Rotherham’s magnificent season last year was built on an unerring knack of scoring late goals, but the boot has been on the other foot so far this time around.
One of the hallmarks of the memorable promotion in League One was the Millers’ ability to turn defeats into draws and draws into wins with their unwavering desire to go until the last whistle.
Indeed, Steve Evans’ men clawed back a whopping 23 points from losing positions last season, scoring 14 times in the final 15 minutes of league games to change the outcome in their favour.
During January and February alone they scored in or after the 88th minute an incredible five times in six games over a period where they nailed down their play-off place.
But they are coming up against a better class of opposition this time around and are finding that other teams also have a penchant for late goals.
In their opening 11 games of the campaign Steve Evans’ men have conceded six times in the final 15 minutes of matches, which is 46 per cent of their total goals against tally.
That equates to the Millers dropping four points due to those goals, with Derby and Bolton stopping them earning a point and Norwich costing them two by rescuing a 1-1 draw.
Late goals conceded against Brentford and Watford did not alter the outcome of the game.
The Millers are still showing some of the same traits by going right to the end, however, as only Leeds and Derby have scored more in the final quarter of an hour of matches.
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Three of the nine goals they have banged in came in that time frame and earned the Millers an additional three points, with Jordan Bowery’s late goal at Bolton immediately wiped out at the other end so effectively counting for nothing.
The fact that the Millers have only bagged nine times this season is an indication where their early-season problems have lied.
In the equivalent number of league games last season, Evans men had rippled the net 16 times.
But the problem isn’t necessarily creating chances as you might expect playing at a higher level, it is a profligacy in front of goal which is proving so costly.
The Millers have the third most wasteful attack in the division at this stage, scoring on average every 17.9 times they have a shot on goal. Only Blackpool (21 shots) and Brighton (18.8) have fared worse than that.
So allied to a relatively tight defence – the Millers have conceded 13 times in their 11 outings with 11 teams conceding more – it means that it has hardly been a repeat of the goals galore from last season.
Last year was littered with games that finished 3-3, 3-2, 6-4, 4-3 but there has only been on game that has had more than two goals in it this time around – the 3-2 loss at Bolton last month. That is the lowest amount in the division.
However, given their rise to this new level it was impossible for the Millers to play in their almost gung-ho manner of last season – that is something defender Kari Arnason has alluded to.
Players have had to wane their attacking instincts slightly and that can be shown in Ben Pringle’s individual stats.
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The left winger noted earlier on in this season his frustration at not getting as many balls into the box.
In League One last season, star-performer Pringle sent in 201 crosses in 4,224 minutes of action, equating to around 4.3 a game.
Having made 35 in 820 minutes so far, around 3.8 a game, that is not too much different, indicating that Pringle is sticking to his word about endeavouring to cross more.
But the telling difference is his assist rate. Last season he created a goal on average every 264 minutes he was on the pitch – 16 in total – whereas this time he has been an assist-maker just once.
That’s not to say Pringle has been below-par. Playing on the right certainly didn’t help his cause, neither does coming up against better defenders, but there could well have been more assists for the 25-year-old had the Millers not been so wasteful in front of goal.
When they have been able to bag, 33 per cent of their goals have come from the six-yard box and only Nottingham Forest have been more reliant on goals from close-range, with 47 per cent.
With Kieran Agard being so prolific last season with goals in and around the penalty area, it begs the question as to how things might have been different if the striker was still around.
But on the other hand, when Luciano Becchio gets up to full speed and Matt Derbyshire finds his shooting boots, the Millers should become more potent in front of goal.
If they can become less wasteful and try and become better at seeing games out without conceding late on, another season to remember could be on the cards.