If only the Millers could change their luck that quickly when traveling.
They caused some serious trouble for one of the Championship’s top teams for a spell, but it couldn’t and didn’t last.
They fell behind in the 56th minute. By the time the game was through, they were farther behind Cardiff City. Five games away from home have resulted in five losses; six if you count the Carling Cup in addition to the league issue.
Manager Matt Taylor remarked, “That first hour of the game was the best we have been away from home,” and he wasn’t mistaken.
It’s only that his team had a low bar to meet because of injuries that have plagued them from the start of the season and a worrisome lack of attack.
“It wasn’t spectacular but it was structured,” the boss continued. “We lacked a little bit of quality going forward but it was a really positive start to the game.
“We were in it for longer than we have been in previous away games this season. Certainly from our first four matches games, that was an improvement.”
Already, the warning signs are there. The Millers are next to bottom and after Saturday’s setback in South Wales a gap had begun to open up to the teams above them.
“We have to make games a bit ugly and a bit scruffy away from home to put pressure on the opposition,” Taylor said.
“We know we are a bit short of certain types of players who can get you back in a game. Our home form suggests we can compete. Our away from has to improve. Something has to change.”
And not just the ball.
After the game, the manager met with South Yorkshire media in a cramped area near the players’ tunnel at Cardiff City Stadium. There was only him, the Millers media director, one other person running a club camera, and two journalists.
The goal that Cardiff scored 11 minutes after the half and turned the afternoon in their favor might have been set up with far more space.
Karlan Grant was too long left unopposed on the left, so it was up to Cohen Bramall of Rotherham and Kion Etete of the Bluebirds to score when his excellent delivery reached the back post.
Stand-in central defender Bramall found himself a full-back trying to do a centre-half’s job and Etete’s strength allowed the striker to hold off his marker and break the deadlock with a header.
“I’m disappointed with how we let Cardiff get into that channel,” Taylor said. “I said to the players afterwards, it was like time stood still. It was a ‘killing ourselves’ moment for us. We did not quite cover the space.
“You could say it was a good cross and a good header but it showed we’re short of centre-halves. I can’t put too much blame on Cohen. We needed to stop it at source. One momentary loss of concentration has allowed them to get ahead.”
The first half had been a scrappy non-event during which the home side, seeking a sixth win in seven second-tier matches, were wasteful in possession. The scrappier it stayed, the more it suited the Millers.
“It was a poor game, we have to hold up our hands in relation to that,” Taylor said. “But we were quite comfortable until the opening goal.
“In the past, we have lost away games when we didn’t participate and weren’t competitive enough. We certainly exerted enough effort today and, for the most part, provided Viktor (goalkeeper Johansson) with adequate protection.
We wanted more from ourselves in terms of attacking, but with the number of bodies we had on the field, we weren’t fluid for long enough.
Rotherham was relieved to see Ollier Tanner’s shot and Dimitros Goutas’ header just miss the target because they were playing with only one recognized center-half and were without seven possible first-team players.
Between those chances, Ollie Rathbone took aim and the Millers might have been level had Mark McGuinness not flung himself in the way of a low 18-yarder that was heading towards the bottom corner.
Although Cardiff was in the lead, as time expired, the visitors threatened more than they had all game when Arvin Appiah’s entrance gave them a surprising spark.
The replacement winger hit the crossbar with a free kick that had a similar degree of bend and also blasted a good curler over the bar.
Ike Ugbo’s header was brilliantly saved by Johansson, and Lee Peltier stopped Etete’s follow-up, but sadly, the latter of those two tries occurred after Perry Ng had ended the game in the 90th minute by putting the ball into the net.
“Only when Arvin came on did we show we could beat a player one v one and create off the back of that,” Taylor said. “It was a little bit too little, too late.
“The first goal is the one that really hurt us because that just changes the feel of the game. The ease with how that went in was a real frustration.”
The manager was watching from the directors’ box as he served a one-match touchline ban.
Three bookings had brought about his suspension, one caution more that his team’s goal tally so far on their Championship journeys to enemy territory.
“It was strange,” he said. “I was only ten rows back from the dugout. I was meant to be out of earshot. I didn’t put myself there, they (the officials) put me there, It was nothing to do with me.
“I sat there feeling reasonably at ease with where we were in the game for just under an hour.”
He immediately got up from his chair and headed to the locker room to see his players after the final whistle, despite his team failing to push Bluebirds goalkeeper Jak Alnwick into making a single save.
At the same moment, they were leaving the field of play while hunched over, even flatter than that matchball before.
Cardiff (4-3-3): Jak Alnwick; Perry Ng; Dimitrios Goutas; Mark McGuinness; Jamilu Collins; Ryan Wintle; Manolis Siopis; Joe Ralls; Yakou Meite; Ollie Tanner; Kion Etete; Karlan Grant; Ike Ugbo. Substitutes not used: Rubin Colwill, Mahlon Romeo, Romaine Sawyers, Jonathan Panzo.
Rotherham (3-5-1-1): Viktor Johansson; Dexter Lembikisa, Tyler Blackett, Cohen Bramall; Fred Onyedinma, Ollie Rathbone, Christ Tiehi, Sam Clucas (Lee Peltier 72), Sebastian Revan (Arvin Appiah 72); Andre Green (Georgie Kelly 87); Jordan Hugill (Sam Nombe 67). Subs not used: Dillon Phillips, Tom Eaves, Ciaran McGuckin.
Goals: Etete 56, Ng 90 (Cardiff).
Referee: James Bell (Sheffield).
Attendance: 20,136 (282).