Rotherham United 3 Sheffield United 1: Far from a royal occasion as Millers take bow

Daniel Nardiello puts the ball past Mark Howard from the penalty spot
Daniel Nardiello puts the ball past Mark Howard from the penalty spot
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Sheffield United’s new backer Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was given an instant jolt after pledging to take the Blades back to the Premier League within five years.

Watching his first Blades game as the club’s new joint-owner, he saw a second-half collapse which had him swiftly vacating his seat at the final whistle in the New York Stadium.

Second-half goals from Kieran Agard, substitute Daniel Nardiello – from the penalty spot – and Robert Milsom transformed the game, which had seen the Blades take a first-half lead through the impressive Jose Baxter.

Defeat leaves the Blades with just a single win from their opening six League One games while Rotherham are in the top six and unbeaten in the League.

On the evidence of their second-half performance, the Blades certainly did not look like promotion material and the Premier League seems a distant dream.

Afterwards, Weir strongly criticised his players for their capitulation after half-time and, despite money being available when the loan transfer window opens tomorrow, the Blades manager is refusing to look beyond his own group of players. For now.

“To be comfortable in the first half then go to the other extreme in the second is obviously very disappointing,” he said.

“The manner of the goals is hard to legislate for. We contributed to our own defeat.

“We were on top in the first 45 minutes, but the game doesn’t last 45 minutes, it lasts 90 minutes.

“It was the reaction to the disappointment of their first goal which was the worst thing about the game. We have got to be better and stronger than that.”

Both sides were depleted due to international call-ups, meaning Claude Davis played for Rotherham, who were missing Kari Arnason and Michael O’Connor.

United gave starts to new signings Baxter and Florent Cuvelier, with Harry Bunn – the young striker on loan from Manchester City – named as a substitute.

The Blades almost provided a stunning start for the Prince. Belgium midfielder Cuvelier was hacked down after some patient football from the visitors, and right-back Tony McMahon hammered the resulting third-minute free-kick against the underside of the bar, the ball bouncing away to safety.

At the other end, Richard Brindley beat goalkeeper Mark Howard to the ball, only to see his chip 
towards an unguarded goal headed behind for a corner by Harry Maguire.

It was a frenetic opening in front of a packed New York Stadium and the Millers should have taken the lead on 12 minutes.

Lee Frecklington picked up the ball in midfield and, as the Blades steadied themselves for a pass, the midfielder simply waltzed through.

In the clear with just Howard to beat, Frecklington seemed to dither before Conor Coady tracked back and it resulted in him scuffing his shot into the arms of a grateful Howard.

Former Peterborough midfielder Frecklington was causing the visitors problems whenever he ventured forward and, on the half-hour mark, his right-wing cross picked out the onrushing Alex Revell, but the striker headed over from 12 yards out.

Blades made the most of these reprieves and took the lead on 37 minutes.

McMahon’s throw found its way to Baxter and the former Everton youngster pounced to beat goalkeeper Scott Shearer from a tight angle.

‘Jose, Jose, Jose’ hollered the travelling Blades fans, and Prince Abdullah must have been impressed with the ferocity and tempo of this League One affair.

While it may have lacked the finesse of the Tottenham Hotspur team of yesteryear, his favourite side of the Eighties featuring 
Ardilles and Hoddle, or the 2008 Champions League-winning team of Manchester United whom the Saudi Arabian prince hosted in his own country, there was no doubt Weir’s team looked anything but League One strugglers in the first half.

Chris Porter was the focal point of United’s attack, but behind him Baxter, Cuvelier and Ryan Flynn were scampering around.

“We’re richer than you, we’re Sheffield United,” teased the Blades’ support, and Prince Abdullah will take on hero status in S2 if he can match the investment put into Rotherham by their chairman Tony Stewart, who has ploughed in £30m in the last five years.

It needed a half-time rethink from Millers manager Steve Evans to turn the game on its head. Off came hobbling captain Craig Morgan with an ankle injury, on went striker Nardiello as the hosts switched to an aggressive 4-4-2 and pushed further up the pitch to nullify the Blades’ quick passing game.

It left Evans apologising to his players for a tactical error which he admits could have cost Rotherham the game on another occasion.

“The difference between the two halves was I got it wrong in the first half,” admitted Evans.

“I apologised to the group and in the second half I got it right, but I should be getting it right from 3pm. You have to earn the right to play, to get players on the ball.”

Rotherham should have equalised immediately after the restart. Ben Pringle’s sublime pass fell into the path of Revell, who had ghosted into the area, but the striker failed to connect properly and the chance vanished.

But the Millers were level on 52 minutes when Kieran Agard hammered a 25-yard effort which rocketed beyond Shearer, the 
No 2 goalkeeper playing as George Long was away with England 
Under-21s.

Rob Milsom had the ball in Howard’s goal eight minutes later, but had been flagged offside, as both sides committed players in their search for a winner.

Weir sent on strike duo Lyle Taylor and Bunn with 20 minutes remaining, but it was the Millers who went ahead almost immediately.

Nardiello went down after colliding with McMahon, and the striker picked himself up to hammer home the spot-kick.

“Are you Wednesday in disguise?” challenged the Millers fans, who had already seen off the Blades’ neighbours in the League Cup earlier this season.

The stadium erupted once again when Milsom’s low shot crept inside Howard’s left-hand post on 75 minutes. Three goals in 24 minutes had turned the game on its head.