The Nightmare before Christmas

Saturday 19th December 2015 – Rotherham United 2 – 0 Hull City AFC

Championship @ New York Stadium, Rotherham

I write this in the hours after Hull’s 1-0 defeat away at Preston North End, the third in a sequence of three awful away performances starting with Leeds United, and including this game, a 2-0 defeat away at Rotherham United – if we are serious about going up this season, these are not fixtures we should not be taking zero points from.

I had never been to Rotherham before, let alone seen a football match there, missing out on trips to Millmoor (still visible from New York Stadium) and their temporary exile to Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium.

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Millmoor floodlights still visible from New York Stadium – the ground still stands

If travelling by train, Rotherham is reached via Sheffield (roughly a 10 minute journey), which provides a perfect excuse to visit Sheffield Tap, found to the right of the main exit, or via Platform 1. I am including this in ‘Worth a sup…‘ – far too many hours have been spent in this place both on previous trips to the steel city for games against United and Wednesday, and when waiting for connections to other destinations. Sheffield Tap serves a great range of real ales, and is populated by travellers, football fans and trainspotters alike.

Previous trips to South Yorkshire for the football have more often than not resulted in the local constabulary herding you into a designated away fans pub until it is time for the match. Not so at Rotherham, which from the outset was very friendly, despite the game carrying the ‘Yorkshire Derby’ tag. I couldn’t work the place out though; perhaps I never came across it, but the ground has been billed elsewhere as being central, though I never came across a high street, and our pre-match watering hole, The Cutlers Arms, was on Main Street (which did not resemble a ‘Main Street’ if you get my drift).

The Cutlers Arms is a short walk from the station and approximately 5 minutes from the ground. The walk took us down the canal and over the River Don, which even on a grey December Saturday was scenic and a reminder of the industrial heritage associated with the area. The pub itself was a no nonsense affair, with large seating area, and a good range of local beers on tap (we opted for the New York Pale), and played host to both sets of fans. The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming, and the pub is highly recommended (also added to ‘Worth a sup…‘).

Walking to the ground, you are again reminded of Rotherham’s industrial past. The ground is situated on the site of the old Guest and Chrimes factory, manufacturer of taps and other steel objects for well over a century. One of the abandoned factory buildings still stands, and whilst the walk can feel slightly like you are wandering through a derelict industrial estate, it makes for an interesting backdrop, particularly as many new ground are surrounded by retail parks.

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When I first saw the name of Rotherham’s ground, I thought it must be a marketing gimmick; but New York is in fact the name of the Rotherham suburb where it is situated. Other than the walk through the former Guest and Chrimes site, the stadium is situated next to a main road, and looks very similar the majority of other grounds built in recent years.

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The away end is furthest away from the train station in the Mears Stand, which can hold 2,500 supporters (Hull filled it that day). It is a single tier behind the goal in what is a compact and smart stadium. The one, quite big, gripe I would have with regards to the away end is the fact that there is only one kiosk serving food and drink, meaning very large queues. We didn’t bother that day; I can’t help feel a trick has been missed.

One impressive aspect is the staggered sloping roof on the opposite stand rather than the usual bowl effect.

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So to the game….which I will attempt to comment upon without using expletives. Rotherham are in fairness one of the smallest, if not the smallest, clubs in this division and their league position reflects this. As one local opined to me before the match, if they stayed up it would be a great achievement. Perhaps Hull where complacent – I know I thought a win was a given – but what followed was wretched.

Rotherham were no great shakes – other than the goals I don’t recall any meaningful attacks, and Hull dominated possession, whilst also hitting the post twice. It just wasn’t our day, but to say or imply that Rotherham were lucky would be totally disrespectful. They wanted it more. And they got their reward. None of the City players excelled, and for only the second time in my City travels, I witnessed a team being booed off the pitch (or more accurately, sprinting down the tunnel).

To boo when in the play-off positions? It seems strange, but as today’s result against Preston shows, we are failing to beat the teams that we should be. Bruce has managed to keep us up there – and picking up points whilst in second gear suggests we aren’t that bad – but on paper we should be doing better, and appear to be slipping away from the pack chasing the promotion spots. It’s just very inconsistent; only 2 days ago City beat promotion rivals Burnley 3-0 at home.

Post match sorrows were downed in the Bridge Inn opposite Rotherham Central train station, another public house worthy of ‘Worth a sup…‘ – I only had time for one, but the place is a proper football pub, with flags, scarves, shirts and Rotherham memorabilia adorning the walls, and again, local real ale on tap.

The New York Stadium is one of the smaller new grounds; compact though with no real atmosphere, even when the home side had clearly won. The town itself though makes the visit; friendly, good pubs, and some interesting walks taking in Rotherham’s past. Shame about the result.

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