NO COMEBACK this time.
Five days after recovering from 3-0 down to beat Solihull Moors with four late goals in the FA Cup, Rotherham United were the victims of a smash-and-grab by lowly Rochdale.
The Millers - who missed a chance to climb into third place in League One - were beaten by a piece of first-half magic despite dominating the lion’s share of possession and chances in front of a crowd of 8,313 at New York Stadium.
Aaron Morley provided that magic in the 42nd minute, curling in a fine right-footed effort from the edge of the penalty area past goalkeeper Daniel Iversen’s outstretched right hand after Luke Matheson had rolled the ball across the edge of the box and Callum Camps had cleverly dummied.
It was a rare moment of skill in an otherwise drab first half, one in which most of the action took place between the two penalty boxes, and although the second period was more watchable and impressive from Rotherham’s perspective, an equalising goal proved elusive as Rochdale recorded their fourth successive win at this ground.
On a lovely crisp winter’s afternoon, with the moon visible high above stands touched with late afternoon sunshine, Rotherham created the game’s first opportunity in the eighth minute.
Joe Mattock’s cross from the left was headed on to the post by Matt Crooks from close range, Ben Wiles smacking a fierce right-footed follow-up from ten yards straight at Robert Sanchez, the Rochdale goalkeeper.
Moments later, some inventiveness on the right from Chiedoze Ogbene led to a floated cross into the area for Freddie Ladapo, whose control let him down at the vital moment.
At the other end, Rochdale - backed by around 250 vociferous supporters beneath the bright red letters of the electronic scoreboard - threatened only in fits and starts, with Rotherham’s midfield and defence giving them little room in which to operate.
There was plenty of graft and endeavour from both teams but not too much to warm the cockles of the home crowd, who only sprang into life in the 26th minute to protest at a late flag from the assistant referee.
Wiles’ free-kick from the left found several Rotherham players in the clear as Rochdale sprang the offside trap, but it was several seconds before the flag was actually raised as Mattock tucked the ball past the exposed Sanchez.
Rochdale barely threatened Daniel Iversen’s goal, their efforts summed up when Rekeil Pyke played in Ian Henderson, whose weak effort from 10 yards brought cheers of derision from the home support.
Rotherham went straight up the other end and twice threatened through the busy Ogbene. First, his snaking run ended with a 15-yard shot at the goalkeeper, and then he teed up Carlton Morris from the right for a header at the back post which flew over the crossbar.
It was very much against the run of play that Rochdale took the lead, Morley’s fine shot coming as a bolt from the blue and sending the travelling fans into paroxysms of joy.
Rotherham had looked by far the likeliest to score until they conceded, with Ogbene and Olusunde looking dangerous in possession.
Michael Smith replaced Jamie Lindsay as Rotherham shook things up at half-time, and the opening exchanges of the second period saw the home side territorially dominant.
It was not until the 59th minute, however, that the next clear-cut chance presented itself, Ogbene feeding Crooks from the right-hand side only for his right-footed effort from about 12 yards to roll past Sanchez’s left-hand post.
Moments later, it was Ogbene himself who came close with a header from eight yards that was well gathered by Sanchez, who then dealt comfortably with a right-footed shot from Jake Hastie, who replaced Carlton Morris on the hour mark.
The pattern of the second half had thus been set, with Rotherham pressing almost constantly and Rochdale defending for dear life while looking for any scraps on the break.
Rotherham thought that they might have had a penalty in the 69th minute when Ogbene went to ground, Clark Robertson almost immediately drawing another save from Sanchez, who dived low to his right to collect a firm shot from the edge of the box.
Rochdale’s first chance of the half came in the 73rd minute, Matthew Done not too far away with a shot from distance past Iversen’s right-hand post.
It seemed to inspire the visitors into further attacking endeavour, Camps following up by firing over the Rotherham crossbar and then having a free-kicked tipped over by Iversen in the 84th minute.
Rotherham threw the kitchen sink at it in the closing stages but Rochdale held firm.
Rotherham United: Iversen; Mattock, Ikiekwe, Robertson, Olosunde (Vassell 73); Morris (Hastie 60), Lindsay (Smith 45), Wiles, Ogbene; Crooks; Ladope. Unused subs: Price, Thompson, Barlaser, Clarke.
Rochdale: Sanchez, Matheson, O’Connell, Norrington-Davies, Keohane, Ryan (Gillam 66), Morley, Pyke (Baah 76), Camps, Done, Henderson (Tavares 93). Unused subs: Lynch, Bradley, Hopper, Brierley.
Referee: C Sarginson