Rotherham suffered their first defeat in 17 games as they were sunk by a controversial late penalty at Sheffield United, which has all-but kiboshed their hopes of winning automatic promotion.
It was a poor showing from the Millers, who were well below their best and they remain winless at Bramall Lane since 1980.
Here’s what we learned from the game.
Premier League Refs and Rotherham don’t mix
Whenever Rotherham get a Premier League referee officiating their games it usually ends in penalty woe for them. Mike Dean’s controversial decision to award the Blades their match-winning spot-kick led Steve Evans to say he only wants Football League referees in Rotherham’s games and you can understand why. Dean follows in the footsteps of Robert Madley, who awarded MK Dons a penalty and sent off Michael O’Connor and Evans in October, and Michael Oliver, who inexplicably gave Wolves a penalty in December’s 3-3 draw. Come back Trevor Kettle, all is forgiven.
Rotherham need Lee Frecklington fit
The fact that Rotherham are a far better team with Lee Frecklington in it is nothing new, but just how important he is was highlighted at the Lane. The midfielder was out with a back injury and his absence was felt hard as the Millers missed his box-to-box mobility, his ability to support the front two, his quality in the final third and his shooting boots. Rob Milsom played too similar a role to Richie Smallwood, and was hamstrung by an early yellow card anyway, while Michael O’Connor has not got Frecklington’s ability to get around the pitch and tried to pull the strings from a deeper position. Wrap Frecks up in cotton wool between now and the play-offs!
Harry Maguire is a good header of the ball
If we weren’t aware of it before, we certainly knew afterwards that Sheffield United’s Harry Maguire is in his comfort zone when the opposition pump the ball long. The 20-year-old, who was captaining the Blades, won header after header against Alex Revell as the Millers continuously went long. Revell hardly got a sniff and it was far too one-dimensional from the visitors, with Maguire having a field day. However, as strong as he is in the air, often being far too strong for Revell, he was like Bambi for the penalty decision. She fell over!
The Millers do matter to SheffieldUnited
If the build-up to this game on the internet and radio was anything to go by, Rotherham are a team of total inconsequence to Sheffield United’s fans, who played down the fixture and insisted their focus was on Sunday’s trip to Wembley. Yet they celebrated their winner like it was the World Cup final and they were giving it the big one online in the aftermath, retweeting any prior suggestions Rotherham might win and generally just gloating. Thought it was just another game boys?
It’s the play-offs
This is hardly a ground-breaking observation, but with Brentford winning, the Millers are now nine points behind second place with five games left and that is an insurmountable task to overhaul. So if they are going to go up it will have to be through the play-offs. It’s difficult to know whether the performance at Bramall Lane was a case of freezing on the big stage or whether it was a total coincidence that their worst display in 17 games came in their biggest game, but it’s important the Millers bounce back quickly. They need to nail down third spot and ensure they go into the end-of-season showpiece showing the form they have done over the last couple of months.