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Northy: MOM
Northy: MOM

A Step In The Right Direction.

By: Ian Townsend
Date: 19/08/2009

AFTER Saturday’s debacle my heart was a bit heavier than normal as I made my way to the "Theatre of Fish" for Town’s second major home test in 4 days against a Rotherham United side tipped for promotion this time out.

A quick glance at the faces of my fellow die-hards showed that I was not alone. A lot of the pre match talk was about the importance of Newell’s team selection with fans mindful of the managers own admission that mistakes were made in this area on Saturday.

The team selection didn't do much to quell these feelings as Town announced a line up of:

Stockdale, Bennett, Atkinson, Widdowson
A midfield of Clarke, Leary, Sweeney and Hegarty
Up front Conlon and North the latter of whom benefited from a battling subs performance on Saturday
On the bench: Overton, Heywood, Linwood, Jones, Fuller, Proudlock and Boshell.

Rotherham were the first to show as, in the first minute a dangerous looking cross was whipped in which was dealt with well by Joe Widdowson at the far post. Town responded and a quick crisp 5 man passing move was only ended by the linesman’s flag in what was to prove the first of many such instances.

The opening exchanges were marked by Rotherham’s confident, skilful passing and movement and in answer Town’s massively increased commitment to the cause, best shown by North who ran 30 yards to put in a sliding tackle to the obvious delight of the Findus Lower Regulars.

Rotherham probed and prodded looking for an opening and a moment’s indecision between Forecast and Stockdale nearly proved dangerous as Stockdale cleared at the expense of a corner. It wasn't all one way traffic though and in Town’s best move of the half Clarke found some space. His deep cross fell to Hegarty with the "Ginger Ninja" slightly off balance only able to find Row S of the Osmond to the delight of the travelling Yorkshire men.

Town seemed reluctant to use the width of the pitch with play becoming somewhat congested down their left hand side.

The only other talking points really were the performance of the referee who made a couple of strange decisions particularly the giving of a free kick to the away side after a clash of heads where he originally waved play on and the increase in effort across the park by Town. The whole team were snappier into the tackle and there was considerably more composure about the back four. Danny North provided the performance of the half as he ran his socks off, putting considerable pressure on the Rotherham back line with some intelligent movement.

HALF TIME: Town 0 Millers 0

It was clear that Mike Newell’s half time talk had urged "more of the same" as Town started the second half by taking the game to Rotherham. Firstly Hegarty got into a good position and looked to be fouled as he crossed although the referee disagreed and nothing was given. Then, more good work by North saw a good cross come in which fell ideally for Conlon but he was unable to connect properly and a very good chance went begging.

The game changed on 57 minutes when, in quick succession firstly Town had the ball in the net when a weakfish shot from North found it’s way to Leary who hammered it into the net only to see the offside flag raised. From the restart Rotherham attacked down their left and as a cross came in the ball appeared to strike Stockdale’s hand to a huge roar from the away end for a penalty and the referee after a second or two’s deliberation duly obliged. So, for the third consecutive game Town conceded a penalty with the result being the same as the previous two with the spot kick being dispatched comfortably into the corner of Forecast’s net.

However far from dampening Town’s efforts the perceived injustice served only to galvanise the crowd and players as Town poured forward in search of an equaliser. North, who was giving the Rotherham right back a torrid time was fouled with a header from the resulting free kick just clearing the bar. An equaliser looked odds on and it duly arrived when the ball found it’s way to Sweeney on the edge of the box unmarked. His sweet low drive deceived the ancient looking Rotherham keeper as it found the bottom corner. The relief of the players and fans alike was obvious. Strangely Danny North seemed somewhat agitated and seemed to mouth some obscenities towards fans in the Pontoon.

Unfortunately as so often last season the team proved incapable of holding onto a lead. An extremely dodgy decision to award a free kick against Widdowson in the corner when he appeared to clearly win the ball saw the ball lofted to the far post where an unmarked Rotherham player rose to power a header into Town’s net.

Town tried to get back into it and the referee further incensed the home crowd when North was felled by the best forearm smash outside of WWF with the perpetrator going unpunished. The resulting free kick was lofted straight into the keepers hands.

In a move to freshen things up Proudlock was introduced at the expense of a tiring Danny North who left the field to a standing ovation for an all action performance. Late on Fuller replaced Leary but in truth an experienced Rotherham side were able to see the game out without too many more problems with Town being unable to capitalise on 4 minutes time added on.

FINAL SCORE: Town 1 Millers 2

In summary a much better performance by Town with the performances of the back 5, and Sweeney in particular giving cause for optimism. Town will not meet many sides as good as Rotherham in this league and the result was a little harsh given the battling display.

Town Man of The Match: Danny North by a country mile. His best performance since the heady days of the early part of 2008. A few more like last night and he will be able to consign last season to the dustbin of history

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