Party time for 3,000 as the Millers seal survival (well, almost!) ... MK Dons 0 Rotherham United 4

The Messiah salutes 3,000 travelling fans. Pictures: Jim Brailsford
The Messiah salutes 3,000 travelling fans. Pictures: Jim Brailsford

He limped off in the 40th minute. He limped back on after 90+4.

Lee Frecklington.

The little fella who has performed so heroically for Rotherham United this season may have been forced out of the action by a calf niggle, but he and his teammates knew what the final whistle at stadiummk meant: Survival.

It’s not mathematically confirmed yet, and it won’t be until next week at the earliest, but the Millers are surely staying in the Championship.

In the wake of the 4-0 demolition of safety rivals MK Dons - the team who simply had to win to save their season - Frecks, tracksuited and hobbling slightly, was out on the turf, embracing teammates, smiling from ear to ear, saluting the magnificent Millers away following.

For those 3,000 ecstatic fans, singing the same song over and over again in tribute to the boss on the brink of a miracle escape ... party time!

There are five matches to go and Rotherham are now nine points clear of MK, who occupy the third and final relegation spot. To give that situation a little context, it took four wins and a draw in five games for the Millers to make up a mere six-point gap on the Dons in March. Rotherham, now unbeaten in eight and with three of their next four fixtures at home, aren’t for catching.

“I almost said we’re safe, nearly!” manager Neil Warnock Is A Red grinned afterwards.

Usually, the best parties don’t start early, but this one did. There were just 54 seconds on the clock and only four away players had touched the ball when Rotherham led 1-0.

Dons defender George Baldock had famously said the Millers weren’t Real Madrid but, when Stephen Kelly conceded an MK corner which was caught and cleared by Lee Camp with pinpoint accuracy, Grant Ward pushed the ball beyond Jake Forster-Caskey and sped past him like Gareth Bale while Matt Derbyshire was lurking in the middle to smash the ball into the roof of the net Ronaldo style after his deft first attempt had been saved.

Goal No 1 after 54 seconds. Thank you, Matt Derbyshire

Goal No 1 after 54 seconds. Thank you, Matt Derbyshire

Seventeen minutes in, the contest was over, leaving a long, long time for all those supporters to enjoy one of the greatest Millers away days in living memory.

Central defender Richard Wood, a towering figure in his own penalty area and suddenly an impish runner in MK’s, was felled by keeper Cody Cropper.

Greg Halford and Leon Best rowed about who was going to take the spot-kick, with Best refusing to hand over the ball to the man who had scored from 12 yards against Leeds United a week earlier. But there was no argument about the finish as the striker coolly sent Cropper the wrong way.

“Goals change games,” Warnock said. “The first goal killed them. The second didn’t do them any good.”

The sight Millers fans have been waiting for! Kirk Broadfoot scores

The sight Millers fans have been waiting for! Kirk Broadfoot scores

This was nothing like the Battle of Bristol four days earlier, when Rotherham had been baited by City players and fans alike in the cauldron of Ashton Gate and had met fire with fire to earn a 1-1 draw.

Once Dean Bowditch’s fourth-minute header had gone narrowly wide, MK surrendered with barely a whimper. Rotherham were too sharp, too strong, too organised, too competitive for them. The Millers wanted it more. The Millers could have had more. 6-0 wouldn’t have flattered them.

I suppose a party isn’t a party unless it’s rowdy to the point of upsetting the people nearby who aren’t in on the celebration.

In a move which does them no credit, MK had housed the vast Millers contingent high, high in the upper tier of the away end or out towards the corner flag, the idea no doubt being to deprive the visitors of any support directly behind the net.

But the ploy backfired as the noise, in a wonderful arena with great acoustics, did what the rain did most of the afternoon ... it came bouncing down from the heavens in ever-greater torrents.

Goals three and four went in, the volume was switched up even higher, and the fed-up MK fans left in droves.

Kirk Broadfoot's in there somewhere

Kirk Broadfoot's in there somewhere

There were demented scenes, from player and fans, as Kirk Broadfoot bagged the third - and his first for the club - with a flying 54th-minute header from Joe Newell’s perfect delivery at the end where the Millers were massed.

The centre-half, a darling of the Rotherham faithful for his all-out commitment, was booked for his celebration as he headed for his admirers and his admirers came heading down the stand for him, but the 31-year-old Scot was so lost in the moment I don’t think he’s realised yet.

Cody came a Cropper in the 80th minute at the hands of Richie Smallwood. Of the many things the midfield dynamo has in his locker, the ability to finish isn’t one one of them, but he beat the MK keeper all ends up with a 20-yard looping volley for the goal of the game.

Another crazy moment on another crazy Millers afternoon since Warnock took over 11 games ago.

In the second half, Forster-Caskey’s free-kick brought a stunning save from Camp, the same player hit the bar with a superb long-range piledriver and Millers old boy Alex Revell headed over when the goal was gaping.

But Rotherham, in control of the game, should have added to their total as Derbyshire broke and went alone when an easy pass would have brought a goal for substitute Danny Ward and Smallwood flashed a point-blank header wide.

To Smallwood’s ire, Warnock forgot about the goal afterwards and castigated him for the miss instead!

“We needed Wardy on second half,” Warnock said. “I thought Besty was just misfiring a bit. He had done very well over the two previous games, but it is a lot for him, three games in a week, with the intensity that we play with.

“I thought Wardy came on and was a different class again. I said to him, he should give Derbyshire a big thump because Derbs should have put it in his path for a tap-in, but Derbs said he didn’t see him.”

Back to Freck. Or is it Frecks? I’ve called him Freck for much of the campaign, but I asked him about it and it turns out it’s Frecks, in which case we can safely say about this wonderful Millers performer that the only thing missing from his game this season has been the ‘s’.

He hopes to be back in for a fortnight. Team player that he is, the man who has been almost as key to the Millers’ revival as Warnock himself wasn’t going to pass up on sharing the communal delight at the end for anything.

Sometimes a party’s spoiled by a fatherly figure arriving on the scene and ordering things to be toned down.

Not this one.

After Camp’s trademark run and clenched-first salute to the crowd had drawn rapturous cheers, there was Warnock, copying his keeper, his arm raised in appreciation of the incredible support, 3,000 voices raised in honour of him.

Think about the swing. Rotherham, once cut adrift in the drop zone, have turned a six-point deficit into a nine-point cushion. 20 points won in eight matches and a 15-point turnaround.

“When you have a following like that ... they were important today,” Warnock said. “To get nearly 3,000 was a credit to everybody. They made themselves heard.”

So ... party time.

With Neil Warnock, aged 67.

The oldest swinger in town.

MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Cropper 5; Baldock 5, Kay (Maynard 77) 6, Walsh 6, Lewington 6; Potter 5, Forster-Caskey 6; Bowditch (Baker 67) 5, Williams 5 (Carruthers 67, 5), Murphy 8; Revell 5. Subs not used: Burns, Spence, Long, Powell.

Rotherham United (4-1-4-1): Camp 8; Kelly 8, Broadfoot 9, Wood 8, Mattock 7; Halford 8; G Ward 8, Smallwood 9, Frecklington 8 (Newell 40, 7), Derbyshire 8 (Thomas 77); Best 7 (D Ward 54, 8). Subs not used: Kenny, Facey, Richardson, Clarke-Harris.

Goals: Derbyshire 1, Best pen 17, Broadfoot 54, Smallwood 80 (Rotherham).

Referee: Iain Williamson (Berkshire).

Attendance: 13,048.

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Richie Smallwood's 20-yard looped volley finds the net

Richie Smallwood's 20-yard looped volley finds the net

A rare but very welcome sight

A rare but very welcome sight

Chairman Tony Stewart gets in on the act

Chairman Tony Stewart gets in on the act