surface.

With Chiedoze Ogbene beating defenders for fun down the right flank, a number of promising scenarios came and then went, end product sadly missing from a United perspective. The Millers found themselves behind on 28 minutes, Ian Henderson meeting Aaron Morley’s cross from the right at the far post and lifting the ball over Dan Iversen.

Michael Smith thought that he had drawn the visitors level before half-time when he applied a finishing touch to Ben Wiles’s header, though his celebration was cut short by an offside flag. The hosts added a second after 70 minutes, Callum Camps playing in Henderson, who calmly slotted home.

The result was put beyond doubt when Matty Lund ran through and lobbed the advancing Iversen, and although Jamie Lindsay pulled a goal back in stoppage-time, his excellent strike was far too little, too late to make any kind of a difference.

Rochdale: Sanchez, Matheson, O’Connell, McShane, Keohane, Williams, Lund, Morley (Rathbone 83), Camps, Henderson, Wilbraham. Unused substitutes: McNulty, Dooley, Andrew, Smith, Lynch, Done.

Rotherham United: Iversen, Thompson, Tilt (Koroma 59), Wood, Jones (Olosunde 78), Ogbene, Lindsay, Crooks, Wiles, Ladapo (Vassell 59), Smith. Unused substitutes: Price, MacDonald, Adelakun, Clarke.

Referee: R Joyce (Cleveland).