This was a match attended for the sake of completeness, rather than the actual fare on offer. Sheffield United. Done and depressing at the moment. Sheffield Wednesday. Done and equally depressing. Sheffield FC. Been twice, bit of a drag to Dronfield. Heck, I’ve even been to Stocksbridge Park Steels before. So, that left Rotherham United, the one side in the area that have been doing alright this season.
That it’s taken me until April to pay them a visit probably owes much to their venue. As my visit to Corby Town with Boston back in September confirmed, football played within an athletic track just isn’t natural. There’s seldom any meaningful atmosphere and the view is dreadful. I could go on, but I suspect any football fan knows what I mean.
There had been Gateshead, Corby and good old Grantham Town in this country, plus strolls around the old Olympic stadium in Munich, the much-renovated one in Berlin and Espanyol’s old ground in Barcelona. The Don Valley - capacity 25,000 - rated highest among the domestic ones, though I wouldn’t be easily persuaded to watch another game in any of them.
While Rotherham squat at the Don Valley, it seems a shame to me that their old ground, at Millmoor, is rusty, overgrown and used, bizarrely, to store retired London Underground carriages. As I discovered when I walked there during my pre-Christmas journalism ‘patch’ work, it is a true, old-fashioned football ground full of charm and character which deserves another lease of life. More realistically, Rotherham need a spanking new home to suit their ambitions. And fast.
For a variety of reasons, it had been a long, up-and-down kind of week and sometimes a bit of solitude and reflection is needed. Sure, it seems illogical to seek solitude in a place where 3,600 others are gathered, but for me - and I’m sure other football followers can relate here – a couple of hours’ escapism watching two sides you don’t have a vested interest in can do you a power of good. I guess that’s why I took the tram in the opposite direction to normal – to the southern fringe of Sheffield, rather than the northern suburb of Hillsborough for Sheffield Wednesday vs. Colchester United. It appears I have developed too much of a soft spot for Wednesday for it to be a pleasant matchday experience.
So, I find myself sat in a filthy, weather-worn seat four rows from the front (a position which exacerbates the already awful view of the game) surrounded by kids who evidently aren’t yet allowed to Bramall Lane or Hillsborough watching a distinctly average League Two affair. It appears this division hasn’t changed a great deal since Boston played there – the long ball is still king and, while there are fleeting glimpses of some technical ability, they are quickly forgotten by the inevitable over hit pass or off-target shot which lands in the steeplechase pool.
I didn’t buy a programme so, the free-scoring Adam Le Fondre aside, I had very little idea whom I was even watching. None of the 22 players on display warranted post-match research and the match itself, while significant in denting Rotherham’s play-off hopes and boosting Morecambe’s survival chances, won’t live long in the memory.
A goal from Jimmy Spencer eight minutes before the end settled it, to the delight of the small band of travelling supporters who had earlier serenaded us with chants of “We’ve gonna do the relay” and “Let’s all do the high jump.” Bet the home fans never tire of such banter. The four lads in front of me made an admirable effort to stir up some atmosphere and even got Miller Bear, Rotherham’s spasmodic mascot, to join in but there was very little noise at any stage.
Rotherham was clearly the more technically accomplished and should have sewn the game up well before Morecambe scored. Le Fondre was subdued, but Marcus Marshall and Nicky Law went close. To be honest, given the angle at which I was viewing the game, telling with any certainty how close the chances were was quite a challenge. And to be honest again, It didn’t really bother me.
Next Match: AFC Telford United vs. Boston United next Saturday. Big one.