Rotherham 3 Wigan 2: 5 things we learned

Rotherham won their potential season-defining game against Wigan on Boxing Day in a classic game of two halves.

Things were looking rosy at half-time as the Millers surged into a 3-0 lead before a Latics fightback had Paul Warne’s men teetering on the brink.

Here’s five things we learned from the game.

Rotherham never do it the easy way

The Alan Lee last-minute goal, promotion at Wembley, Neil Warnock’s miracle – Rotherham have a history of not doing anything easily. At half-time, sat with cigars in mouths and feet up, we might have hoped that this could be different. Well, that soon proved to be wishful thinking. After conceding early in the second half, panic set in and the longest 40 minutes of the season ensued. Desperate to hang on to their lead, Rotherham retreated and spent much of the second half playing in their own final third and it left them hanging on. When Jordi Gomez popped Wigan’s second in with a lovely finish the whole ground would probably have expected an equaliser in the 11 minutes plus remaining. It was nerve-wracking to the end, but the Millers just, and we mean just, had enough to hang on. Paul Warne said afterwards that Rotherham fans would not have wanted it to be 3-0 because they love the drama. We’re not sure he’s sold us on that one!

The luck was finally in

Rotherham were superb value for their 3-0 lead given the marauding nature of their first-half display, but they probably cashed in on some of their owed luck throughout a season of misfortune to get there as all three goals had an element of luck about them. Aimen Belaid’s opener came after Lee Frecklington’s mis-hit shot fell kindly to him, the second was a result of a wicked deflection off – we think – Richard Wood’s behind and then the third went in after the luckless Jussi Jaaskelainen saved Danny Ward’s effort into the path of team-mate Dan Burn who could not help putting through his own net. The Millers have rarely had such luck this season and they chose the right game to cash in.

Delivering when they needed to

There’s been a few times this season when Rotherham really haven’t delivered when they were expected to – at home to Cardiff and away at Burton are clear examples. But this time, there was so much pressure on them to win and they duly delivered. This clash and Thursday’s rematch with Burton have been rightly billed as season-defining, so that added that extra expectation, but they did the best thing possible by responding in style, with the opening 45 minutes arguably their best performance of the season. Hopefully they can reproduce on Thursday.

If not hope, there is momentum at least

Let’s not get carried away, Rotherham are still nine points away from safety and that remains a massive deficit to retrieve. But this Millers side under Warne are a different animal and they now look capable of picking up results, especially at home. Oh how we would have killed for the side to be playing in this manner from the beginning of August, not December. The Millers now at least appear to making a fight of it and if they can beat Burton on Thursday night – another crucial game – they will begin to dream of another great escape in the new year. Finally, for the first time this season they have momentum, confidence and belief and with some more quality added next season, let’s see how far it takes them.

 One for the dubious goals panel

Everyone in the ground thought the stadium announcer was crazy when he gave the second goal to Richard Wood, but it turns out that Danny Ward’s shot took the decisive deflection off the defender’s behind. The goal was officially awarded to the Millers striker by data providers Opta so Wood’s only hope of taking his tally to three is if it goes to a dubious goal panel. Warne has suggested that Ward should be claiming it, with the striker saying his pal, who travel in together, can “bugger off”. Wood later said on Twitter that he wants it, so it is a fight to the death. We reckon it would be nice for Ward to get it, he was on a long goalless run and if Rotherham can make a fist of survival they will need him fit and scoring.

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