Doubts quashed over Rotherham United fight in comeback win over Oxford United

Given their capitulation in the League One promotion race, Rotherham have understandably been questioned in recent weeks.

Sunday, 24th April 2022, 10:31 am
Updated Sunday, 24th April 2022, 9:36 pm

After blowing a 10-point lead everything has come under fire, not least the players’ mentality and fight.

But those doubts were unequivocally quashed with a humongous win over Oxford on Saturday, just when it was needed the most.

The Millers overcame the worst possible start to come from behind and claim a 2-1 win that puts them effectively one victory from automatic promotion.

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Rotherham United's Daniel Barlaser (right) celebrates with team-mate Michael Smith.

If they beat Sunderland or Gillingham in their final two games then only an unlikely swing in goal difference will see MK Dons overhaul them into second place.

It is not out of the question that the Millers could yet still win the league after Wigan are also stuttering.

If they can get the job done over the next six days, this win will go down as one of the biggest of the promotion race.

Four defeats from their last five games had left the Millers staring at the distinct possibility of dropping into the play-offs having occupied top spot for so much of the season.

There was no doubting the significance of the match with Oxford, who still had ambitions of their own as they were chasing a place in the top six.

The tension at the AESSEAL New York Stadium was palpable and got even worse in just the 11th minute when Dan Barlaser put through his own net.

But the Millers rallied and found the perfect time to equalise as Rarmani Edmonds-Green headed home Ben Wiles’ cross on the brink of half-time.

That was a real team-talk changer and Warne’s men left the field to a rousing reception.

They responded after the break with the type of performance that left you wondering what the previous six weeks have all been about.

This was Rotherham at their best, the side that had seen them threaten to run away with the league during winter and a performance that if they can replicate in either of their final two games then will surely see them win promotion.

Their endeavour was rewarded midway through the second half when Chiedozie Ogbene was fouled in the penalty area and Barlaser bagged at the right end, smashing home from 12 yards.

That was enough to seal the win and went a long way to rebuilding the bond between the team and fans, one that had faltered in recent weeks.

Warne said: “When it feels like a must-win game, it's better to go a goal down after 10 minutes rather than 70.

“Oxford were a little bit more direct than I expected.

“They kept turning us. Sometimes you can want something so badly that you can want it too much and it can cloud your judgement.

“Sometimes football is simple. It's not about tactics, it's about working harder than the opposition, like Chieo did to win the penalty.

“Others players - not our players - might have thought it was going out for a goal-kick and left it but didn't give up on it.

“He won the penalty that keeps our season buzzing for the next game. I don't want it to sound disrespectful but in the second half I just thought we had more in us than the opposition.”