Rotherham 0 Newcastle 1 – Saturday 1 October 3pm
Saturday 2 October 1982; the last time we’d made our way down to Rotherham for a league encounter*.
Whilst that match, like this latest meeting, was a second tier affair, the recent signing of a certain Kevin Keegan meant that the BBC Match of the Day cameras were in attendance. Newcastle and Keegan in particular didn’t disappoint, with King Kev rattling in four goals in a 5-1 demolition. The footage of that match is readily available on a popular video sharing website if by some miracle you’ve never seen it.
One of our travelling number was in attendance that day and decided he couldn’t miss this one, so one day shy of 34 years since that famous (famous in Newcastle anyway) match, we once again returned to South Yorkshire – this time to The Millers new home, namely the New York Stadium.
Accompanying the returning crusader was his trusty Newcastle United Umbro scarf that he’d carried with him to Millmoor on that day. Incidentally, the area where the ground is located is apparently known historically as New York, hence the name.
I normally like a good few pre-match ales but decided we’d drive down on this occasion given it’s only a short haul. I do occasionally like to watch a match sober as well!
As you drive towards Rotherham the floodlights at Millmoor are clear to see (the old ground strangely still standing there vacant) and then the impressive New York Stadium comes into view. I say impressive, it’s very small, but is a smart design and in a decent location near the town centre.
First impressions were that it resembled Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, or whatever sponsor’s name that goes by these days. We’d arrived in plenty of time, parked up by the old ground and so had time to wander over the bridge into the centre. Well it would be rude not to have at least one pint!
We ended up in the Cutler’s Arms which refreshingly for a pub so close to the stadium didn’t have a ‘no away fans policy’. Home and away fans mixed without a hint of trouble. Just how it should be.
A quick mention about a nightclub we passed on the way to the ground. ‘Hedonism’ looked like the least hedonistic place on earth. Ironic perhaps??
Inside the stadium, the steeply banked seats resulted in a good unobstructed view all round, although it did also mean the concourse was small and jam packed at half time. Just as well I acquired my delicious chicken balti pie pre-match when it was quieter.
You may be wondering why all the waffle – well I had to pad out this ‘match report’ with something as there isn’t really much to say about the match. Whilst this may have been the league’s top scorers against the league’s leakiest defence, this never threatened to be a repeat of that 5-1 Keegan inspired match or indeed our recent 6-0 mauling of QPR.
We never really got going this time round and for large parts didn’t really play that well. That being said we still managed to create a few chances, the best of which saw Gouffran attempting to add to his tally of volleyed goals, seeing his effort cleared off the line after a decent run and cross from Anita. He saw his follow up blocked and Shelvey blazed the loose ball over the top.
The only goal of the game arrived shortly before half-time. Shelvey played in the lively Atsu down the right, he cut inside and hit a left foot curler into the far corner past the reach of Lee Camp. Cue bedlam in the away end.
At the other end Darlow tipped a long range effort over the top and saw another deflected shot clip the top of his bar. It became clear that the main weapon in Rotherham’s armoury was to launch throw-ins into the box from anywhere in our half. It’s a tactic that we’ve struggled with in the past, notably against Rory Delap’s missiles for Stoke, but they caused us few problems on this occasion, apart that is from in a frantic last five minutes of the 90. The balls into our box that weren’t headed clear were claimed with confidence by Darlow, who commanded his area very well.
Shooting towards the 2,587 Newcastle fans in a 11,653 crowd in the second half, Atsu almost doubled our lead in the 53rd minute. A great through ball by Diame was latched onto by the Ghanaian loanee, his low shot producing a great save by Camp low to his right. Diame himself had our next chance of any note, hitting his shot straight at the head of a Rotherham defender when it looked easier to score.
A curled effort from Shelvey was then comfortably turned behind for a corner and the impressive Ciaran Clark came close with a couple of half chances.
Returning to that frantic last five minutes of regulation time, Rotherham sensed they could get something out of the game and balls rained down on our box from every angle, Clark clearing off the line from a headed effort. The home side also came close when the ball thundered back off the post – it was only when watching the highlights later that I realised it was Gouffran who’d nearly scored in the wrong net!
The five minutes of added time was surprisingly incident free. With Rotherham looking like they’d run out of steam the heavens opened and their own Chelsea loanee, Isaiah Brown, surrendering possession several times.
All in all, this match won’t be remembered as fondly as the early 80s match but the outcome was the same; a very welcome three points and the Umbro scarf maintained its 100% Rotherham record.
The best word to describe this performance would probably be ‘efficient’, which is becoming synonymous with NUFC under Rafa. We did what we had to do as economically as possible. Another clean sheet and a banana slide (copyright Sir Bobby) avoided.
There was unsurprisingly non-stop singing from the away end and thankfully none of the “your support is f***ing sh*t” rubbish, from what seemed to be on the whole a more middle aged, better behaved and less radgy contingent; perhaps due to the relatively small allocation and loyalty points not dipping below the 50 mark.
Next up Brentford at St James Park in just under two weeks. Howay the lads!
* We did visit Millmoor in February 1993 for an FA Cup 4th Round match. Robert Lee scored our goal that day in a 1-1 draw; we went on to win the replay 2-0.
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Rotherham 0 Newcastle 1
Newcastle: Atsu 41
Possession was Rotherham 40 % Newcastle 60%
Total shots were Rotherham 10 Newcastle 20
Shots on target were Rotherham 1 Newcastle 6
Corners were Rotherham 14 Newcastle 10
Newcastle starting 11:
Darlow, Anita, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Atsu (Ritchie 67), Gouffran, Colback, Shelvey, Diame (Hanley 87), Gayle (Mitrovic 79)
Sels, Mbemba, Yedlin, Hayden
Referee: Roger East
Crowd: 11,653 (2,587 Newcastle)