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Club News

The Championship Years - Part Two

25 June 2015

By Les Payne...

This is the second instalment of our look back at the last time Rotherham United had been promoted into The Championship (it was still known as Division One then). 

As now, they did it with successive promotions and were the favourites to go straight back down.

The first eight games after promotion had seen Rotherham United unable to secure a win. 

They'd managed three draws whilst suffering five defeats and they were bottom of the table. 

They needed to start winning pretty soon.

Tuesday, September 25th - Rotherham United 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1 

The ninth game of Rotherham's return to the second tier of English football brought them a third local derby. This time it was the Owls, a club with a good record at Millmoor.

They hadn't had a great start themselves so Millers fans were hoping that their side's first win would come against the old foe from up the road.

When Martin McIntosh put Rotherham in front just before the hour mark from a set-piece, then those hopes rose.
 
However, Wednesday defender Ashley Westwood equalised 10 minutes later, also from a set-piece, and that's how it stayed and the first win still eluded Ronnie Moore and his men.

In front of 8,679, Wednesday had again avoided defeat on a trip to Millmoor - but how different it would be in the return the following February!
 
Rotherham's team that night was Pollitt; Bryan, Swailes, McIntosh, Hurst; Sedgwick, Watson, Talbot, Monkhouse; Lee, Robins. Subs: Beech, Daws.

Saturday, September 29th - Rotherham United 0 Wolves 3 

It's strange - if not downright unbelievable - that a 3-0 home defeat could be considered the game which offered more hope than any other to a side still seeking its first win of the season but that was the case here.

It ended with the Wolves man of the match being their goalkeeper Michael Oakes - rather unusual for a side that's won by such a margin.

Wolves were among the promotion favourites and were to be up in the top three all season. 

The Millers, already nine without a win, could hardly have had more daunting opposition as they attempted to stop that winless run moving into double figures. 

The men in old gold and black duly confirmed their strengths and underlined the fears of Millers followers as they swept into a two goal lead inside 23 minutes.

Midfielder Colin Cameron got the first and left winger Mark Kennedy, with a swing of his trusty left foot, doubled the lead in classy style.

There may have been a little drop off from the visitors but some Millers changes during the game proved significant and not only on this performance but subsequently.

One change was enforced just after Wolves' second goal, an injury to right back Marvin Bryan. Rob Scott moved to right back. The other saw Kevin Watson replaced in midfield during the second half by Nick Daws.

After both changes there were improvements in the performance. 

Rotherham were certainly the better side in the second half, Oakes made several fine saves and it was cruel indeed when, with a couple of minutes left, Alex Rae got the third for Wolves. 

Afterwards, whilst disappointed at a sixth defeat already, manager Ronnie Moore took great encouragement from what he'd from his team. It was not to prove misplaced judgment.

So, no win in the first 10 games. If you'd said back in August the Millers would do that, then they'd have been even bigger certs for instant relegation than they were back then.

Friday, October 5th - Grimsby Town 0 Rotherham United 2 

At last, that first win. And it meant that manager Ronnie Moore could finally shave off his beard.

He'd stopped shaving and said he wouldn't shave until the first win. 

It was typical Ronnie and caused plenty to chuckle and joke but, in a way, it took the spotlight off the players, perhaps helped take away any mounting pressure on them and Ronnie's thickening beard (and not everyone reckoned it suited him!) became the focus of attention.

Whatever it was, it worked because that precious first win was secured on a Friday night visit to Blundell Park.

Mark Robins produced a sharp finish to put the Millers one up after 26 minutes.

They played with great determination and Robins netted again midway through the second half to secure that first league win and at least take them off bottom spot.

Friday, October 12th - Rotherham United 2 Portsmouth 1 

Another Friday night appearance saw the Millers live on the doomed ITV Digital channel. 

How many hundreds, it may even have got to four figures, were tuned in we'll never know but the crowd of 6,346 were happy to be there as they saw a second straight win and the first at home.

It was very much a night when the mercurial Andy Monkhouse shone - and it sparked interest from the Pompey manager Harry Redknapp.

A stunning opener from the left winger after just four minutes caught Redknapp's eye initially and his overall display down the left side was enough for Redknapp to get his scouts making follow-up checking missions in case this was a player he might eventually pursue.

However, the gifted Monkhouse - then just approaching 21 - never did enough on a consistent basis for Redknapp to maintain that interest. 

Pompey did equalise just before the hour through Peter Crouch, subject of a nice bit of terrace humour heard from near the old Millmoor Press Box.

During a hold-up in play, and with Crouch standing close by the touch line, a wag shouted out to the lanky striker... 'Naawthen Crouch, does tha' sleep in a greenhouse."

It looked like ending in a draw until an unlikely match winner emerged from the bench.

Chris Beech, normally a left back, was sent on with 10 minutes to go for Monkhouse. He went on the left flank but with the intention of providing additional defensive cover down that side rather than attacking threat.

But with five minutes to go, Beech popped up at the far post to head home the winner to send Millmoor in raptures.

Tuesday, September 27th - Rotherham United 0 Coventry City 0 

Two wins in the trot had lifted everybody and given a real shot in the arm to the players. They needed it for this next game.

Coventry, just relegated from the Premier League after 34 years in the top flight, began as if the ball was theirs alone. Rotherham could barely get a kick in the first half.

The Sky Blues passed and passed and had the Millers chasing shadows but what the home side did was hang in there, defend with great resilience and get to half-time without conceding.

The second half was not as testing whilst still a challenge but it was a real gritty performance to earn a battling point. 

Saturday, October 20th - Stockport County 0 Rotherham United 1 

There comes a time when players who rarely score do get off the mark for the season. 

It happened here and proved to be decisive.

Stewart Talbot, hard working midfielder and oft-forgotten as the 'other' goalscorer to Alan Lee in the previous season's promotion clincher against Brentford, was the unlikely matchwinner here. 

He struck two minutes before half-time providing a vital lead against a struggling side who had replaced Rotherham in bottom spot. 

The Millers survived Stockport's major weapon, the long throws of big Mike Flynn, and and so made it four unbeaten.

As for Talbot, it was his only goal all season. But what a vital one it was to prove in the long run.

The three wins and a draw saw Rotherham move from bottom to 19th, three places above the relegation zone. 

Tuesday, October 23rd - Walsall 3 Rotherham United 2 

The four-match unbeaten run was ended. It looks close but it wasn't as two very late goals provided the false impression.

Walsall, who had future Miller Darren Byfield up front, caused problems from the start.

Pedro Matias scored after five minutes and again after 30 to be quickly followed by Darren Wrack.

Three down at half-time was a shock for the Millers followers. It didn't get any worse but it proved too late by the time it got better, Andy Monkhouse scoring in the 90th minute and Rob Scott netting the second one deep into stoppage time.

Saturday, October 27th - Rotherham United 3 Wimbledon 2 

This was the comeback of the season and how.

The Millers needed it too after a disastrous start as Wimbledon, with some real talents who had been top flight players or were yet to play there, roared away.

David Connolly's opener after eight minutes was followed within 60 seconds by Jobi McAnuff. Millmoor's first gate under 6,000 - a crowd of 5,882 - was stunned.

They could easily have succumbed but an early reply helped, Chris Swailes heading home after 18 minutes.

When Mark Robins fired home from the penalty spot five minutes before half-time, a first half comeback was complete.

Could they go on and go the whole hog? They could and it was another bit of set-piece mastery which settled it 14 minutes from time, Martin McIntosh scoring to take all three points and it had the smallest crowd so far sounding like the biggest!

For Robins, the goal took him to double figures in 18 league and cup appearances. 

After four appearances as a sub, this game was the first start for midfielder John Mullin, who had been a club record equalling £150,00 signing from Burnley a few weeks earlier.

Compare now the team at Game 16 with the one, above, which began this edition's feature, game 9.

Pollitt; Scott, Swailes, McIntosh, Hurst; Sedgwick, Mullin, Talbot, Monkhouse; Lee, Robins.

* Next time, as the improvement continues, there is one of the most destructive displays by a winger in modern times - and the most blatant handball which went unspotted and cost the Millers a point against the future champions.


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