Bubbly on ice ... Millers verdict and reaction: Rotherham United 1 Huddersfield 1
The permutations beforehand were mind-boggling, the truth afterwards plain and simple.
Rotherham still have a touch of work to do to guarantee their Championship survival.
A 1-1 draw at home to Huddersfield means the celebrations for the great escape have to be delayed until Saturday’s match at Wolves at the earliest.
There were all manner of calculations attached to the Millers’ clash with Town while MK Dons, the team who began the day in the third relegation spot and nine points behind Neil Warnock’s men, were in action at Sheffield Wednesday.
It boiled down to this: Rotherham were safe if MK failed to match or better the home side’s result at AESSEAL New York Stadum.
The Dons duly drew 0-0 and, mathematically, can still catch the Millers ... if Warnock’s side lose all of their remaining three matches - having gone unbeaten in their last 10 - and give up a goal-difference advantage of 12.
That won’t happen, but the Millers champagne has to remain on ice for now.
“Nine points clear with three games to play? If you’d have told me that when I came in, I’d have kissed you,” said Warnock.
“There were four or five of my players tonight below the standards they have set themselves, but you have to remember how much they have given me in the last few weeks.
“There’ll be very little training before Saturday. We’ll probably have an egg and a sherry on Friday!
“To go 10 games without losing is an incredible achievement.”
Rotherham needed only 10 minutes to take the lead, a low, fiercely-struck shot from Greg Halford finding the net with the help of a deflection big enough to suggest it might have been an own goal.
Grant Ward was causing Huddersfield early problems and saw his effort saved at the near post by Jed Steer after 12 minutes and, four minutes later, Richard Wood headed tamely at the Town keeper when he should have done better.
The visitors equalised against the run of play on 22 minutes when Grant Ward wasted a chance to clear and Nahki Wells found himself in on goal. Millers goalkeeper Lee Camp has been in superb form and the shot was close to him but it surprisingly slipped by for the leveller.
It was a half of two halves, with the home team in charge until they conceded and the Terriers then bossing proceedings up to the break.
Rotherham lacked plenty in quality but nothing in spirit and grit as they fought hard throughout the match. In the end, a draw was a good result for them against a Town side for whom striker Nahki Wells was a constant danger.
“1-0 down away to Rotherham isn’t the easiest challenge,” said Town boss David Wagner. “It wasn’t the best game I have ever seen. I was pleased with our fighting attitude.”
The game opened up in the second period. The Millers started the better and, after Richie Smallwood had shot over, Grant Ward flashed a header wide from Danny Ward’s cross following a slick move.
Town hit back and Camp redeemed himself with a quality stop to deny Joe Lolley before Wood, lurking in the Town penalty area again, saw his close-range ‘scoop’ gathered by Steer.
Wells tried his luck from 20 yards for Huddersfield but was just wide and Camp pulled off the save of the game to foil the same player’s 81st-minute curling effort in the Yorkshire derby’s last significant moment.
Hours before kick-off, Rotherham had announced that their 2,500 ticket allocation for the final match of the season, at Hull City early next month, had sold out.
Staying up isn’t totally assured but virtually is. This wasn’t the night for it to happen, but it will come sooner rather than later.
Fans know it and are certainly planning for party time at the KC Stadium on May 7.
Rotherham United (4-1-4-1): Camp; Kelly, Broadfoot, Wood, Mattock, Halford; G Ward, Smallwood, Frecklington, Derbyshire (Best 64); D Ward. Subs not used: Kenny, Green, Burke, Richardson, Clarke-Harris, Newell.
Huddersfield Town (4-2-3-1 ): Steer; Smith, Hudson, Lynch, Davidson; Whitehead, Billing; Lolley (Scannell), Bunn (Paterson 58), Van La Parra (Matmour 58); Wells. Subs unused: Allinson, Cranie, Huws, Dempsey.
Goals: Halford 10 (Rotherham); Wells 22 (Huddersfield).
Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire).
Attendance: 10,292 (1,852).