Would the dirt-trackers make a re-appearance? One change was forced – Camp for Boruc (loan arrangement logistical problems), with many others made from choice, meaning Kermorgant played alone up front (initially…). Millers had loan players returning to home clubs so the home side had to change a fair bit. New York Stadium - a new stadium for away fans; as more than 1 pointed out, an inverse Tardis, seemingly bigger outside than inside. The roof over each end stepped down towards the River Don; else somewhat off-the shelf. Millers k.o. towards the empty Morrisons Stand to our left; we were sat looking along the 6-yard line at that end.
Skipper for the day Cook made a great sliding tackle on the edge of the area, and Camp caught well from the cross. Millers seemed more cohesive in the early stages – not surprising given the lack of pitch-time for several away players. But those instincts now ingrained by Eddie Howe meant Boscombe kept trying to pass & move. Stanislaus made a good run up the centre; out wide & the cross was cleared. Fraser, in from the left, was felled just outside the “D”; Harte took the free & hit the goalie’s top right angle. This observer thought it just soared away, but TV replays suggested it not only bounced down but also was inside the goal-line so perhaps a goal should have been awarded, Soon after, the Millers’ no.2 went to the away area angle & hit one diagonally. The ball went between Harte’s legs, taking a slight deflection sufficient to move it away from Camp’s right hand & into the far corner. 1-0, 10. That wasn’t in the script!
In response, Smith went on a foraging run then Camp caught the ball & a nudge from the no.10. The ball went in the net but a free was given for the foul. Smith went up-field again, but lost the ball at the area edge. MacDonald was steady, but O’Kane was a little uncertain as Millers pressed well. Another away free, wide right: surprisingly Harte over-hit it to beyond the far post. MacDonald won it well to allow Kermorgant to send Stanislaus away clear down the middle. He used his left foot to hit it wide of the keeper’s left post to away fan groans; should he even be in the squad? Boscombe had begun to dominate but crosses & attempts were poor – somewhat disjointed. Gosling & MacDonald had swapped, with the former staying deeper, curiously.
Camp caught well again, & O’Kane sent a great ball up the wing for Stanislaus – who had let himself drift offside. Grief. Kermorgant went offside also, then Cargill shepherded the home forward very well. Stanislaus lost it too easily in the home area, but soon a sequence of perhaps 30 passes, as Boscombe began to click, led to a goal. MacDonald was the most ring-rusty, but had applied himself well to play himself back into form. The equaliser was the culmination of the side moving back into silky-soccer mode; Kermorgant central played it diagonally left to MacDonald, totally out of position (aka Total Football; Arie Hahn anyone?) coming in from the left & placing it nicely across the keeper. 1-1, 44 and a very calm & professional attitude from both players involved. That was better. HT: 1-1
At the restart, Fraser was felled on the left in front of us. The weather had turned really cold; we needed something to warm us up. Millers “scored” after some pinball & a Camp save; the flag had gone up for offside. Cook made a great double-tackle & Fraser was becoming a nuisance. Cargill headed clear then Stanislaus crossed appallingly high & wide. Camp came out at a forward’s feet then after a good move Smith thundered a cross-shot that the keeper tipped round.
On the left, Gosling fed Kermorgant who slipped it through to the on-rushing Stanislaus. The pass & run timings were perfect; Stanislaus went at then round the keeper & netted. 1-2, 58. Kermorgant was now playing as a false no.9 so the overall structure was nearer 4-6-0. It all began to feel better; now the gears were being lubricated as Gosling showed classy control. Then Kermorgant made a superb reverse pass – nearly a back-heel – to let Fraser rush in from the left & hit it splendidly across the keeper. 1-3, 63. In frustration & desperation, Millers began to foul more – not maliciously but it was by now more difficult to play the away ball instead of the man. Kermorgant hooked a shot just wide.
Then Gosling came in from wide & put a lovely ball out to Stanislaus. His flat low cross found Kermorgant in the middle on the 6 yard line. Instead of a direct tap-in, he went to his right, ensuring the goalie went flat on his back (neat!), then put it in. 1-4, 67. The home defence was in pieces; Millers demoralised. A Fraser through ball nearly reached Stanislaus, who soon after was replaced by Cornick on 71 for his debut. A little taller than we’d thought, and obviously had been told to just go & play; he didn’t look out of place & did look promising.
Straight after this, Harte (never able to go faster than a trot) took a free from the left; it was headed back & Kermorgant just managed to reach it at the near post, using the outside of his boot to nudge it back & across the line. 1-5, 71. With nothing (more) to lose, & with perhaps a touch of away complacency, Millers moved well to reveal an open goal & put a horrible shot over. After some away area pinball, Millers hit it over again. Pitman came on for MacDonald on 82, the latter receiving a splendid & deserved ovation. Cornick & Fraser swapped wings. Camp had done his job decently, but as Pete L. pointed out, his kick-outs tended too often to go to touch.
Boscombe moved smoothly to gain a corner, but then played sloppily needing a defensive block. In spite of Fraser being on the bench side of the pitch, he was swapped out in favour of Ritchie on 88. Gosling did some wonderful stuff that allowed him to send it out to the latter whose cross-shot went just over. Smith was shown yellow for a needless foul; Millers put in a low cross for one-time promising striker Derbyshire to hit over horribly. Cornick was growing into the game, looking the part, & went in at inside-left with his shot being deflected over. Millers had a cross-shot go wide, which more or less wrapped up proceedings. FT: 1-5
First the players came over to our side, then Eddie, seeming more pumped-up as he & we applauded each other. 70 goals in all comps so far; 2 points away from safety (50) & 11 from a best-ever points total at Div.2 level with 22 games to go. So onto Round 4, and a possible fixture pile-up. However, with the “second” string playing this well, that may not be a problem. And the great feature of this side is that it will rip to shreds any side with a flaw in midfield &/or defence, with a certain joie de vivre, with pizazz. However, those late attempts by the home side will need addressing; it could’ve been 3-6 and a better side would have capitalised.
With 2 goals & 3 assists, and generally slicing apart the home midfield & defence, it has to be Kermorgant; a mesmerising display of skill & vision.
AFCB: Camp, Smith, Cook, Cargill, Harte, Stanislas, Gosling, MacDonald, O'Kane, Fraser, Kermorgant
Subs: Flahavan, Francis, Surman, Wilson, Cornick (for Stanislas, 71 mins), Pitman (for MacDonald, 82 mins), Ritchie (for Fraser, 88 mins)