Match Of The Midweek: Rotherham United 2-0 Aldershot Town (3-0 Agg)

9 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   May 20, 2010  |     15

The Don Valley Stadium, on the Rotherham side of Sheffield, couldn’t be much much less like Millmoor, Rotherham United’s home from 1907 until 2008. Millmoor may have been a little untidy but it was home for The Millers, with a scrap metal yard behind one of the stands beind the goal, the crane from which stood in full view of the pitch, as if Ted Hughes’ “Iron Man” was sneaking a peek every Saturday afternoon. Don Valley, by contrast, feels like an ultra-modern, twenty-first century, multi-sport venue, yet it feels almost  inappropriate for a League Two club to be playing here. The yellow steel piping and tent-like multi-span roofs over the stands give it an almost continental feel, but the running track makes creating an atmosphere difficult. Even this evening, only one stand is full – such are the pitfalls of playing in a 25,000 capacity stadium when your average crowd hovers at around one-sixth of that number. There are a shade over 7,000 here this evening and they’re making quite a racket, but Don Valley is lodgings rather than a home for Rotherham United. They plan to move into a new home of their own in two years’ time.

That Rotherham United should be here this evening at all is, in its own small way, a miracle. They have had two spells in administration, the second of which cost them a seventeen point deduction at the start of last season. They pulled clear of the relegation zone, and this season looked likely for a while to get automatic promotion. Meanwhile, it is almost as surprising that Aldershot Town should be here this evening. When Aldershot FC folded in March 1992, a new club was formed in the Hampshire town and it took more than a decade and a half for the Shots to work their way back from the Ryman League Division Three to the Football League. Their first season back in the Football League was one of consolidation. This season has seen them push into a play-off position. Steady progress remains the name of the game at The Recreation Ground.

Forty-six matches each in the league this season only left the two teams with a point between them, and the difference was just as paper-thin in the first leg at The Recreation Ground, when only a wayward backpass let Adam Le Fondre in with two minutes to play to sneak a 1-0 win for Rotherham. On the basis of such isolated incidents, however, whole seasons may be decided but there is little enough between the two teams to encourage a large travelling support to venture north on this cloudy May evening. A one goal deficit is far from insurmountable, but it will require one of Aldershot’s performances of the season to turn the tie around.

For the opening ten minutes, Aldershot seem content enough to sit back and get used to their surroundings while Rotherham push forward in search of a goal that would make their visitors’ lives immeasurably more difficult. When they break, however, they look impressive, although the only signiificant incident of the opening fifteen minutes sees Aldershot’s Marvin Morgan booked after he goes to ground following a challenge from the Rotherham goalkeeper, Andy Warrington. It is, on the whole, a scrappy affair being played on a pitch that looks as if it has seen better days this season, and it starts to feel as if it may be a frustrating evening for Aldershot, who move the ball quickly and efficiently into attacking positions, but their final pass is too frequently wayward and Rotherham’s well-organised defence repeatedly tidies up with ease.

By the time that we are half an hour in, however, the roles assumed for the opening ten minutes have almost completely reversed, with Rotherham pegged back and Aldershot labouring to create the position to bring themselves level again. The visitors, however, have to be careful not to commit too many players into attack and the next near-miss falls to Rotherham’s Adam Le Fondre, who finds himself in a little space on the right hand side and mis-hits his cross only to see the ball bounce away off the top of the Aldershot crossbar. Play continues to swing relatively liberally from end to end, however, but it’s tetchy, slightly irritable football, until Rotherham break a few thousand Aldershot hearts with a couple of minutes of the first half left to play. In truth, it’s a careless goal for Aldershot to concede. Nicky Law’s corner isn’t cleared, Gavin Gunning crosses back into penalty area and Adam Le Fondre heads in from close range after Ian Sharps heads against the crossbar. There is some pushing and shoving as the players leave the pitch at half-time, but it is Rotherham that have got one foot on the coach to Wembley.

The second half finishes much as the first half ends. Aldershot push forward from the kick-off, but less than two and a half minutes in Nicky Law finds some space on the left hand side of the Aldershot penalty area and his shot is well blocked by Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz, the exotically-named Venezualan Aldershot goalkeeper. Minutes later, with the visiting defence now starting to look stretched, a crossed ball across the six yard area narrowly evades two onrushing lunges. Within the space of a minute or so,  and twenty minutes into the second half, though a chance at either end of the pitch effectively kills the game off as a contest. At one end, a sweeping diagonal ball across the pitch finds Morgan unmarked and at an angle, but he is stretching for it and can’t keep his shot on target, sending it high and wide of the post. At the other, Rotherham show them exactly how it is done. Ryan Hall breaks on the left hand side and crosses to the far post, where Kevin Ellison meets the ball with a downward header which skids up off the wet surface and into the roof of the net.

Aldershot push forward in search of a way back into the match, but it’s too late. They have barely managed a clear goalscoring chance in the previous match and three-quarters, and for them to be able to now find three goals in twenty minutes against a defence as well organised as Rotherham’s is a stretch too far. They get into a couple of decent positions – Morgan finds himself unmarked and seven yards out from a corner with a little over twenty minutes to play but gives a reasonable impression of someone trying to shoot with both feet at the same time and the ball rolls safely back to Warrington. With just over ten minutes to go, a deflected free-kick forces Warrington into a decent save, but by this time Rotherham are merely running down the clock, and they are doing it with relative comfort.

The full-time whistle brings to completion one of the more remarkable turn-arounds of the last couple of years ago. In administration for a second time, deducted seventeen points by the Football League and then evicted from their home, there were plenty of people that wouldn’t have given Rotherham United much of a chance of even existing by the summer of 2010. That they are heading to Wembley a week on Saturday (to, considering that they lead 6-0 ahead of tomorrow night’s match, almost certainly play Dagenham & Redbridge) is a tribute to those that have managed to keep the club alive against all odds. For Aldershot Town, the disappointment of losing over two legs this evening only masks the fact that their club remains on an upward trajectory – seven years ago they were celebrating winning the Ryman League Premier Division championship. There will be four promotion places on offer again next season, and there has been little in their performance over the course of this season to suggest that, with a little fine tuning, they shouldn’t be in with a decent chance of getting promoted next season. Tonight, though, belongs to the Millers.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • May 21, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Michael Wood

    How does one write a FA law which allows Rotherham to move to Sheffield for financial reasons which makes it impossible to move Wimbledon to Milton Keynes?

  • May 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    John (Hendon)

    My guess is this:

    Rotherham to Sheffield (specifically the Don Valley Stadium) – 4.1 miles.

    Wimbledon to Milton Keynes – 62.0 miles.

  • May 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm


    ‘That Rotherham United should be here this evening at all is, in its own small way, a miracle. They have had two spells in administration, the second of which cost them a seventeen point deduction at the start of last season’.

    Not that surprising when they were able, almost uniquely at this level, to pay 6 figure fees for 2 players at the start of the season (Pope and Le Fondre). Still, better to spend the money on new talent than squander it on St John’s Ambulance, etc….

  • May 27, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Michael Wood

    So John your rule would have stopped Brighton playing at Gillingham when they needed to almost certainly and depending on where the arbitrary line you draw is stopped Bradford City playing at Elland Road in ’85. It might have also effected Wimbledon’s ability to move ground in London, depending on the ad hoc decision as to how far the are of effect from a club is.

    This illustrates the point I’m making. To be able to make any set of laws worth reading you have to create consistency and it is very difficult to think of a way to do this in a way that allows some stadium movement and not others. Using John’s anything under 60 miles as an example what if Carlisle had to move or they would go out of business and could go to Kendal Town which (Google Maps tells us) is 60.1 miles away.

    Does such a move get thrown away and Carlisle go out of business because we have a hard and fast rule on 60 miles? If we can flex then what basis do we do it on? Do we allow any movement under 60 miles? Would Wimbledon moving to Slough – half of the sixty mile difference – be welcomed?

    So your guess John only serves to illustrate the difficulty in setting such laws and the simplistic approach that has been taken to commenting on them.

    So I ask again totally unsatisfied by the idea of having an arbitrary distance cap how does one write a FA law which allows Rotherham to move to Sheffield for financial reasons which makes it impossible to move Wimbledon to Milton Keynes?

  • May 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Wayne Bennett

    Interesting comment by NC on squandering money on players, like Rotherham are English footballs worst offenders, lol.

    Regarding the move, the move to Sheffield is temporary, while a new ground is built (summer 2012) like so many other clubs. The Dons move to MK was a lock stock and barrel permanent flit, quite different. This has only happened once before in English football, in 1930 when South Shields moved to Gateshead, and also changed their name to that of the new locality. Rotherham’s situation is more akin to that of Chester when they played at Macclesfield, Charlton when they played at West Ham and several other clubs. They will be back in Rotherham soon, Wimbledon never intended to go back.

  • May 27, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Wayne Bennett

    Forgot to add, Rotherham face expulsion from the FL and forfeiting a £750k bond if they do not move back, so the league is being quite firm with this. Compare this with Wimbledons intention to stay put permamently in MK and you have the reason the law was drawn up, after the Dons had moved and in order to prevent that happening again.

  • May 27, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Michael Wood

    While there is an idea that the move is temporary – certainly it is desired and agreed to be that way – there is no way to enforce any club to maintain a permanent home. In fact the very fact that Rotherham are moving from Millmoor to another part of the Town shows that the idea of a permanent ground is not the question. The “this is your ground and you must stay there” approach to this problem is out of the question.

    Rotherham do face FL expulsion as so we can see how the authorities are pushing this idea that Rotherham United should play in Rotherham. The question is how does one define what is “in Rotherham” or for that matter “in Wimbledon”

    How does one write a law that enshrines that idea of a club having to be within a community without putting geographic ties which would prove unfair.

    If Bradford City were to move to Odsal from Manningham it would be greater distance than Millmoor to the Don Valley stadium although the former is within a City and the latter moves from one Town to another City. A distance in miles cut off point is obviously not going to work, how does one define the community that supports a club and how does one yoke a team into that.

    (I should add, as a note, that aside from the usual misgivings about Ronnie Moore I’ve no beef with Rotherham or Wimbledon for that matter. What I’m interested in is how does one frame up a set of rules that can bend enough to help out clubs that need it – and my club has played home games at four different stadia dotted around West Yorkshire – but protects clubs from being moved away from the communities that have supported them. In other words it is not about Rotherham or Wimbledon defending themselves it is about using the experience of these clubs to think about that – as fans – we would most want the laws to be to protect us in both situations)

  • May 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Wayne Bennett

    I think you are misunderstanding what is required. There is no requirement as such for a permanent ground to be nominated, nor is there a distance limit. As I understand it the rule is *only* that a club should play within the boundary of the town or borough it represents, therefore the closeness or otherwise of DVS, which is right next to the Rotherham/Sheffield boundary is irrelevant, DVS is on the wrong side of that boundary and that is why Rotherham must find a home within Rotherham. There is no problem with ‘ground hopping’ as long as they are within your borough and have a current safety certificate. So, practicval considerations set aside, your Bradford example would be perfectly legit, so long as Odsal is legal in its own right. It is quite easy to determine ‘what is in Rotherham’, you just look at a map.

    My opinion is that this rule is right and proper (even if it did result in my club being chucked out – we knew and agreed to abide by the rules in Jul 2008, no point moaning in 2012 if we’re not ready)

    The alternative would be to open up the prospect of similar situations to MK Dons, where a club owner decides to take ‘his’ football club to another part of the country. Rotherham themselves were threatened with this in 1980 when the then chairman wanted to move the club to Essex, Romford to be exact. Their own club had recently ceased trading and Mr Johnson wanted RUFC to move in. Such as that should never be allowed to happen.

  • May 27, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Michael Wood

    So we have a generic idea that a club should play within the community from which draws a support and it is fairly clear that Rotherham is distinct from Sheffield but take as another example that of Bradford (Park Avenue) who have long since stopped being anything to do with the team of Bradford who played at Horton Park Avenue but do play in Bradford.

    However plans are afoot to move them to the very edge of Bradford, so close to the edge that while the entrance to the stadium’s car park would be in Bradford, the stadium itself would be past the boundary to be in Leeds. (See link at the foot)

    A permanent move to another City but one which retains a connection to the current fan base but one which could easily be ruled as illegal as being very much what MK Dons did (Moving to another City forever)

    As I say I’m not trying to argue for one point or the other just highlighting the difficulties involved in creating a rule that allows some cases without disallowing others that might be considered morally legitimate.

    The link

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