|First half, and it seemed like we were on for business as usual.
Expectancy was high, and with talk even getting to the stage where
automatic promotion was being openly discussed without huge amounts of
"if", it was clear that the three thousand crowd was looking forward to
another Dale win.
But with Tuesday's star man Will Buckley absent from
the matchday squad, there was a recall for Adam Rundle, fresh from
paternal duties, and other than that, it was the same as Tuesday with
Mark Jones retained in midfield alongside Keltie.
There was very little in the first half to suggest that we'd be
having any sort of trouble. We weren't exactly firing on all cylinders
but you'd have to be a right miserable sod to say that we were playing
badly, and there was always the suspicion of chances. I say suspicion
because we seemed to get a lot of the ball in good areas, and things
which looked like they might develop into something more than what it
We had quite a lengthy spell where we were up against ten men. Annual
wind up and relegation fodder Drewe Broughton was forced off the field
after receiving a cut after a foul he inflicted on Rory McArdle. Blood
was pouring from his head at some rate, and even an initial stitch up by
the physio and a change of shirt didn't do him any favours.
In reality, Broughton should have been red carded early on. Not for
his usual elbows antics that thankfully he didn't bring with him, but
for Bjorn Borg style sweatbands on his wrists. He even attempted to come
back on with a matching Steve Foster style headband. All that was
missing was his John Barnes shorts and he'd have become a Panini legend.
Anyway, after the best efforts of the physio and medical team,
Broughton was unable to return to the pitch, forcing an early sub for
the opposition as Dale had failed to take advantage of their numerical
The rest of the half continued to open up like Broughton's gash, but
you could almost sense a reluctance on both sides' parts to over commit
to the attack and when the whistle went for half time, both sides left
the field fairly satisfied with their work so far.
The second half kicked off and within earshot of where I was stood, I
heard one supporter recount his summary of the game so far. No sooner
had the words "..... and they don't look like scoring" come out
of his mouth, then former Dale loanee Reuben Reid with back to goal and
Wiseman tooked up behind, took advantage of an attempted challenge by
Stanton, and he turned and fired home to give Rotherham the lead.
That lead worked perfectly for Rotherham's game plan. As a well
organised and hard working side, it allowed them to dictate the play from that point on,
and they could have added to their lead on a couple of occasions,
including one glaring opportunity from Burchill and a great save from
Fielding at the feet of Reuben Reid.
But the a second goal did come, and it was a goal which earned a
decent amount of applause from the Dale supporters, such was the quality
of it. Fresh from a Dale attack, Rotherham broke quickly and their right
winger produced a finish very similar to the goal we conceded to
Darlington in the Play Offs last season. You couldn't say it wasn't
deserved at that point.
But seconds after the same informed supporter who had
previouslydeclared Rotherham as unthreatening, remarked upon Nicky
Adams' inability to beat a man and get a decent ball over, he did just
With a great piece of football from the former Bury man, he went past
their right after a couple of shimmies and produced an inch perfect
cross to the centre of the six yard line where Alfie headed it home to
come up with his fifteenth League goal of the season, putting him third
in the top scorers list for League Two. There wasn't even time for the
butterfly thing as the focus was on getting the ball out of the to
launch the come back.
At this point, you'd have put money on Dale grabbing an equaliser.
Indeed, if I'm being honest, I'd even started looking beyond the
equaliser and started wondering whether all three points might be on the
cards. The goal certainly gave us a lift and we took the game to the
opposition from that point on. It might not have been quite alamo stuff
but all of a sudden, we were playing with an added purpose.
The comeback was thwarted, when an unnecessary challenge just on the
edge of the penalty box saw the Millers awarded a spot kick. There could
have been no doubt about the decision but what followed will go down as
one of the most bizarre moments ever seen at Spotland.
Taking inspiration from Bruce Grobbwhatsisface back in the European
Cup final (that's the Champions League kids when it was just for
Champions), Fielding took it to a completely different level. As Reid
stood ready to take his spot kick, Fielding started waving at him like
he was some sort of mentalist, whilst pointing to Fielding's right. It
was almost a taunting of Reid, daring him to put it where he was told
It worked. Reid blasted, and it cannoned into orbit off the crossbar.
Reid raced in and headed in the rebound but in a Paul Simpson stylee,
the goal was rightfully ruled out as no one else had touched the ball.
Some criticised Reid for going in for it, but instinct would have took
over. As it was, the goal may well have been chalked out anyway for a
push by Reid on Fielding as he raced in for the header.
That save left us around ten minutes to chase the game, and with Rory
McArdle adding to the forward line as a makeshift striker, we couldn't
have been accused of not going for it, but a resolute Rotherham defence
and a keeper happy to eat up as many of the remaining seconds as he
could ensured that we were to be condemned to our second home defeat in
The post-match feeling seemed to surround how the side could play so
well against Bradford on Tuesday, yet "not show" against Rotherham just
four days later. Tiredness has been cited as an issue by Hilly and
there's no doubting that the last two games will have taken their toll,
both physically and mentally.
But with practically every other result going our way, we maintained
our position in an automatic promotion position, and I think its
important that we look upon that as being fortune smiling upon us,
rather trying to work out what the table could have looked like had we
got the result at Spotland that we'd been hoping for.