Rotherham United 6 Cheltenham 4: Moore full of praise as Le Fondre smashes four goals for Millers

ROTHERHAM United manager Ronnie Moore is convinced that Adam Le Fondre will score goals at the highest level – providing he keeps working.

The little striker is content, however, to keep banging in the goals for the Millers and ignore all the speculation surrounding his future.

Alf, as he is known, recorded his first hat-trick in a Rotherham shirt and the second four-goal haul of his career as the Millers stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Cheltenham.

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If 10 goals in a match will not bring back the missing fans then nothing will – less than 3,000 Millers fans attending the Don Valley Stadium on Saturday compared to the 18,000 who made the trek to Wembley for last season's play-off final defeat.

They may have to be quick to watch their goal machine as the scouts, including those from Sheffield United, Derby and Ipswich, were bound to have noticed not only his finishing power but link-up play in a display which both the 23-year-old and his manager described as his best for the club.

Le Fondre, who scored four as a 19-year-old for Stockport against Wrexham, said: "It's probably my best display as a professional. I saw a lot of the ball today and I did well in front of goal. It's my first hat-trick for the club, I should have got one against Lincoln but I got sloppy with a penalty and I was quite lucky today with my penalty."

Le Fondre was referring to the goal which made it 3-3 shortly after the break. Strike-partner Tom Elliott was flattened from behind and Scott Brown blocked Le Fondre's spot-kick but the Rotherham forward tucked home the rebound.

Le Fondre had drilled home his first in the 16th minute from outside the area after being released by his partner and that made it 1-1 after Jeff Goulding's close-range volley had given the visitors the lead when Danny Andrew's swirling cross had caught goalkeeper Andy Warrington in two minds.

Shambolic defending first presented Wesley Thomas a simple tap-in and then allowed him to set up the injured Goulding's replacement, Shaun Jeffers, to make it 3-1 before Nicky Law retrieved a cross out wide, cut back and teed up Danny Harrison to curl the ball over Brown and under the bar to make it 3-2 before the break.

Le Fondre's deep corner enabled captain Ryan Cresswell to head home the fourth and the Millers' full-backs combined to set up Le Fondre's hat-trick, Dean Holden heading Tom Newey's cross across the face of goal for a tap-in. It was 6-3 by the 66th minute when Kevin Ellison burst through the middle and fed Le Fondre to place the ball inside Brown's right-hand post.

Cheltenham were not done and Jeffers struck a post before Brian Smikle's follow-up struck a Rotherham hand for a penalty from Thomas which Warrington did well to beat away to safety.

It proved important as central defender Steve Elliott was allowed a free header from an 89th-minute corner to make it

6-4 and set-up a nervous last five minutes for the Millers.

"I've never seen anything like that before and I don't want to see anything like it again as a manager," said a relieved Moore.

"We showed a bit of character but you can't defend the way we defended today, it was unacceptable."

Turning to his 23-year-old striker, who has netted 30 goals in 46 league appearances, Moore continued: "Alf was magnificent today. That's the best I have seen him in an all-round game. He has worked, he has harried and put the ball in the back of the net which he's good at."

On a more salutary note, he added: "Alfie has it in his mind that you don't have to work too hard as a striker. But I remember a certain guy called Ian Rush who used to run all over the place and score so many goals. Wayne Rooney runs all over the place and got 40-odd goals doing it last season. Alf has run all over the place today and got four goals doing it so he will never win that particular argument. If he works harder then he can go on.

"Speculation over his future will not affect him. He's a confident guy, it doesn't matter to him. He will always score goals because if he misses he will always have another go."

Moore is also relaxed over the transfer talk. "We have got a chairman who does not need the money so I am not worried. He's contracted here and hopefully he can get us out of this division and that's what we want. Unless it's silly money there is no way he is going.

"We have not had one offer which I find astounding really and I hope it stays like that. There is a shortage of quality strikers and he is a quality striker, there is no doubt about that."

Moore admitted that he is unlikely to secure either Rory Fallon from Plymouth or his son, Ian Thomas-Moore, who has finally been offered a new deal by Tranmere Rovers, but is hoping for better news on current Millers strikers, broken metatarsal duo Ryan Taylor and Tom Pope, who are due for X-rays on Thursday and could be back in contention within a fortnight.

"We need somebody in now. You can't find strikers, it's so difficult. We keep knocking on doors but they keep getting slammed in our face," added Moore, who will hope that young Leeds loan striker Elliott can recover from a thigh injury which saw him limp away from the ground.

Elliott, who linked well with Le Fondre before hobbling off, had been ruled out of contention on Thursday but Moore said: "Tom's a young kid with lots to learn. He has pace and is 6ft but I would like to see him take one or two more shots – he needs that hunger to score.

"On Thursday he wasn't playing so I had a little word in his ear and said 'look, come and play three-quarter pace for 60 minutes because what you do in that time might be enough to win the game'. He came in Friday and trained and got through today. He's learning that if you want to be injury-free when you play you'll never play. Everybody carries a knock. If you don't want to play you'll not clock up many miles in this game."

Rotherham United: Warrington, Holden, Geohaghon, Cresswell, Newey; Law, Taylor, Harrison, Ellison (Warne 76); Elliott (Marshall 72), Le Fondre. Unused substitutes: Bradley, Ashworth, Darley, Annerson, Green.

Cheltenham Town: Brown, Bird, Lowe, Elliott, Andrew; Low (Melligan 77), Pook, Artus; Smikle; Thomas (Shroot 77), Goulding (Jeffers 34). Unused substitutes: Lloyd-Weston, Gallinagh, Watkins, Haynes.

Referee: P Tierney (Lancs).

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Adam Le Fondre

On a mission to atone for last season's play-off final disappointment, Le Fondre scored the fourth hat-trick of his career but also impressed with his willingness to seek possession in midfield and also with his partnership alongside young Tom Elliott.

Villain: Exodus Geohaghon

The 6ft 5in central defender was easily outjumped for Cheltenham's fourth after setting up their third with a weak pass intended for Holden which was intercepted by Thomas, who sent through Jeffers to score.

Key moment

61st minute: Goalkeeper Andy Warrington atones for a couple of first-half mistakes with a fine penalty save.

Ref watch

Paul Tierney: Sound display and was right to award the Millers' penalty, even though Town chief Mark Yates was fuming.

Verdict

The Millers should have been down and out at 3-1 but they were fortunate to find that Cheltenham's defence was in greater disarray than their own.

Next game

Hereford United v Rotherham United, League Two, Saturday, 3.0pm.

Quote of the day

We can't perform like that against better sides because we won't come back. We just hope this was a little blip. It happens at this level – that's why a lot of them play at this level.

– Millers chief Ronnie Moore.

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