Sunday, 18 November 2012

Nightmare at the New York

I had been looking forward to this game for a few weeks, mainly because it was the chance to see Rotherham United's new stadium.
It is an impressive place - just the sort of stadium I would love Cheltenham to have one day - and as it turned out the stadium was the highlight of the whole day, especially as I didn't see the Chuckle Brothers (unless they are called Steve Evans and Paul Raynor).
The pies were decent as well, and it was a surprise that the nice Mr Evans had left some for the rest of us.
That was about it, as the football from a Cheltenham point of view did not hit the heights - apart from the first 45 seconds.
That was when the lethal Keith Lowe was more surprised than anyone to find himself all alone in the Rotherham box with the ball from a Billy Jones corner at his feet.
So that was 1-0 with the Bilston Cafu's fourth goal of the season... but that was about as good as it got.
Within three minutes, he had been skinned twice by the teenage Villa loanee Courtney Cameron, and the second cross saw Scott Brown punch Alex Revell in the head rather than the ball and Daniel Nardiello had an open goal to head into.
For the next 25 minutes or so, we were over run. We never got to grips with Rotherham's midfield, especially Lee Frecklington and Ben Pringle, and they were cutting us open at will.
Darren Carter and Marlon Pack were constantly being caught ahead of the ball, and unable to get back and make a worthwile challenge, so when Rotherham broke, they often had 5 or 6 on 4 advantage on us as they ran at our unprotected back four.
The tackling in midfield was powder puff, our wide players were anonymous, and Chris Zebroski isolated, which meant we also had no escape outlet, and so the attacks were almost relentless.
It was no surprise when the second goal came. Alan Bennett made a decent enough header away under pressure, but the ball fell to Pringle, who was not closed down and came up with a crisp (!!) finish, although the shot did appear to go through Scott Brown's dive.
Our passing was ragged and we could not get enough decent possession to get a foothold in the game, and we gave a third goal away when Craig Morgan's hopeful pass was missed by Steve Elliott (just about his first mistake of the season, it has to be said...) and Nardiello kept his cool to finish.
I have to admit that at this point I was worried. Such was our lack of appetite for a battle in midfield, I could see the game becoming another Stevenage, or even a Crewe as we were not in the game at all.
They could have had more goals - our midfield malaise was summed up when Frecklington won the ball on the halfway line and ran 40 yards without a challenge, straight past Pack and Kaid Mohamed and shot from the edge of the box, shaving the outside of the post.
It was not good enough, and disappointingly out of character from what we had seen at places like Gillingham on our travels this season.
But out of the blue we got a goal, when Marlon and Jermaine McGlashan set up Zeb for a well-worked goal which was rather out of character for the previous half-hour.
That goal showed what we could have done with a little more application, and, to use the manager's words post-match, had we wanted to stand up and be counted.
Rotherham did not look the best side defensively and were coming off a 5-0 defeat but we never tested them for long periods and, to be honest, handed them their goals on a silver platter.
We were a bit more resolute after the break, and, at 3-2 were somehow still in the game with the chance of getting a point.
Rotherham did not have as many chances in the second half - Browny had one save to make from a deflected shot and Nardiello chipped over when he could have got his hat-trick, and to his credit Yatesy made two positive changes on the hour.
Jeff Goulding and Shaun Harrad came on, and I have no arguments with Mo coming off as it was not his happiest afternoon, but I did not agree with Russ Penn coming off.
I would have given Carter or Pack the hook, but Penn was sacrificed again, as he was after his man of the match outing against Burton last weekend, robbing us of any steel or energy in the middle of the park for the last half-hour.
We went to 4-4-2 as Zeb was pushed out wide, and I thought Goulding and Harrad did okay. Jeff had a header onto the roof of the net and Harrad was denied twice by some good defensive blocks. That was about as close as we got to an equaliser which - let's face it - would have been a bit of a travesty given our overall display.
It was interesting to see that once again Jeff and Shaun were the first two subs introduced, once again ahead of Darryl Duffy, which could be a telling insight into how Yatesy sees the pecking order of our forwards.
Zeb has now joined Shaun in five goals and is deservedly the first pick, with Harrad on five - but he has not scored since September 18. Jeff has one league goal and Darryl's goal this season was in the JPT and he has not scored in the League since March, at Morecambe.
With rumours that Yatesy is after another forward, they need to find their shooting boots, or one or two of them may be kicking their heels for a bit longer.
Sam Deering was the last change, and again I was disappointed that it was Jermaine, rather than one of the two central midfielders, hauled off.
He had just been stupidly booked for kicking the ball away, and had been well looked after for the afternoon but I would have liked him out there for those last few minutes as he could have produced something.
Sam hasn't yet hit the heights of his performances against us for Barnet, and he started well with a decent touch and cross which set up one of Shaun's chances - but then blotted his copybook at the end.
For some reason, he tried to take a quick free kick by our own corner flag and made a mess of it, gifting the fourth goal to Frecklington, and that was that.
Rotherham were a decent-looking side, but not unbeatable, and they cannot be helped by their manager's ridiculous antics on the line, playing to the crowd with overblown reactions to every decision which goes against his team - and what was he doing on the pitch after the fourth goal??
But enough about him. We could have got something out of the game with a bit more desire and application.
But we lost the game, and did not play well, but it is two defeats in 12 games, and we still stay in third place.
Hopefully, Yatesy will get the right reaction at Chesterfield in another tricky away game on Tuesday, and get us back on track. Let's hope this was just a blip.