Rotherham United show maturity to survive late Accrington Stanley onslaught and strengthen grip on top spot

You might look at Rotherham United’s elegant, dominant win over Doncaster Rovers and the gritty, characterful and downright fortunate way they saw off Accrington Stanley four days later and conclude no League One club can stop their promotion.

There is one: Rotherham.

When it came to football, the Millers tempted fate terribly, not killing a game they dominated for 84 minutes as they seemed to think only wonder goals would do. How they did not pay for only having Dan Barlaser’s marvellous volley to show for their efforts when the game went all helter-skelter is anyone’s guess. Accrington missed a penalty and hit the post as the ball pinballed around a penalty area with one fewer home player to defend.

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“I think it’s the luckiest 10 minutes I’ve ever spent in the dugout,” admitted manager Paul Warne.

CROWD TROUBLE: Rotherham United 1-0 Accrington Stanley. Picture: PA Wire.

It was not just in the footballing sense they are tempting fate.

In an incredibly-tight promotion race the behaviour of a handful of supporters with not many more brain cells between them could cost them points.

For one to run from the stands, kick the ball off the penalty spot, then barge Harry Pell before the spot kick Josh Vickers saved was bad enough, but on the back of an object thrown at a linesman the previous week and a minute’s silence at Fleetwood Town disrespected in the away game before that, punishment is inevitable. They must hope it is pounds, not points.

With incidents at Morecambe and Burton Albion, involving Sheffield Wednesday fans, it was a depressing day in League One.

CROWD TROUBLE: Rotherham United 1-0 Accrington Stanley. Picture: PA Wire.

In banning the idiot and the numbskull who followed him from the New York Stadium for life before they made it out of the police station, Rotherham are doing what they can but controlling everyone in a crowd of 8,593 is not easy; there needs to be self-responsibility and self-policing.

What they could control better given the talent in their team was the game.

Vickers saved from Sean McConville in the 84th minute, and two minutes later Wes Harding blocked a shot from him before the follow-up by former Sheffield Wednesday player Korede Adedoyin hit Richard Wood on the hand, leading to a red card and penalty.

“I was just concentrating on the task I had to do, I wasn’t really looking (at the exhibition in brainlessness),” insisted Vickers.

CROWD TROUBLE: Rotherham United 1-0 Accrington Stanley. Picture: PA Wire.

He dived left and smothered Pell’s poor penalty.

“You learn the older you get just to keep your cool and be a calming influence,” he said. “We had that maturity about us to just about see the game out.”

Maturity and luck. Mitch Clark hit the post seven minutes into stoppage time.

The final 15 should not have mattered in a footballing sense. Rotherham were all over Accrington until then but all they really had to show for the first half was Will Grigg’s triple effort – saved, blocked by Ross Sykes, then ballooned in a taster of the pinball to come at that end. Stanley goalkeeper Toby Savin’s booking for timewasting in first-half stoppage time was overdue.

The Millers started the second half with more urgency and a deep free-kick dropped for Barlaser to volley in the 58th minute.

“It was top corner or car park,” said Warne. It was top corner.

It felt like that was that, but maybe the players felt it too.

Ollie Rathbone shot just wide minutes later and Jay Rich-Baghuelou nearly miskicked a Barlaser cross into his own net, but after that the Millers seemed content to hunker down for a 1-0.

“That’s why the second goal is always important,” stressed Warne. “We didn’t create enough clear-cut chances. You’re one mistake away from throwing it.

“The ball bounces in the penalty box and my coaches say it wasn’t great defending (in the best “I didn’t see it” excuse yet, Warne was in the toilet when the penalty was conceded) and you can throw away two points.”

At least what Rotherham did show against a team who had already beaten them twice this season was character.

“You can see it in the last 15 minutes,” said Vickers proudly.

“By all accounts the bench were all on their feet cheering everyone on, boys were throwing their bodies in the line of things and there was that real togetherness and hunger to do well for each other. If you can perform really well for your three points, that’s great, but sometimes you just have to find a way to win.”

Another Rotherham strength is squad depth and they will need it at Wimbledon tomorrow with Wood suspended, Michael Ihiekwe’s knee-to-knee knock and a third centre-back, Rarmani Edmonds-Green, out for another couple of weeks with a hamstring injury.

“You’re not in the team at the moment but anything can happen,” stressed Warne. “It might mean we have to change the system to get our best players on the pitch.”

Vickers had to wait 11 months for his debut.

“We’ve got a real togetherness here and we all want to achieve the same thing,” he said. “Everyone’s going to play a part between now and the end of the season.”

Everyone. Even those in the stands.

Rotherham United: Vickers; Harding, Wood, Ihiekwe (Mattock 62); Barlaser; Ogbene, Wiles, Rathbone, Ferguson (Miller 73); Smith, Grigg (Kayode 77). Unused substitutes: Johansson, Lindsay, Odoffin, Ladapo.

Accrington Stanley: Savin; Sykes, Nottingham, Rich-Baghuelou; Conneely (Leigh 62), Clark, Butcher, Hamilton; Amankwah (Pell 38), McConville; Mansell (Adedoyin 50). Unused substitutes: Rodgers, O’Sullivan, Isherwood, Longelo.

Referee: A Woolmer (Northamptonshire).