It wasn’t what we’ve come to expect from Rotherham United under Neil Warnock.
There was no last-minute winner, no stirring comeback, no defiant victory against the odds in front of another packed house at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
But this was a result as important as any in the Millers manager’s amazing 12-match reign as a hard-fought draw extended their unbeaten run and saw them move ever closer to sealing their Championship safety.
Now, with another game ticked off and only four remaining, it all comes down to mathematics.
Rotherham go into Tuesday’s home clash with Huddersfield nine points clear of MK Dons, who occupy the third and final relegation place, and 11 in front of next-to-bottom Charlton Athletic.
A Millers victory against the Terriers would send the Addicks down and end any sensible hope MK have of staying up, even if the Dons triumph on the same night at Sheffield Wednesday.
If Rotherham win and MK don’t, it’s all over and The Messiah’s miracle is complete.
We’ll all look back at the end of the season anyway and say the Millers’ place in the second tier was really secured with last week’s 4-0 destruction of the Dons at stadiummk.
It’s nine games without a defeat now and of all the survival sums the only one that really matters is this:
Rotherham + Warnock = Championship.
After the derby delight at Sheffield Wednesday, beating Boro, fighting back from 3-0 down to stun Derby and the 10-man heroics which brought a last-minute winner against Leeds, last Saturday was a rare taste of the routine, two strong backlines holding firm in a tight encounter.
“I’m delighted. It’s a cracking point. Both sides will argue they should have won really,” said the Millers boss. “It was a case of two good defences.
“A point probably suited both teams with the situation that we’re in. You look at their squad on paper and why they’re down there with us I’ll never know.
“We’ve got Huddersfield on Tuesday, one of my old clubs, a lovely club. Their chairman, Dean Hoyle, spoke to me when I took over here and said: ‘If anyone can do it, you lot can.’
“And we’re on our way now, aren’t we? We’re almost to the finishing line.”
One incredible tale did emerge from the mundane ... Woody and the Five Missed Headers.
Richard Wood, overlooked by previous regimes for far too long in his two seasons at New York but now such a defiant figure at the heart of the Rotherham defence, could have scored more goals in one afternoon than he’s managed in the last three years.
Chapter one: Woody began in the 17th minute by heading over a gaping goal from Greg Halford’s pinpoint free-kick and then mistimed his effort when Halford supplied the ammunition again three minutes later.
Joe Mattock and Matt Derbyshire were also close to breaking the deadlock, but Forest, who are level on points with the Millers, didn’t look like a team that had lost five and drawn one of their last six matches, and they had the game’s most dangerous player in the mazy-running Ryan Mendes who tested goalkeeper Lee Camp on more than one occasion.
The visitors defended just like Rotherham have done since Warnock came in and made his mark: in numbers, with good organisation, a player always there with a crucial header or block. Little wonder they have conceded only 19 goals on their league travels.
Henri Lansbury raced clear only to lose his footing as he bore down on goal, but the Millers offered the most threat in the second half as they chased a first win over Forest since 1956 and Derbyshire wasn’t far away with a dipping long-range volley.
Chapter two: Richie Smallwood produced a lovely dinked cross from the left in the 65th minute and Woody powered his close-range header against the bar, with Kirk Broadfoot unable to convert the follow-up.
“Second half, when we tightened up on Mendes, I thought we looked a lot better,” Warnock said. “The centre-halves are doing well. Clubs are going to have chances to catch us on the break, but then you’ve got Campy behind making the saves. It was a good team performance.”
Chapter three: Woody’s 72nd-minute header for goal was deflected for a corner and the big man got himself on the end of the flag-kick only to head the ball down on to the ground and watch it bounce over the bar.
Afterwards, with the unbeaten sequence still intact, Warnock could afford to joke, Lee Frecklington’s tight hamstring, which saw the midfielder withdrawn late on as a precuation, his only slight concern.
“Everybody else is okay injury-wise,” he said. “I think Woody is just mentally affected!
“He’s taken an absolute ribbing in the dressing room. He deserves it! I presented him with a matchball and said: “The referee’s sent this, Woody. This is what you should have had.’
“Have I ever seen a centre-half have so many chances in a game? Not from two inches and two feet out. I’ve seen them miss chances from the six-yard box. Even he doesn’t know how he’s done it. He says he should have had five. And that’s only in one half!”
On a day of stats and maths, Woody - great bloke, fierce competitor, unflinching defender - can point to a different kind of ‘five’ in mitigation: a fifth clean sheet for Rotherham in their last eight outings.
“He did well in defence,” Warnock said. “The back lads looked good. The display showed all the qualities the players have developed - hard work, tough to play against, can create chances. They gave it a go. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Sub Danny Ward went close to winning it for the home side with a terrific bending shot on the turn in the dying minutes, but the Millers were indebted to Camp for a smart save on Mendes seconds later when the ball had broken kindly for the Forest flyer.
A crucial stop at a crucial time from a crucial player. Tre-mendes!
Camp will be a landslide winner of all the Player of the Year awards, and almost as certain is the fact the Millers are staying up.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to work that out.
Rotherham United (4-1-4-1): Camp 8; Kelly 7, Broadfoot 8, Wood 8, Mattock 7; Halford 7; G Ward 6, Smallwood 7, Frecklington 7 (Newell 80), Derbyshire 6 (D Ward 78); Best 6. Subs not used: Kenny, Richardson, Green, Thomas, Clarke-Harris.
Nottingham Forest (4-2-3-1 ): De Vries 7; Lichaj 8, Mills 8, Fox 8, Jokic 8; Tesche 7, Gardner 7; Mendes 9, Lansbury 8, Osborn 7; Blackstock 7 (O’Grady 90+1). Subs not used: Cohen, Macheda, Vaughan, Evtimov, Burke, Worrall.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).
Attendance: 11,503 (2,001).