A look ahead to tonight's game
Less than a month after visiting Rotherham United’s New York Stadium for the first time, Bristol Rovers entertain the Millers on their own territory.
Rovers handed Evans’ team a comprehensive defeat in that game in South Yorkshire, as Claude Davis had a debut to forget, giving away the penalty which Lee Brown converted to put the Gas ahead, before being sent off just before the interval for a second bookable offence.
Ellis Harrison and Joe Anyinsah both scored to give Rovers an unassailable lead before David Noble gave the scoreline some respectability for the Millers.
That defeat was the second in a row by teams near the bottom of the league, as Barnet also took home all three points from a 2-0 win. The Millers certainly run hot and cold at home, with 10 victories and 7 defeats, but no draws.
On Saturday the Millers enthralled an 11,143 home crowd with a dominating performance over near neighbours Chesterfield and moved to within one point of the automatic promotion places.
Striker Daniel Nardiello was denied by both the post and an excellent save from the Spireites keeper Tommy Lee. Skipper Johnny Mullins put the hosts ahead on 57 minutes with a header from David Noble's corner. Late drama was averted as Armand Gnanduillet should have equalised with the final action of the match but he miscued his header.
Millers boss Steve Evans speaking after the game said, "The lads had great energy, passed the ball quickly and affectively, it was great to watch. We made a host of chances but it was great to see the only goal come from a set-play we have worked tirelessly on.
“The lads here are good players, no, they are very good players. The team spirit really is one of togetherness and we will need all of that in the weeks ahead, it really is team Rotherham from the Chairman down, Tony Stewart sets the standards and we all try and match them every day when we come to work.
"The only surprise on the day is that we only got the one goal, it really could and should have been a few more but winning the derby match was the most important thing on the day.
“We should have had a clear cut penalty when their player handled, Nardiello hit the post, we`ve had two or three cleared off the line but our players were exceptional today.
"Today`s performance, in spells, was special today and the quality of the football for League Two doesn't get seen in League Two. But, it`s not over one game, it`s over forty-six and recently we`ve let our Chairman down and we`ve let our fans down but today was important and we got the points.
"It was a great header from Johnny Mullins and I thought he was excellent today as was Claude Davis. But all over the field we were; from Kearns on the left with his magic, Frecklington never stopped, Nobel`s creativity, Arnason was immense and I thought my front two caused havoc.”
Last season Rovers did the double over the South Yorkshire team. On October 14th 2011 in a rare Friday night game, Rovers had their best ever result against the Millers.
After 10 minutes Scott McGleish opened the scoring and later doubled his tally with a penalty. Cian Bolger, Lee Brown and substitute Joe Anyinsah all added their names to the list of Rovers’ scorers. Jason Taylor and Danny Schofield, scored for the Yorkshire team in a game that the Gas dominated.
On 25th February Rovers held out in the game at the Don Valley Stadium until added time when Andy Dorman put the icing on the cake with a driven winner for the Gas.
Looking back at the history of games between the Pirates and the Millers, the first ever meeting was on 21st November 1953 at Millmoor, where a Barrie Meyer goal secured a 1-1 draw.
The return game at Eastville saw Paddy Hale score to give Rovers a 1-0 victory. What was remarkable about Rovers visits to Millmoor was their lack of success in the early years. It took 19 games before they secured maximum points!
During that spell there were 5 consecutive defeats followed by 6 consecutive draws. Here is the complete record;
Played Won Drew Lost For Against
Home 26 17 2 7 52 31
Away 29 5 12 12 28 48
TOTAL 55 22 14 19 80 79
Pretty even overall, but the home teams certainly dominate.
Rovers’ last visit to Rotherham, prior to last season was on 17 March 2001 in that fateful freefall to relegation. A 3-0 defeat added to Rovers’ woes. In their previous trip to the mining town, Rovers won a 3rd Round FA Cup tie 1-0 on 2nd January 1999.
The best victory Rovers experienced at Millmoor was on 10 September 1994 when they ran out 3-0 winners. Conversely their worst defeat was in only their second visit when they went down to a 6-2 hammering on 16 October 1954.
Less than a month after Rovers' victory last season the Millers boss Andy Scott was sacked after a defeat to Oxford left the Millers with all but a very slim chance of reaching the Play Offs. Steve Evans took on the job and despite winning five of their last nine games, Rotherham still finished 5 points outside the play offs.
Talking ahead of Tuesday evening’s game Evans noted that, “Statistics can often be misleading but one fact I know is that since the start of 2013 Bristol Rovers are the best team in League Two.
"That really does not surprise me; they have some top class players for our level and now have the enthusiasm of a new manager in John Ward.
“Rovers have a set system of play under John and it is proving to be very effective, the run of results they have had is staggering. Our task is very tough but we all know that.
"Back in the summer Rovers where third favourite's for the League Two title and they have added some real quality players since then. Rovers also have a great support; it is another very big football club in League Two so we know they will have a good support behind them on Tuesday night.
“Our preparation will again be excellent; no stone will be left un-turned as we head to Bristol tomorrow morning. We have a couple of players who have picked up knocks yesterday and may be struggling but I will not be telling anyone who they are, I am not manager of the Millers and here to help Bristol Rovers, no chance, they will know my team an hour before kick-off.”
After Saturday’s battling win over a determined Wycombe John Ward will be anxious to see his team continue the good work with another three points. There is a tough set of fixtures ahead and a maximum return over a promotion chasing team would be a real boost to morale.
Written by Gerry Prewett.