Rotherham hit a bump in the road on the promotion chase
RHC V's Leeds 4's
With the previous weeks game being postponed due to adverse weather, Rotherham had their first chance to secure promotion this weekend when they faced Leeds 4's away. It was a golden opportunity as Leeds were the only side that could catch the top 2, but with 2 games to spare after this the pressure was on Leeds.
With forwards Danny Needham and Ben Davis being unavailable a changed forward line-up was required. On Leeds' newer top pitch Rotherham started slowly, taking time to adapt to the bouncy surface. Leeds capitalised on this and soon scored; a through ball picking out their centre forward on the edge of the D who with one step got a yard of space, all he needed to fire off a lopping reverse stick shot, beating both his marker and Tony Cooper in goal. As Rotherham re-grouped and organised Leeds struck again.
This signalled a resurgence and spell of domination from Rotherham. Several strong attacking plays were made but the final balls into the D were blocked by a wall of Leeds defenders. Both Jack Hartley and Matt Webb came close to scoring, with Webb's effort rebounding off the post and Hartley's saved by the in-form Leeds goal keeper. Rotherham did finally score right before the half time break. Captain James Thomas' initial shot on goal was saved, the rebound fell to Luke Bridger who's shot was again saved, but with the keeper left stranded Fraser Andrews flicked into the side of the goal.
The second half got underway with Rotherham looking to maintain their improved performance, but with Leeds tightening up their marking space became more difficult to pick out, causing Rotherham's passing to become sloppy. Leeds began mounting attacks of their own and were soon awarded a penalty corner. The Rotherham defenders ran out but an easy slip left was unmarked who fired a shot into the bottom corner beating the diving keeper. Unwilling to give in Rotherham fought back and it became a real game of 2 ends. A Rotherham shot on goal found a Leeds foot on the line, Hartley stepped up for the resulting penalty flick and gave Rotherham a lifeline, 3-2. But with an increasing frustration over the lack of clamping down on stick tackles from the Umpires Rotherham found themselves reduced to 10 men for a 2 minute spell. Leeds pushed forward and caught Rotherham ball watching, an unmarked player on the left was able to drive into space in the D and extend the home side's lead.
A disappointing 4-2 loss for Rotherham, only their second loss of the season. With other promotion chasers Slazengers winning their fixture there is now only 1 promotion place to play for. Leeds could now reach a maximum of 50 points where as Rotherham were playing for 54 and with a strong goal difference Rotherham were hopeful. 1 win would be enough for promotion and 1 win and a draw should be enough to guarantee top spot.
Man of the Match: Ricky Benton.
UPDATE Sun 11th March:
With Leeds 4's only picking up a draw in their re-arranged Sunday fixture they can now only reach 48 points, Rotherham's current tally. With a 23 Goal difference promotion is all but secured for Rotherham. But after Saturdays disappointing performance and result they will be looking to end this season in style with 2 games this weekend to go up as champions.