An Alternative View: Rotherham United 2-1 Imps

Credit Graham Burrell

Thanks to postponements, I find myself away from the county on an evening when I would have been travelling the short distance to Rotherham for the fixture. Thanks for that, fixture Gods. In my absence, Richard Godson has penned his match report, to ensure there’s something for you to read this morning.

First the disclaimer; I wasn’t at the New York Stadium and without any iFollow, my impression of the game has necessarily come solely from the admirable commentary of Radio Lincolnshire’s Rob Makepeace and expert summarising of former Imps defender Mark Hone, writes Rochard Godson.

Next the good news; as most of you will have learned during the course of the afternoon, Brook Norton Cuffy’s red card, awarded for an alleged head butt was rescinded on appeal, leaving the young Arsenal loanee available for selection for the trip to league leaders Rotherham.

Talking of selection, Michael Appleton announced four changes to the side that came away from Plough Lane Wimbledon with three precious points on Saturday.

With Wright in goal, and Poole not available through suspension, the back three consisted of Walsh, Eyoma and Jackson.

Across the middle Scully and Bishop returned to the starting line up alongside the in-form Fiorini with Maguire and Whittaker on the bench, along with Sanders, Cullen, Adelakun, House and Sørensen. Norton-Cuffy and Brammall were City’s two wing backs.

Credit Graham Burrell

Up front the now familiar pairing of Hopper and Marquis, both looking to convert opportunities into goals.

Rotherham’s selection comprised ex Imp Josh Vickers in goal, behind a back three of Ihieckwe, Wood and Mattock, with Barlaser forming the link with a midfield line up of Ogbene, Rathbone, Wiles and Miller behind a strike pairing of Smith and Kayode. By my estimation that’s six changes from the side that set out for Saturday’s goalless draw at Shrewsbury.

An above average crowd of 9,575 included a healthy 1,209 travelling supporters making the 45 mile trip to South Yorkshire.

Rotherham got the game underway with Ogbene forcing an early corner off Bramall. With another conceded direct from the first, the Imps were under pressure from the outset. A counter attack from the Imps, featuring Fiorini also came to nothing as the ball ran out of play for a goal kick.

The first proper chance came in the fifth minute as Norton-Cuffy found himself out of position following a break forward. Wright turned the shot from Wiles away for a Rotherham corner. Rotherham continued to exert pressure forcing a clearance from Eyoma. Soon enough the home side’s pressure paid off as a cross found Ben Wiles who evaded Joe Walsh to drive home off the post for the opener after 11 minutes.

Credit Graham Burrell

Two minutes later it was two, this time Fiorini switching off, allowing Wiles to set up Ogbene who doubled his side’s tally for the evening. At this stage the City defence simply couldn’t cope with the leaders’ pace and energy.

From the restart, Marquis was pulled back when through on goal and the referee seemingly changed his mind with the whistle in his mouth and allowed play to continue. A break by Fiorini found Hopper whose shot was high.

Twenty minutes gone and Kayode clattered Imps’ keeper Wright causing a real headache in the visitors’ dugout given the lack of a replacement goalie on the bench. Happily Wright was back on his feet after a period of treatment.

Marquis was seemingly a target man in the wrong sense, finding himself on the receiving end of several robust challenges as the hosts bullied their shell shocked visitors out of their rhythm. No sign yet of the side that went toe to toe with Sunderland and outplayed Sheffield Wednesday. On the half hour a failure to close off the Millers’ midfield nearly lead to a third but Mattock’s shot was saved by Wright.

Credit Graham Burrell

A free kick from Scully found Jackson but his cross was easily intercepted by Vickers. City attacks were few and far between as Rotherham continued to dominate. Bramall prevented a corner but his clearance was returned with interest forcing Bishop to concede Rotherham’s fourth of the night seconds later. Continued pressure necessitated some stout defending at the end of which Fiorini smashed an attempted clearance straight into the face of Barlaser, resulting in treatment from the Rotherham physio.

As the interval approached, Rotherham continued to attack forcing a fluffed clearance attempt from Bramall which, fortuitously, fell straight into the path of Wright. More slick play from the hosts presented Smith with an opportunity which he failed to land. The sessions of treatment afforded to Wright and Barlaser contributed to five minutes of time being added at the end of the first half.

A second late challenge by Rathbone on Bishop earned the Miller’s player a booking and the Imps a free kick. Radio Lincolnshire Summariser Mark Hone complained that he should have been booked for the earlier offence but as it was he remained on the pitch. Bramall’s dead ball shot beat the wall but an offside flag brought the move to an end.

Credit Graham Burrell

As the players left the field for their half time team talk one couldn’t help agreeing with the commentary team’s assessment that it wasn’t so much that Lincoln were bad but Rotherham were very, very good and could perhaps have been three up.