Bodin pen 89
UNITED were once again punished for not being clinical enough on a painful night at Plainmoor.
Rotherham were given a pummelling in the first-half but a failure to hit the net cost the Gulls in horrible fashion, as the visitors scored within seconds of the restart through Lee Frecklington.
When Alex Revell added a second before the hour-mark, it was game over. United never stopped running and scored from a late Billy Bodin penalty, but Rotherham sealed a 3-1 win when substitute Kayode Odejayi notched just seconds after the spot-kick.
United’s starting line-up remained unchanged from the narrow weekend loss to Fleetwood but there was one major inclusion on the bench, with former Gull Elliot Benyon returning to Plainmoor in a one-month loan deal from Southend. Niall Thompson was the man to make way.
Rotherham boss Steve Evans was considerably more ruthless in his selection after the fractious 2-0 loss at Burton on Saturday. Both Michael O’Connor and David Noble were sent off in that game, meaning they were absent through suspension. The others to miss out were Jordan Slew, Odejayi and ex-Yellow Ben Pringle.
Their replacements included Revell and Kieran Agard in a new-look attack for the Millers, while Frecklington and Daniel Kearns joined the visiting midfield. The other introduction was Claude Davis at the back.
The night started with a crunching tackle from Brian Saah to quickly sniff out Kearns, who had taken up a decent position in the penalty area. Proceedings then quickly settled into a sparring process for both sides.
When United did find their feet, Nathan Craig and Damon Lathrope exchanged passes to create space for Bodin to spread a lovely pass out to the left wing, where Kevin Nicholson swung over a dipping right-foot cross that was an inch too high for the darting near-post run of Ashley Yeoman.
The Gulls soaked up another spell of mild pressure before Yeoman burst clear down the left and flashed over a cross for Bodin, but, again, the delivery was a fraction beyond its intended target.
United’s next foray started with a fabulous pass inside the full-back from Lathrope, which picked out a lung-busting run forward from Nicholson, who saw his final effort deflected over by a desperate late lunge from a Rotherham foot.
The subsequent corner was half-cleared to Lee Mansell and the captain caught his half-volley beautifully from just inside the area but goalkeeper Andy Warrington was well-positioned to turn the shot over his bar.
The first change of the match was slightly unexpected, as referee Brendan Malone was forced to hobble off with a calf strain on 24 minutes, leaving fourth official Justin Amey to take over whistle duties.
Both managers took the lengthy break as an opportunity to hold an impromptu team-talk and it was the men in Yellow who continued to dominate, as more good work from Yeoman found Mansell for an instinctive shot from 12 yards that Warrington could only parry clear with his fists.
After the frustration of Fleetwood, where missed chances in the first-half eventually cost United the game, it was hard not to worry about a repeat performance. The Gulls were comfortably on top but until the net bulged, there was always concern on the terraces.
Some of the Yellow football, however, was really enjoyable to watch and Rotherham were struggling to cope with the movement and swift passing. One particularly flowing move ended with Craig drifting over a cross that Bodin headed marginally over.
The next surge was again down the left channel but Yeoman this time picked the wrong choice, firing into the side-netting when there seemed better options in the middle. Bodin then conjured up a piece of magic to loop a pass forward for Ryan Jarvis, but his poked effort dribbled wide after Warrington had come rushing off his line to hurry United’s forward.
An extra six minutes were added to the first-half after the referee swap and Bodin almost took full advantage with a searing run and shot on the counter, but Warrington produced yet another excellent block.
It was a measure of the Yellow control that the Rotherham response of a break down the right prompted Michael Poke’s first save of the evening, and it was an excellent interception with his feet after a fierce low drive by Agard.
Half-time saw Evans launch into a strange tirade at the officials in the tunnel area. Given the lack of any real controversial incidents, it can only have been a rant stemming from his team’s impotence in the first period.
United stand-in manager Shaun Taylor was more concerned with bolstering his attacking options for the second period, and Benyon was introduced for his second yellow debut, almost six years after the first, with Craig the man withdrawn.
Sadly, the new striker had not touched the ball when Rotherham took the lead. Frecklington showed excellent skill to sell a clever dummy and his shot from 20 yards had plenty of power, but the crucial factor was a wicked bounce in front of Poke, and the ball spun agonisingly off his hands and into the bottom corner.
It was cruel on the Gulls and further evidence of the need to score when you are on top, but Jarvis refused to wallow in the gloom as he attempted a speculative long-range drive that only narrowly faded away from the top corner.
Bodin went even closer with a sizzling drive moments later but Yellow pain would soon be doubled, as Revell picked up a pass in the left channel, held off the challenge of Aaron Downes and steered a low shot across Poke and inside the far post.
Taylor swiftly turned to the wing-wizardry of Lloyd Macklin as a replacement for Yeoman and the new man had been on the pitch less than 10 seconds when a long throw from Nicholson picked him out at the back post.
Macklin’s shot got past the previously unbeatable Warrington but Liam Ridehalgh did a marvellous in covering behind his goalkeeper to clear off the line. It was another sign that the luck was in Rotherham’s favour and Evans responded by withdrawing Daniel Nardiello for the fresh legs of Kayode Odejayi. Jordan Slew then came on for Revell on 75 minutes.
United’s best attacking option had become Macklin, who was buzzing around the pitch in impressive fashion but the ball refused to bounce in favour of the Yellows, and when Rotherham countered through Slew, Downes was caught the wrong side of his man and committed a foul that earned the Australian a booking.
The Millers made the final change on 80 minutes, removing Agard for Courtney Cameron. However, the action returned to the other end with more good work from the lively Bodin releasing Jarvis, but his low cross was well cleared by Johnny Mullins.
Rotherham responded with a swift attack that ended with Odejayi falling over his feet when the goal was gaping. It was scant consolation but at least the Yellow Army could enjoy a chuckle at the Nigerian’s clumsy attempt.
The Gulls were suddenly gifted a chance to redeem the situation when Bodin was tripped by Mark Bradley in the box. Normal penalty-taker Rene Howe was absent through suspension, so Bodin grabbed the ball himself and planted a superb spot-kick in off the post.
The mere glimmer of hope was immediately wiped away by Cameron surging down the right flank and squaring for Odejayi to confirm a miserable night for the Yellows.
It is now a big, big game at Rochdale on Saturday.
Gulls (4-4-1-1): 1 Michael Poke; 12 Daniel Leadbitter, 5 Brian Saah, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 20 Nathan Craig (26 Elliot Benyon H-T), 7 Lee Mansell (capt), 6 Damon Lathrope, 15 Billy Bodin; 23 Ashley Yeoman (14 Lloyd Macklin 66); 8 Ryan Jarvis. Substitutes (not used): 13 Martin Rice (GK), 16 Angus MacDonald, 18 Craig Easton, 19 Danny Stevens, 21 Thomas Cruise.
Booked: Downes 78, Macklin 82
Rotherham (4-4-2): 21 Andy Warrington; 14 Mark Bradley, 4 Kári Árnason, 6 Johnny Mullins (capt), 3 Claude Davis; 17 Daniel Nardiello (16 Kayode Odejayi 68), 27 Lee Frecklington, 35 Daniel Kearns, 33 Liam Ridehalgh; 9 Alex Revell (8 Jordan Slew 75), 22 Kieran Agard (31 Courtney Cameron 80). Substitutes (not used): 2 Dale Tonge, 15 Ben Pringle, 30 Tony Thompson (GK), 36 Daniel Rowe.
Booked: Davis 39
Referee: Brendan Malone
Attendance: 1,778 (92 away).