He’s the man who doesn’t know how it feels to lose in a Rotherham United shirt, and Stephen Kelly is determined to keep it that way as the Millers head into their biggest match of the season.
Neil Warnock’s men face MK Dons today and will be cheered on by around 3,000 travelling fans at stadium:mk where an away win would almost guarantee Rotherham’s Championship survival.
It would leave Milton Keynes, who start this afternoon’s clash in the third and final relegation spot, nine points adrift of the Millers with only five matches left to play.
Right-back Kelly’s nine appearances have brought seven wins and two draws, and the 32-year-old said: “That run is something I am proud of and hopefully it can go on to the end of the season.
“It’s a huge game. I think everyone always knew this was going to be a massive game for us, considering the positions in the table. The pressure is now on them. They are going to have to come at us.”
Rotherham have taken 17 points from a possible 21 in their last seven matches to make up six points on the Dons and then move six clear of them.
“The number of points we have picked up, I can’t see another team doing that between now and the end of the season,” Kelly added. “Credit to the players and the manager, we have given ourselves the best opportunity going into the MK Dons game.
“We are not safe until it’s mathematically impossible to go down. But if we get a win at the weekend, it would be a great step towards safety.”
MK boss Karl Robinson admitted the Millers’ transformation under Warnock had knocked his squad’s confidence.
“There’s a nervousness around the place and you can feel it,” he said. “I still believe we can stay up. I have tremendous belief. If the players don’t want to believe, they’re not the people I thought they were.
“This is new territory. It has been nine years since this club has been in a position like this. But I’m not going to shrink under pressure. I have to push my shoulders back, take the criticism. I ask for a response now.”
MK midfielder Jake Forster-Caskey said: “We’ll keep fighting to the end. There’s not one player in the dressing room who will stop fighting. We’re a close unit. We’ll stick together and battle through this.”
The Dons lost 2-1 at home to Wolves on Tuesday, to make it three 2-1 defeats on the trot, while Warnock’s side were battling to a hard-fought 1-1 draw in hostile surroundings against Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
“It’s a big game,” Warnock said. “We can’t ask for any more than being six points in front. I thought they would have beaten Wolves. But we haven’t done it yet. We have got to keep going.”