It was a match Rotherham United couldn’t afford to lose and nerves were jangling at AESSEAL New York Stadium, but manager Steve Evans was the coolest person there.
A rousing first-half performance saw the Millers earn a priceless 1-0 win in their fight for Championship survival against Brighton to move seven points clear of the drop zone.
They held out after the interval in the face of sustained Seagulls possession. vindicating Evans’ descision to pep up his side with four changes after the 2-1 Good-Friday defeat at Birmingham City.
“I wasn’t worried,” the Millers boss said.
“I think we had to soak up some pressure when they were hitting balls in from wide or from corners. The only two bits I had a concern with was when big Faz Raswon had one big block and then Jack Hunt had another in the space of a couple of minutes. The guys go out there and do their job.
“Other than that, when Brighton are playing in front of you they can play like that for 60 minutes ... they’re not going to penetrate us or hurt us because we kept a fantastic shape.
“Credit to Paul Green and Ben Pringle, they’ve played unsung roles. I said midway through the second half during a water break ‘just keep your discipline and go and join the front boys when you get an opportunity’. They made it that Brighton had to play it wide and when they did cross it into the box I always felt in control with Emi Martinez in goal.
With skipper and centre-half Craig Morgan suspended and some players feeling the effects of Friday, Evans handed starts to Green, Kari Arnason, back after a ban, Farrend Rawson and Jordan Bowery and included Danny Ward, available after injury, on the bench.
“I wanted freshness around my team,” he said. “Lee Frecklington (named among the subs) is a young man who was hanging himself in training the day before the game. He could hardly move around because he had applied so much on Friday. I wanted to bring Jordan in. His second-half performance at Birmingham and his recent days in training leading up to that were good.
“I wanted Danny Ward on my bench. People forget we signed him as a main player and we’ve hardly had him.”
Brighton boss Chris Hughton, tipping Rotherham to stay up, said: “They’ve shown they have enough to be close in every game. We were up against a side that was better than us in the first half.”
The Millers have extended teen centre-half Rawson’s loan to the end of the season.