Six weeks ago, Rotherham United were in so much trouble the limit of their ambition was to somehow go into tomorrow’s showdown with MK Dons in touch with their survival rivals.
They were stuck in the bottom three of the Championship, six points adrift of Karl Robinson’s side, with the clash at Stadium:mk looking like the game which would give them a glimmer of hope or virtually condemn them to the drop.
Cue the amazing revival under new management duo Neil Warnock, today named Manager of the Month for the Millers’ March exploits, and Kevin Blackwell.
After a run of five wins and two draws in their last seven games, Rotherham could afford to lose tomorrow and still remain three points clear of the relegation places.
Not that they are settling for a defeat when victory could take them so close to guaranteeing their safety.
“A win would go a long way to seeing us home,” coach and assistant boss Blackwell acknowledged. “The one thing we’ve all agreed on is that we going to drive as hard as we can right to the end of the season. The great thing is, if we mirror the results of the teams in the bottom three we’re home and dry.”
A 12-point swing has seen the Millers march past the Dons and an away triumph tomorrow, in front of almost 3,000 travelling fans, would leave the third-bottom home side nine points behind Warnock’s men with only five matches remaining.
“When we came in, we saw this fixture and knew we had to be in around MK when we played them,” Blackwell said. “The importance of this game is massive, but it’s not as big as it could have been, and that’s a big thing for us.
“If we lose, it’s not the end of the world for us, and what a massive change that is. We couldn’t have thought that four or five weeks ago. Yes, it’s a massive game, but it’s not a game now where we’re under so much pressure.
“Clearly, all the pressure really is on MK Dons. They have to do something. What we have to do is focus and make sure we keep doing the things we’ve been doing really well. We’ll worry about ourselves. If we do our jobs the way we know we can, whether we’re playing the top teams or the bottom teams, we can compete.”
Defensive midfielder Greg Halford suffered a neck injury in the 1-1 draw at Bristol City on Tuesday and is being monitored, while centre-half Lloyd Doyley’s inflamed knee may keep him out of contention again, although Richard Wood came in for him and did well at Ashton Gate.
Another in-form player, midfielder Lee Frecklington, lost out to Burnley striker Sam Vokes for the March Championship Player of the Month award.
Warnock said of his prize: “This award isn’t just for me. It’s for everyone at the club, and that goes from the chairman down to the cleaners.
“The players have done a tremendous job and so have the staff and I’d like to give special mentions to Kevin Blackwell and (coach) Ronnie Jepson.”
Meanwhile, Blackwell pledged that the Millers won’t take tomorrow’s showdown lightly.
“We will pay full respect to Milton Keynes because the job Robbo (manager Karl Robinson) has done there in the last five or so years hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“But we’ve said all along we’re going to focus on staying up, and that’s what we’re doing. Once we’ve done that, we can talk about everything else.”
‘Everything else’ includes the futures of Warnock and Blackwell, with the desire among supporters for them to stay on next season growing with every game.
Blackwell’s response was short and to the point when he was asked if survival would mean he could knock on chairman Tony Stewart’s door and say: ‘What next?’