CUP football will get in the way of Rotherham United trying to right a few wrongs after they failed to make it six successive home league wins for the first time in 15 years – a promotion campaign.
Changes are certain for Saturday’s FA Cup trip to Crewe followed by a midweek Checkatrade Trophy tie at Bradford City with established players having to wait a fortnight for the lunchtime League One derby at Doncaster Rovers.
It is a frustrating timetable, concedes right-back Shaun Cummings, who shouldered his fair share of the blame for two of Gillingham’s goals from set pieces.
Cummings, signed as a free agent after helping Millwall to the Championship and having being part of the Reading side that went into the Premier League, refutes suggestions that the Millers sub-consciously took things easy against the next-to-bottom visitors.
The Jamaica international, who let Josh Parker escape to head home both the third-minute opener and 87th-minute third Gills goal from Billy Bingham’s corners, stressed: “In terms of the FA Cup being at the wrong time, potentially it is, yeah, because you want to get back into the league and rectify this blip of form that we suffered.
“It would have been nice to have a League One game next week to put things right.
“Did we switch off? No, we don’t ever go into the game thinking it is going to be easy because games like these are probably the most difficult because the teams at the bottom don’t want to be there, obviously. We just had a bad day and have to move forward from it quickly.”
A lengthy inquest followed the defeat and the defender added: “We will have another meeting about it on Monday when we will also look at our positive play because it wasn’t all bad. We will move forward and learn.”
The best of those bright moments came when Kieffer Moore drove home his 12th goal of the season after latching on to a 57th-minute through ball from Darren Potter, Rotherham’s leading light after returning in front of the defence following three games out with ankle trouble.
Moore’s strike made it 2-1 after Tom Eaves’s diving 10-yard header had made it 2-0 soon after the break against a club for whom he failed to find the net in eight appearances on loan from Bolton in 2013.
Fellow towering striker Moore’s goal-scoring spree, however, has already alerted Mick McCarthy, his manager at parent club Ipswich Town, who said in midweek that he expects to recall him from his loan spell in January.
Should that happen, then finding a replacement will be Rotherham manager Paul Warne’s over-riding priority at a time in the season when clubs are desperate to hold on to any strikers showing a semblance of form.
Sheffield Wednesday could also do worse than bring back Sean Clare from the Gills, caretaker-manager Steve Lovell positively purring about the youngster’s intelligent adaptability to switch from wide midfield to right-back, having first spotted his talent when he was in charge of him and Charlton’s youngsters.
Clare’s opposite number, Cummings, still believes the Millers have what it takes to make a quick return to the Championship despite them failing to build on Moore’s strike.
That inability to do so was not helped by full-back Joe Mattock’s 85th-minute dismissal for a scything challenge followed by an angry reaction to referee Carl Boyeson’s initial yellow card.
Cummings continued: “I am not sure if we are exceeding expectation at the moment, but everyone wants to do well and what is important is how you move forward from this defeat.
“You can’t dwell on it and let it drag you back otherwise you would never move forward. I am enjoying my time here, playing a good few games. The manager, staff and players are all good people and that is the environment you need. I enjoyed that same environment before when I got promotion with other teams in my career.”
Cummings was not the only culprit for the early opener that gave the Gills plenty to hang on to. Rotherham’s lack of communication throughout was never more highlighted than when goalkeeper Marek Rodak and Michael Ihiekwe got in a tangle for a cross from the right, forcing the goalkeeper to punch away for a corner.
Though Cummings let his man escape, Rodak then missed connecting with Bingham’s deep delivery and Parker headed home.
Ihiekwe atoned somewhat with a great sliding challenge to deny Eaves, but there was little threat at the other end apart from a stinging drive from Joe Newell, a 20-yarder from Cummings and a header over the bar from Moore.
Eaves met Jake Hessenthaller’s cross to score with a diving header from 10 yards to make it 2-0 in the 48th minute and it was not until Jon Taylor came on that the hosts threatened before Moore held off Gabriel Zakuani to fire the ball under Tomas Holy to make it 2-1 in the 58th minute.
There was plenty of time for another, but it was the visitors who scored with a carbon copy of their first goal after Mattock’s moment of madness.
Rotherham United: Rodak, Cummings, Ihiekwe, Wood, Mattock; Potter, Newell; Forde (Taylor 54), Towell (Ball 54), Williams (Yates 89); Moore. Unused substitutes: O’Donnell, Emmanuel, Ajayi, Clarke-Harris.
Gillingham: Holy, Garmston (Ogilvie 46), Zakuani (O’Neill 69), Ehmer; Martin, Clare, Hessenthaler, Bingham, Parker; List (Wagstaff 58), Eaves. Unused substitutes: Nelson, Wilkinson, Cundle, Byrne.
Referee: C Boyeson (East Yorks).