By Kathryn Batte
Three Points Never Seemed So Good: Irvine the star at Rotherham as City Look to Extend Unbeaten Away Run at Strugglers Stoke
Things change quickly in football. Despite the physical demands, that games come thick and fast in the Championship means players have the opportunity to put right a bad performance or result. That’s exactly what the Tigers did on Tuesday night, securing their first three points of the season with a 3-2 win at Rotherham.
Nigel Adkins’ team didn’t get off to the start they wanted, however, and it was once again their defensive frailties which handed the home side the lead. Failing to deal with a simple set piece into the box, City were 1-0 down after 16 minutes when Richard Wood rose highest to head past Marshall. The score-line was harsh on Adkins’ men who had played some good football prior to conceding. Markus Henriksen’s 30-yard strike had produced a good save from goalkeeper Marek Rodák and Reece Burke fired over after Dan Batty’s shot was well blocked.
The Tigers pulled themselves deservedly level when Evandro played a delightful ball over the Rotherham defence for Jackson Irvine to finish well at a tight angle. It was down the left-hand side where City looked most dangerous in the first half and they managed to take advantage just before the break. Frazier Campbell met Eric Lichaj’s cross to deftly place the ball into the far corner of the net to put the Tigers 2-1 ahead.
After throwing leads away in the first two games of the season, it was important for City to make sure they didn’t concede early in the second half. It got even better for the Tigers when Irvine got his second following a neat counter attack. Campbell did well to hold off his man before feeding Bowen who played in the Australian to make it 3-1. Bowen continued to cause the home side problems and had a good chance to make it 4-1 shortly after but Rodák produced a fine double save to keep out the winger and then Will Keane at the rebound.
Old demons returned with 15 minutes to go as Rotherham made it 3-2 to ensure a nervy finish for Adkins’ team. Failing to stop a cross into the box, Jordy de Wijs was beaten to the first header and Jamie Procter got in-between Burke and Todd Kane to win the second and put his side back in it. City looked vulnerable as the home side piled forward, but the 1225 away fans stepped up the noise with the Tigers manager giving them every encouragement. After Semi Ajayi missed a great opportunity to level the scores deep into stoppage time, City just about crawled over the line to secure their first victory of the season.
The reaction when the players went over to greet their supporters at the full-time whistle was much different to the reception they received following Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Blackburn Rovers. Whilst being far from the perfect performance, with obvious defensive issues very much still a concern, Nigel Adkins’ side showed they had a bit of fight in them and a willingness to work for each other to get a result. They were helped by Rotherham’s missed chances and as Jackson Irvine said in his post-match interview, this was a game they expected and ought to win.
One area City have to improve in is defending set pieces and balls into the box. Tomorrow they travel to a Stoke side who are yet to win this season and suffered a 3-0 defeat at home to newly promoted Wigan on Wednesday. However, memories of Peter Crouch scoring with almost his first touch at the Britannia Stadium two years ago risk being repeated if the Tigers fail to tackle their defensive weaknesses. The Potters were tipped by many to be title contenders this season but have struggled to adapt to life in the Championship after 11 years. This is arguably a great chance for Adkins’ side to extend their unbeaten away run but the pressure is on Gary Rowett who will be desperate to end their miserable start to the campaign.