Alan Lee’s 89th-minute winner against Brentford secures Rotherham United consecutive promotions up to Division One.
Roughly a year before this game, Rotherham United earned promotion in 1999/2000 back into Division Two after three years away. In their return campaign in Division Two, most Millers fans would have accepted it being a consolidation season.
But under Ronnie Moore, Rotherham surprised many with what they went onto achieve. The Millers were at a disadvantage with their level of finances compared to other teams such as Reading and Stoke City.
But this did not bother Rotherham. They defied all expectations and with a couple of games to go, they were in 2nd and on the brink of another promotion.
On 28th April 2001, they hosted Brentford. They knew that if they won and other results went their way, promotion into Division One would be sealed.
Rotherham United Starting XI
Other than a minor hiccup here and there, Rotherham United were superb in the promotion run-in. Ahead of their showdown with Brentford, the Millers were unbeaten in four having also won three games on the bounce.
This run put Rotherham on the verge of promotion, and this game with Brentford was the last remaining hurdle Moore’s side had to overcome.
Earlier in the season, Rotherham hammered Brentford 3-0 with Alan Lee scoring in between a Stewart Talbot brace. So the Millers were heavy favourites to get that all-important win here.
Over 9,000 Millers fans gathered at Milmoor not wanting to miss out on a potentially history-making day for the club.
The game got going, and understandably given the enormity of the occasion, the Millers started slowly. After just six minutes, Brentford took an unexpected lead.
Brentford forward Lloyd Owusu was fed the ball just past the halfway line and Rotherham sat back as he advanced on their backline. He manufactured his way to the edge of the area, before finishing nicely with his left foot to put his team ahead.
Rotherham United were unbeaten at Milmoor in around nine-months, so there was no way that they would go down without a fight.
The Millers rode their luck at times as Brentford caused the home side problems on the counter-attack. But Rotherham dominated the ball and Brentford were becoming more stretched as the half went on.
In the 34th minute that vital breakthrough for Rotherham came. The pressure on Brentford was growing as the home side earned another corner.
It was sent into the box and Rotherham kept it alive before it fell to Stewart Talbot. He touched it past the defender before smashing it into the bottom corner to make it all square.
Rotherham vs Brentford remained 1-1 as the second-half got going. The game continued in a similar vein to the opening half.
The Millers had all of the ball, but they just struggled to find that cutting edge to create one match-winning chance.
As the second period went on, news trickled through that Colchester City were beating Rotherham’s closest promotion rivals, Reading. So if it remained as it was, and Rotherham scored a winner, they would be promoted.
The noise in the stadium grew as the Millers faithful did all they could to encourage their team. Kevin Watson had the best chance. He was free in the area before he dragged his effort just beyond the bottom corner.
The match was now drawing to a close. It now seemed like it would finish 1-1, and Rotherham would have to wait until their game with Peterborough on the final day to achieve promotion.
But there was still time for one last chance. In the 89th minute, the Millers kept possession in the final third, before Watson fed a brilliant pass to Alan Lee on the edge of the box.
Lee touched it out of his feet and on the turn, he struck it well past the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner. Lee and his teammates reeled off in celebration as fans flooded onto the pitch.
Rotherham had to see out a few nervous minutes near the end. But they did just that and the final whistle went which set off jubilant scenes at Milmoor. Rotherham had won the game 2-1 to earn promotion to Division One in the most dramatic of fashions.
This was a fantastic day for the football club. It is remembered fondly as one of the most important ever games at Milmoor. Moore, his staff and players had done unbelievably well to achieve back-to-back promotions.
In 2000/01, Rotherham were left adrift financially. But this was increased tenfold in Division One. Rotherham were always going to be at a disadvantage and if they could avoid relegation it would have been a great achievement.
This remarkable team under Moore went way beyond that though, as they remained in the 2nd tier for four whole seasons. This is longer than anyone could have really anticipated, and it was a phenomenal few years for the club.
This era is rightly looked back on as one of the most successful periods in the club’s history. Looking ahead to next season, let’s hope that this current crop of Rotherham heroes can make even more fantastic memories in what will hopefully be another fruitful campaign.