EVANS DEFIANT IN FACE OF MAULING
STEVE Evans maintained Rotherham are a better side than last year despite an opening day mauling by promoted MK Dons.
A first-half horror show saw the Millers concede three times as the manager’s new-look side, containing eight debutants, creaked defensively.
The Dons eventually ran out comfortable winners and Evans was not about to hide his frustration.
He said: “That’s as disappointing a first day as you can get. It’s a lesson learned for us in both penalty areas.
“You can’t defend like that – and miss chances at key times – and expect to win football matches.
“At 1-1, there was only one side going to score and they were as surprised as anyone to score again.
“We had a few chances with balls going across their box to make it 3-2 but (Carl) Baker’s goal killed our momentum.
“We’ll take this bang in the face and put things right. I believe we are a better side than last year – but we didn’t show it.”
Dons are a neat and attractive addition to the Championship but they didn’t have to be that good to flatten the Millers. None of Rotherham’s back five had played for the club before but, for 45 minutes, they looked as if they had never played at all.
Only left-back Joe Newell, whose silky touch was more effective going forwards, was up to the mark.
It took less than five minutes for questions to emerge about Rotherham’s dithery defence. Skipper Greg Halford was taken to the cleaners by Dean Bowditch and Rob Hall was on hand to tap in the low cross.
Rotherham’s first attack on 13 minutes brought a quick lifeline. Matt Derbyshire rose at the near post to flick his header past David Martin from a well-flighted Chris Maguire corner.
Curiously, given the final outcome, the next quarter of an hour could have seen the Millers go 4-1 up with Derbyshire the guilty party.
The striker’s casual shot was turned onto the bar by Martin but Evans said he was still struggling to find out how Aidy White missed the open goal rebound despite watching the video ten times.
With Dons being harried into poor mistakes, Martin smothered at Derbyshire’s feet then looked on helplessly as the striker failed with a header. The tide turned with a moment of fortune for Dons as Jordan Spence’s right-wing cross was deflected past the wrongfooted Kelle Roos by Danny Collins.
Then, a ridiculous hack by Halford smashed Tom Thorpe in the face, allowing Ben Reeves to escape down the left and cross for Bowditch to score.
Evans’ interval double change failed to prompt a convincing Rotherham revival, although Thorpe should have pulled a goal back with a weak header from Halford’s 69th-minute throw.
Dons kept the home side at arm’s length and finished with a touch of class as substitute Carl Baker waltzed past Newell to blast a fourth.
Midfield dynamo Samir Carruthers ended the game with a bandaged head but it’s Evans who has the real headache.
Modest Dons manager Karl Robinson said:“I am proud to be at this level, let alone to play like that.
“For 15 minutes we were struggling and Rotherham should have gone 2-1 up, but we scored a fortunate goal against the run of play and didn’t look back.
“It was important for us to play without fear. We’ve been tipped to be the 24th team in this league and that’s tremendous motivation for us.
“Individually we’re not as good as other teams in this league, but together we are a better side.”
JOB DON: Dean Bowditch celebrates scoring the third goal for MK Dons. Inset: Robert Hall opens the scoring after just five minutes