Rotherham United are architects of their own downfall

Hit: Rotherham's Freddie Ladapo celebrates after scoring the opener. Pictures: Dean AtkinsHit: Rotherham's Freddie Ladapo celebrates after scoring the opener. Pictures: Dean Atkins
Hit: Rotherham's Freddie Ladapo celebrates after scoring the opener. Pictures: Dean Atkins
Rotherham United deserve to be playing Championship football but will have to sharpen up at key moments to establish themselves there.

For the vast majority of their game at home to Norwich City, they were equals of a team recognisable from one playing Premier League football three months ago.

The Canaries had lots of chances, but so did the Millers. Norwich won 2-1.

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It was less that they were more ruthless in the moments that mattered, rather their hosts were more fallible.

Miss: Freddie Ladapo fails to score from the penalty spot.Miss: Freddie Ladapo fails to score from the penalty spot.
Miss: Freddie Ladapo fails to score from the penalty spot.

With goalkeeper Jamal Blackman outstanding, Rotherham could have won had they looked after their game.

Assistant manager Richie Barker picked out four key moments – a penalty Freddie Ladapo failed to convert, Michael Ihiekwe’s own goal, Angus MacDonald’s red card and a penalty conceded in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Dan Barlaser added wasteful finishing. Rotherham were architects of their own downfall.

“We’ve conceded five goals in five games, two own goals, two penalties and a mistake,” said Barker, speaking to the media whilst Paul Warne, like left-back Joe Mattock, isolated at home.

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MacDonald’s two-footed lunge at Oliver Skipp left his side 20 minutes to hang on but it looked like they would. They had the better chances at 10-v-11 but Clark Robertson pulled a great opportunity wide and Matt Crooks’s shot hit Tim Krul, rather than being saved. Then debutant Florian Jozefzoon fouled Emi Beundia in the penalty area.

“(The players are) devastated,” said Barker, called by Warne as he walked into the press conference. “They wanted to do it for the manager because they’re well aware of his Norwich connections. Nothing would have given us more pleasure than to turn the laptop round, put the projector on in the dressing room and for him to celebrate with them. They’re also devastated to put in so much effort and come away with nothing.”

Ladapo’s cool finish opened the scoring after three minutes but that deadliness deserted him midway through the first half when Adam Idah brought down Robertson.

Krul is formidable at penalties – famously brought on in the last minute to see Holland through to the 2014 World Cup semi-finals on spot kicks – but Ladapo made it easy. His shot was not forceful enough and Krul did not have to be at full stretch either.

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Wes Harding did brilliantly to go past Xavi Quintilla and deliver a ball Mickel Miller ought to have headed in but put over.

Rotherham had battered Millwall – again without reward – with crosses but with Chiedozie Ogbene injured and Jozefzoon loaned too late on Friday to be a realistic starter – they were at their most eye-catching through the middle.

On his second debut, now as a full-time Miller, Barlaser oozed class and canny passing, shuttling between outstanding holding midfielder Shaun MacDonald and the clever Matt Crooks.

“We created opportunities in loads of different ways: a couple of set-pieces, a couple of regains, a couple of counter-attacks,” said Barker. “Sometimes we’re given the wrong end of the stick in what we get labelled with. Norwich will say that threats were coming from all different angles.”

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The Canaries’ inability to score was also largely Rotherham’s fault, Blackman making a good save from Marco Stiepermann, coming off his line to deny Idah, and tipping over the winger’s fierce shot.

Warne settled for a quick half-time FaceTime with Barker because as many of us have learnt, you cannot put all your faith in a Zoom connection holding.

“We thought, what would happen if it froze halfway through?” said Barker. “He sent a video to each of the players in the morning.”

Both sides continued to push for goals and in the 68th minute, Norwich finally got one – or rather Rotherham got it for them, Ihiekwe putting Max Aarons’s difficult cross into his own net.

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If that was unfortunate, stupid was the only description of a player as good and experienced as Angus MacDonald’s tackle minutes later.

“It looked like two trains running towards each other,” said Barker, who had no complaints.

That should have been decisive, particularly with Teemu Pukki introduced from the bench, but whilst Blackman made an outstanding double save from Hugill and the Finn, the best chances fell to Rotherham until substitute Jozefzoon’s fateful foul.

“We have just competed with an ex-Premier-League team but come away with nothing,” said Barker. “I am hoping they will have taken confidence.”

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Championship debutant Barlaser insisted they already had it.

“We played Sheffield Wednesday and Hull (in last season’s cups) and went toe-to-toe with them,” he pointed out, before adding: “If we’d scored the penalty and our other chances, the game’s done.”

It was Rotherham’s most accurate moment of the day.

Rotherham United: Blackman; Harding, Ihiekwe, A MacDonald (Wood 73), Robertson; S MacDonald, Barlaser; Wiles, Crooks, Miller (Jozefzoon 67); Ladapo (Smith 77). Unused substitutes: Johansson, Hirst, Lindsay, Sadlier.

Norwich City: Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Gibson, Quintilla; Skipp (Vrancic 80), Rupp; Buendia (McLean 90+6), Stiepermann (Pukki 80), Idah; Hugill. Unused substitutes: Placheta, Martin, Tettey, McGovern.

Referee: D Webb (Co Durham).

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