Forgotten striker Leon Best believes his two-goal blast in the 3-3 thriller with Derby County has set him up to play a major role in Rotherham United’s push for Championship survival.
The former Premier League hot-shot scored his first goals for the Millers as they turned in a 3-0 deficit into a 3-3 draw in nine unforgettable late minutes at AESSEAL New York Stadium last Saturday.
And the forward who had been without a club until Rotherham took a chance on him in November said: “It has really lifted me. I needed that. Two goals in a game where we needed some goals is definitely what I needed to go on and finish the season strongly.”
Best was once a regular top-flight scorer with Newcastle, but injury had restricted his impact in South Yorkshire before his game-changing contribution against former employers the Rams.
“I’m delighted to score,” said the 29-year-old. “It’s been hard for me with injuries and finding a club. I signed here in November, played against Leeds and got a red card and then had a double hernia. I had operation. I’ve been fighting with myself, fighting with my fitness, not being as sharp as I want to be.
“It’s really hard work when you’re a striker and you’re not scoring and you’re coming on and doing things and certain things aren’t going your way.”
Best, whose class has been evident in his three starts and four substitute appearances, credits new boss Neil Warnock with turning round the third-bottom Millers’ safety prospects.
“When I first came here, it was a totally different atmosphere,” he said. “It was a team that was used to not winning, and I think it showed in a couple of games.
“But the manager has come in and given people the belief. He’s straightforward. There’s no beating about the bush with him.
“He tells you what he wants and if you do it he’ll be happy with you. It’s put everyone where they want to be and got us all going and working and giving our all for him.”
Warnock’s seven matches in charge have brought three wins and two draws to move his side just a point behind Fulham and MK Dons.
Rotherham have nine matches left in which to save their season.
The point against high-flying Derby stretched the Millers’ unbeaten run to four game and Best, who scored in the 85th minute and in time added on after coming off the bench, revealed how he had silenced his ex-teammates.
“They’re all great lads, great players as well. I have a lot of good friends in that side,” he said. “Before the game and at half-time there was a bit of banter. They didn’t want to carry it on at the end! They were quiet, with their heads down.
“It definitely makes it sweeter to score against one of my old clubs. I do normally score against Derby when I play against them. I’ve done it a few times with a few different teams.
“It was good. I’m delighted for the boys here.”