Rotherham United 3 Burton 3: Millers collapse to Harrad hat-trick

AT least Ronnie Moore can this week take stock of his squad from a position of strength inside the play-off zone.

It is far too early in the season to make radical changes but the Rotherham manager is fully aware of the deficiencies which need addressing.

His back four took the brunt of the blame for surrendering an undeserved 3-0 half-time lead but it appears a ball-playing and ball-winning central midfield man is top of his wanted list.

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Burton are no pub team but the Brewers left Don Valley feeling intoxicated after a comeback highlighted by former England C striker Shaun Harrad's second-half hat-trick.

The one-time Conference outfit played with a refreshing attacking gusto and could not believe being three goals adrift by the break.

All lacklustre Rotherham needed to do to capitalise on their good fortune was to stand firm for a while, allow gaps to develop and strike on the counter against the club immediately below them.

Instead, Burton repeated the Millers' trick of scoring within a minute of kick-off and panic set in the hosts' camp.

Exodus Geohaghon and Burton striker Richard Walker failed to connect with a long punt, sleepy Millers captain Ryan Cresswell allowed the ball to skid past him and Harrad ghosted in to prod past Andy Warrington.

He made it 3-2 just past the hour mark, drilling a penalty down the middle as Warrington went to his left after right-back Johnny Mullins, who had already been booked, tripped inspirational substitute winger Jimmy Phillips without collecting a second yellow.

Millers fans were adamant they should have been awarded a free-kick in the build-up, Adam Le Fondre taking a tumble but the Rotherham top scorer took the flak from his manager for attempting to dribble the ball away from danger and losing possession.

Moore then decided he could take no further chances with Mullins and brought on Dean Holden, who was also unable to cope, earning a booking for hacking down Phillips.

Even at 3-2 down, the only winners looked like being Paul Peschisolido's men and Harrad drew them level when he played a clever one-two with Gregg Pearson as the Millers defence continued to sit deep and tucked the ball home.

Burton had arrived with four regular defenders missing but it was the hosts who were in turmoil at the back, Jacques Maghoma having taunted them out wide in the first period until Kevin Ellison switched flanks with Nicky Law to help protect Mullins.

It was Ellison going down the right who had engineered the goal of the match, being freed by an instant pass from Paul Warne from Le Fondre's lay-off before beautifully curling the ball around the Burton defence to exactly where the striker had indicated, allowing him to race in and slide home his seventh goal of the season.

That had made it 3-0 in the 38th minute, four minutes after Cresswell had headed home the second from fellow centre-back Geohaghon's speared in throw from the left.

Ellison had made it 1-0 within 55 seconds, his curling 32-yard left-footed free-kick beating Adam Legzdins, who allowed the ball to squirm home inside his right-hand post.

Until the second goal, however, Burton had been in control but they never created a clear-cut opportunity and the Millers could have been out of sight but League Two's player of the month Le Fondre delayed his attempt to play the ball through for unmarked strike-partner Warne before the break and the chance to make it 4-0 was crucially gone.

Moore said he had warned his team against complacency creeping in. "At half-time, we said how lucky we were to be in the position we were in. We had scored three goals from four shots.

"We fell right into the trap and did not defend well. The No 9 killed us. He works hard and chases things. Harrad battered our two centre-backs and ran them ragged and our two full-backs were taken to the cleaners by their wingers.

"I blame the back four today, no doubt about that. They needed to be up another 15-20 yards and if they don't do it then we'll change it," warned Moore.

While he appears confident his coaching staff can drill his defenders into a more effective unit, Moore seems concerned about a lack of quality in central midfield where Burton captain John McGrath took control.

"We need strengthening in midfield. We need someone who is going to get on the ball and pass it for us. We haven't got an out and out passer and today it was crying out for someone who was going to get their foot on it. I don't want a kid, I want someone with experience who will make us play. We need leaders out there," was Moore's frank assessment.

Rotherham United: Warrington, Mullins (Holden 65), Geohaghon, Cresswell, Newey; Law (Pope 85), Taylor, Harrison (Bradley 77), Ellison; Warne, Le Fondre. Unused substitutes: Annerson, Marshall, Ani, Fenton.

Burton Albion: Legzdins, Corbett, Austin, James, Webster (Grocott 40); Young (Phillips 57), Penn, McGrath, Harrad, Walker (Pearson 74). Unused substitutes: Poole, Ellison, Gilroy, Dyer.

Referee: G Salisbury (Lancs).

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Shaun Harrad

Second-half hat-trick from Burton's former non-league England international turned the game. "His hold-up play is good, his energy is superb and he is coming in with goals left, right and centre and is a joy to work with," said Brewers chief Paul Peschisolido.

Villain: Jacques Maghoma

One-time Millers target was on top form out wide but the 22-year-old former Tottenham trainee infuriated many by going to ground all too easily.

Key moment

46th minute: The ball skids past Millers captain Ryan Cresswell, allowing Harrad to prod home to make it 3-1.

Ref watch

Graham Salisbury: Incensed home fans but could have produced a second yellow for penalty culprit Johnny Mullins.

Verdict

Rotherham chief Ronnie Moore has his work cut out this week after his Millers side failed to function in all areas.

Next game

Barnet v Rotherham United, League Two, Saturday, 3.00pm.

Quote of the day

We were playing Burton, not Real Madrid, and should have been able to see out the first 15 minutes of the second half which would have been game won.

– Millers chief Ronnie Moore.

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