Big-match verdict, Rotherham v Portsmouth: Joe Mattock back on track as Millers eye play-offs

Late joy: Rotherham's Joe Mattock celebrates after scoring the last-minute winner.Late joy: Rotherham's Joe Mattock celebrates after scoring the last-minute winner.
Late joy: Rotherham's Joe Mattock celebrates after scoring the last-minute winner.
JOE MATTOCK clearly remembers all his goals '“ because he does not score many.

His first for 27 months, however, was far more important than the previous one he had got in a 2-1 defeat at Brentford.

Mattock raced in at the far post and rose above Jamal Lowe to power home a header in stoppage-time to take the Millers above visitors Pompey and within sight of the play-off spots that they will move into if they can win at home to Bradford City tomorrow.

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After his sixth league goal in 254 appearances, the one-time Portsmouth loanee said: “I was just made up that a striker hung it up to the back post because usually it is the other way around with the strikers trying to get a goal for themselves.

“I made a late charge and luckily enough I made it mine and got the winning goal.”

The striker who ‘hung it up’ was Michael Smith, who had been on loan with the visitors last season, and who had come on, ironically, to give the Millers a greater aerial threat at 6ft 4ins.

The striker, newly arrived from Bury, had been teed up by fellow substitute Joe Newell after the Millers had failed to convert numerous opportunities set up by winger Anthony Forde.

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The winner was reward for a swarming second-half display from the hosts, who stretched their unbeaten run to eight games and made it an unhappy first return for Pompey manager Kenny Jackett to the club he quit after 39 days in charge and five games without a win.

Left-back Mattock continued: “Apart from the goal, the team effort was unbelievable. The lads were great. I really enjoyed playing as it was a great atmosphere from both sets of fans. I have been at Portsmouth before and it’s a good club and they are a good side.

“They sat in and made it hard and it was tough, but eventually we broke them down. I think our belief was what made it in the end. We came in at half-time and said we needed to up it 10 or 15 per cent and we did.

“We came out and had them pinned in, though they had a few chances, but we had most of the ball. It says a lot about our character, which has improved since the start of the season.

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“The gaffer (Paul Warne) goes on about it a lot and it is something he drills into us. It plays a big part in football these days. We are really starting to believe we can be in the play-offs or go even a bit further.

“We believe we are good enough to be in the top six and I think we have got to set high targets because if you don’t you won’t strive to achieve them.

“We seem to play so well in front of our home fans and they play a massive part. They can help make us unstoppable at times.”

Looking at tomorrow’s Yorkshire derby, the 27-year-old continued: “It is going to be tough. We need to go home, relax and recover and look after ourselves because games are intense nowadays. Bradford are a different type of team.

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“They are not just going to sit there. They are going to come here and try to get the win so we have to make sure we are ready and have a game plan, which we will have. We have no doubt that our qualities will help us succeed in that game.”

Of his previous goal, he joked: “I do remember my last goal against Brentford. It was a 25-yarder and I was up for goal of the season, but I didn’t get it. I said before that I have had one goal each season since I started, but I didn’t get one last time so I am just pleased that I managed to get this. It was my one goal for the season so I am back on track.

“Why was I up there at that late stage? I just thought for one that I had a bit more energy in the tank and I thought that I was going to make sure I got to the back post, but that (energy) goes not just for me but the rest of the lads.

“There was a point where we lost it on the edge of their box and I could see all around the lads were tracking back and with Fordey winning it back way down the right it just typified what it meant to to everyone.

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“I think that it is one of our best performances and it comes down to the character. Everyone played a massive part so we just need to keep the run going.”

Rotherham United: Rodak, Emmanuel, Ajayi, Wood, Mattock; Forde (Taylor 82), Towell, Vaulks, Williams (Newell 65); Yates (Smith 65), Ball. Unused substitutes: Price, Clarke-Harris, Ihiekwe, Cummings.

Portsmouth: McGee, Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Deslandes (Ronan 66); Close, Donohue; Lowe, Naismith, Kennedy; Pitman (Hawkins 66). Unused substitutes: Bass, Chaplin, Bennett, May, Widdrington.

Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).