Rotherham United 2 Nottingham Forest 1: Michael Smith shows his value in vital victory
Rotherham proved last week that sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s missing.
Striker Michael Smith missed out through illness at Derby and the Millers suffered their heaviest league defeat since 2000.
His absence was sorely felt as the Millers’ lack of other options in attack was cruelly exposed.
Luckily, he was back in the fold against Nottingham Forest and helped deliver a vital three points in their fight against Championship relegation as Paul Warne’s men won 2-1.
He opened the scoring early on and then after former Millers Lewis Grabban had cancelled it out, Smith set up Michael Ihiekwe’s 60th-minute winner.
Smith has had to perform a job that arguably no other striker in the Championship could do this year as he has battled alone up front.
The stats will probably show that few will run more than the 27-year-old as Warne’s side’s defensive press begins with him and he has won 322 aerial battles.
The fact that he as only scored six goals is the reason, with the greatest respect, that he is still at Rotherham.
But the goals he does score are important as they have come in four wins and two draws.
Warne has always been glowing in his praise and insists Smith’s game is about so much more than goals.
The boss said: “Smudge has come on no end. People who come and watch and don’t think he’s a good player obviously don’t understand football.
“It is no surprise that when our best players are here, we’re a better team. He played well and he was one of many. I thought there were some good performances.”
Most Rotherham fans were not born last time their side beat Forest way back in 1956, but breaking their drought could not have been more timely.
With results not entirely going in their favour elsewhere – Millwall won and Wigan drew – there was a sense that Warne’s men simply had to produce a victory.
They were helped by a quick start as Smith converted coolly from a long throw at the far post in the 10th minute.
Grabban, who enjoyed a productive season at the club in 2011-12, levelled before the half-hour at the second attempt and maybe should have had a second but Marek Rodak denied him with a fine low save.
That proved vital as soon after the Millers’ restored their lead, Smith heading Joe Newell’s corner back across goal to the waiting Ihiekwe who converted from close range.
It was their 19th goal from a set-piece this season and potentially their most important.