After the Lord Mayor’s Show ...
Last Saturday was the match Rotherham United dared not lose at home to survival rivals Millwall and, amid those shameful scenes from the away fans, they duly won.
Three days later, with the atmosphere at AESSEAL New York Stadium flatter and the need for victory perhaps felt less intensely, they handed the game to the visitors with poor defending.
The only signs of crowd unrest on this Championship occasion was the boos from the home followers which greeted the half-time whistle.
The truth is, Cardiff didn’t have to work hard for their win, capitalising on sloppy Millers play for all three goals, reeled off in quickfire fashion in 12 first-half minutes to end the contest not long after the half-hour mark.
Seven days on from the gifts given away at Watford, the Millers were at it again in the 24th minute, allowing centre-half Bruno Ecuele Manga a completely free header as he ran in to meet a corner.
Two minutes later they gave Federico Macheda time and space to produce a classy volley on the turn to remind everyone of his pedigree as a one-time Manchester United starlet.
In the 36th minute Conor McAleny latched on to the ball when it went uncleared again to direct the ball home from 15 yards.
The Bluebirds, with only two wins in their last 10 matches, two away league victories all season and two goals in their last five outings, could hardly believe their luck.
At least Millers old boy Alex Revell, given a warm reception before kick-off, didn’t score on his New York return, his effort in time added on at the end of the first half being ruled out for offside.
Rotherham had actually started the brighter of the two sides and thought they had made the breakthrough in the 10th minute when Matt Derbyshire took advantage of Ecuele Manga’s lack of control to prod home from close range. Offside, said referee James Adcock.
Five minutes later, Derbyshire directed his header wide from Ben Pringle’s corner on the right before Cardiff’s fun began.
In the second half Cardiff did what Russell Slade teams do: Two banks of four behind the ball, giving the opposition little room in which to play.
When Richie Smallwood slipped over and left the ball behind him in the away penalty area as he made menacing progress in the 58th minute, it summed up the 21st-placed Millers’ night.
Adam Collin denied McAleny and Revell in quick succession, but Rotherham pressed and, after Danny Ward and Adam Hammill had gone close, Ward headed home Hammill’s 80th-minute cross.
There was uproar three minutes later when Paul Green was about to tap in to an empty net only for Conor Sammon to be penalised for a foul on the keeper few in the ground could see. That would have made life interesting.
Happily, Millwall, in 22nd and the final relegation spot, lost at Middlesbrough so the six-point safety cushion remains, with another round of fixtures gone.
But 12 goals conceded in four matches is a cause for concern as the superior goal difference which was once heavily in Rotherham’s favour among the teams in the bottom half continues to be eroded.
*Rotherham United (4-4-2): Collin; Hunt, Broadfoot, Arnason, Fryers; Newton (Hammill H-T), Green, Smallwood, Pringle; Derbyshire (Sammon 59), Ward. Subs not used: Thompson, Frecklington, Milsom, Richardson, Clarke-Harris.
*Cardiff City (4-4-2): Marshall (Moore H-T); Connolly, Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Peltier; Kennedy, Gunnarsson, Ralls, McAleny; Revell (Jones 86), Macheda (Doyle 70). Subs not used: da Silva, Noone, O’Keefe, Harris