Leon Best (x2) and Danny Ward netted late-on to claw Rotherham United back from 3-0 down against Derby County in 2016…
Neil Warnock took over at Rotherham with the club placed 22nd in the Championship, three points away from safety. The Millers drew 0-0 with Birmingham City in his first game, before they lost back to back away games against Burnley and Reading.
These results left Rotherham six points adrift of safety with 13 games remaining. The South Yorkshire outfit were not willing to go down without a fight, however.
The final stretch of the season was extraordinary, as Warnock masterminded an 11-game unbeaten run that dragged the club to safety. It was a remarkable couple of months for them, with their safety all-but sealed with their 4-0 victory at MK Dons.
But if you go back a few weeks, Rotherham had won three games on the bounce leading into this game against Derby. These wins came in dramatic fashion over Brentford, Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough.
Prior to their meeting against the Rams, the Millers were now just one point away from moving out of the drop zone. What we got was a ridiculous game of football that summed up the never say die attitude of Rotherham United…
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) March 12, 2016
The Millers held firm to keep it 0-0 heading into the break. Derby were fifth in the Championship chasing a promotion prior to this game and they would show off their attacking prowess in the second half.
The visitors netted three times in just ten minutes to put themselves well into the ascendency. Tom Ince gave Derby the lead from the edge of the area after Kirk Broadfoot struggled to clear.
In the 63rd minute, Derby doubled their advantage via a tap in from Chris Martin. Straight from the kick-off, a loose back pass from Danny Collins gifted Ince his second and his side’s third of the afternoon.
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This was set to be a big blow for Warnock’s men, as their great form was about to be ground to a halt. At the same time, their closest rivals MK Dons were drawing 1-1 away at Hull City.
Rotherham were flying heading into this game. Looking back now in hindsight, who knows what effect this result could have had on the team’s morale if it had finished 3-0.
Warnock changed it up with 20 minutes to go. Best came on for Paul Green and Joe Newell replaced Matt Derbyshire. Derby were cruising and they looked set to reduce the gap to second-placed Middlesbrough to just two points.
In the 83rd minute, Rotherham forged an opening of their own. Grant Ward picked the ball up just past the halfway line, and he played a pinpoint pass towards the onrushing Danny Ward.
The forward calmly finished past Scott Carson to give his side a glimmer of hope heading into the final stages of the game.
Super-sub Leon Best…
Barely two minutes later, a near-impossible comeback was now well on the cards. Rotherham earned themselves a corner which was sent in by Newell.
Stephen Kelly knocked it on towards the back post before the ball was unconventionally headed in by Best. The decibels inside the New York Stadium were now off the charts as the home supporters were doing all they could to will on their side.
One minute into stoppage time, the home faithful’s support paid dividends. Lee Camp booted the ball upfield and the second ball was won by Newell.
The winger headed it towards Danny Ward just outside the penalty area. He took the ball on his chest and skillfully flicked it over the heads of Cyrus Christie and Richard Keogh.
He was not done there as he sent in a fantastic looping ball towards the back post. Best was charging onto it. He met the ball perfectly and Carson could not keep out his powerful header.
And that was it. A second from Best completed the most unlikely of all comebacks as Rotherham’s unwavering spirit shone through once again. The Millers remained one point behind MK Dons. But this result kept their momentum going as they went onto fire themselves to safety…
Rotherham’s unbelievable form continued after this with back to back victories over Ipswich Town and Leeds United. They followed that up with a 1-1 draw away at Bristol City. This was before they faced MK Dons in a relegation decider at Stadium MK.
This run meant that the Millers had all the belief going into this vital game. They were full of confidence on a seven-game unbeaten run.
Warnock’s side put in arguably their most complete performance of this run against MK Dons. They breezed past their relegation rivals as Derbyshire, Best, Broadfoot and Derbyshire all netted in their 4-0 win.
This victory moved the Millers nine points clear of the drop zone with just five games to go. Their Championship status was secured for another season three games later as they drew 0-0 with Wolves.
Rotherham finished the season on 49 points, nine points above Charlton Athletic in the last relegation spot. This was a special few months for the football club. This 11-game unbeaten run will live long in the memory for every Millers supporter lucky enough to be watching at the time.
The Millers face Derby County at the New York Stadium again this Saturday. The backdrop to this game is very different from what it was in 2016.
Both teams are battling to avoid relegation with Saturday being a huge six-pointer leading into the New Year. Here’s hoping for the same level of entertainment this time around, with the only difference being that Rotherham pick up all three points…