Sunday, 21 September 2014

Rotherham United 1 v 1 Charlton Athletic

Saturday 20th September 2014
Football League Championship
New York Stadium, Rotherham
Admission: £23.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 9,620 (1,106 away)
Match Rating: 3

Having missed Charlton's home midweek 1-1 draw with Wolves, today I ventured north to South Yorkshire to follow the Addicks away, to tick off my penultimate ground currently in the Football League Championship.

The New York Stadium is situated very close to Rotherham town centre and train station, and is unusual in that is not bland, soulless with a uniform appearance that one usually encounters these days with newly built stadia. This one has an attractive and varied design, which looks quite out of place in its industrial and decaying surroundings. All four stands, which are joined together with seating filling the corners, are single tiered, and are similar in appearance, with fairly steep banks of seating to a similar height throughout. The main stand is larger than the others, with executive boxes in the central third along the top of the seating. The stands behind both goal featuring 'steps' down to meet the lower height of the stand along the remaining length. This stand also features a couple of floodlight pylons, featuring a circle design. The ground is very sensibly designed with a 12,000 capacity, considering the relatively low fan base of the club, ensuring the ground should very rarely have large sparsely populated areas on matchday, and with the steep rows of seating close to the pitch, the stadium is very conducive to a good atmosphere. On arriving by coach attention ground, I noted Rotherham's former ground, Millmoor, still standing, with its floodlights still in place, on the opposite side of the road to the New York Stadium. I wanted to have a look around, but unfortunately several traffic jams along the M1 meant that my coach only pulled up at the stadium less than twenty minutes before kick-off, further delayed by some rather chaotic stewarding outside of the ground.

Charlton came into this game still unbeaten after seven games and in fifth place in the table. A still scarcely believable situation following the struggles of last season and considering the plentiful doom-mongers in the summer who reckoned that the club being part of Roland Duchatelet's network of European clubs, with players being swapped between them, was sure to end in tears. On paper, today's opponents were the weakest team Charlton have played this season with Rotherham, following back to back promotions, in 19th place in the 24 team division, after winning two, drawing one and losing the other four of their seven league games so far. Surprisingly, today would be first time the two teams have met for over 31 years, and Charlton haven't won in Rotherham since 1963.

On a very overcast afternoon, it was Rotherham who seized the early initiative, looking to attack in the opening minutes, although gradually Charlton got more and more into the game, which became rather end to end and with both teams having decent sights of goal. It was Charlton who broke the deadlock with a fantastic goal from Icelander Johann Berg Gudmundsson. Taking the ball from the right wing and jinking past a challenge, he drove goalwards and curled a lovely low shot into the far corner from about 25 yards. They perhaps should have extended their lead before half time, looking dangerous as they attacked, forcing several good saves, although Rotherham had the odd chance themselves. But as half time arrived, hopes were high that Charlton could claim their first away win of the season.

However, Rotherham would completely dominate the second half with a high tempo, attacking approach that Charlton really struggled to contain, and it appeared that their defence was breached on 59 minutes, but Jordan Bowery's far post header from a left wing cross that was flicked on was ruled out for offside. The hosts did equalise on 70 minutes though, with a poor goal to concede. Tal Ben Haim slipped in possession and the ball found its way to Ben Pringle on the left wing, who looped a cross high over the keeper Stephen Henderson, and Luciano Becchio headed home at the far post. Charlton really were on the ropes and one got the feeling that they would do well to escape with a point now, although finally in the last ten minutes or so, they showed more attacking intent and almost retook the lead on 86 minutes. Substitute Frédéric Bulot drove in from the left and his eventual shot squirmed past keeper Scott Loach and rolled goalwards but Loach pounced on the ball in time. Rotherham had the final chance to win it though, as Lee Frecklington saw his shot from well outside the area go just over the bar. Despite taking the lead, Charlton did well to take a point from this game, as Rotherham put in a very impressive performance in the second half, which Charlton struggled to cope with for long periods. Charlton fell to seventh in the table following this point, while Rotherham remain in nineteenth.

Video highlights of this match can be found here

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