JON TAYLOR just knew he was going to score against Blackburn and had a T-shirt bearing a poignant message printed to mark the occasion.
‘Stay Strong Con,’ it read as Taylor lifted his shirt on putting Rotherham United ahead early in the second half.
Impending relegation for the Millers pales into insignificance to what Taylor’s former Shrewsbury team-mate Connor Goldson is going through.
The £500,000 winger Taylor explained: “My best mate is Connor, who plays for Brighton. He’s been my best mate for about 10 years now, but he had a bit of bad news a couple of weeks ago and was told he might never play football again.
“He has to have a heart operation and has a consultation on Monday so I just sent a little message out for him to keep positive.
“Hopefully, everything will go well and, you never know, he could be able to play football again, fingers crossed.
“I went for a coffee with Broaders (Kirk Broadfoot) the other day and said, ‘I’m going to score tomorrow’ and that was my inspiration. I rang Willo, the kit man, on Friday and said to him ‘would it be okay if you got me a top so I could send a message out?’ Luckily enough, I wore the top and I scored.”
It is feared that Goldson’s condition could be similar to that of the former Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed during a match at White Hart Lane in 2012 and almost died, and one that led to the early retirement of England batsman James Taylor at 26.
Rotherham’s Taylor scored his first goal in 14 appearances and his fourth of the season, but it was not enough to give the Millers their fifth home win of the season following four successive defeats without a goal.
Full-back Stephen Kelly, under pressure from Derrick Williams, turned an inswinging corner from match-turning substitute Connor Mahoney into his own net at the far post late on and fellow replacement Marvin Emnes should then have won it for Rovers, but headed inches wide.
That would have been rough justice on Paul Warne’s side, who responded to his half-time rollicking and found the spark that had been missing, forcing nine corners after the break to raise spirits ahead of tomorrow’s home derby against third-placed Huddersfield.
Blackburn manager Owen Coyle, barracked by his own fans, believed they should have come away with a win, which would have lifted them out of the bottom three.
He was left exasperated as Richard O’Donnell diverted a curling effort from Jason Lowe against the bar in the first period and parried a close-range bullet header from Charlie Mulgrew onto the woodwork straight after the Millers had gone ahead, via a deflection off the Rovers defender.
From then until Blackburn’s double substitution, Rotherham stepped up a gear, Jerry Yates giving Danny Ward much-needed support up front.
But their season-long problem of failing to convert chances proved costly – Tom Adeyemi being particularly profligate on his return from illness, though he did get the touch on to Taylor for the goal. It is clutching at straws to point out that Rotherham’s great escape act last season did not begin until the end of February when they went 11 games unbeaten under Neil Warnock to beat the drop.
Then, they were six points adrift, now the gap is 14 with 15 games to go, though Taylor says no one is throwing in the towel. “It was disappointing with them scoring so late on. We should have held on because we were on top in the second half. We needed to get another goal because we created a lot of chances,” he said.
“It’s been my first goal in a while but I go into every game hoping I’ll score. Hopefully, I can kick on now and get a few more. The gaffer is always telling me to get in the box at the far post when the ball is on the left side and Adeyemi saw me and played me through and I had a go and, although it took a slight deflection, I’ll take it.
“I haven’t been playing as much as I would like to, but I work hard every single day in training. It’s a team game and whenever I get my chance I have to take it.”
Taylor believes the fact that tomorrow’s game at the New York Stadium is a derby means no motivation will be required.
“It’s a massive game though every game now is huge for us. It’s a derby, a big one. It’s one for the fans and, hopefully, we can put on a show and show how much it means. We will work our socks off to try and get a result.”
Taylor was as non-plussed as anyone as to why Saturday’s first half was so flat.
“There was no reason behind it, no one knows why. It was terrible and, rightly so, we got some bad words said to us, but we showed a reaction and were then on top.
“We can’t afford to be just having one good half, one bad half. We are fighting for our lives and need to be doing it for the whole 90 minutes.
“That’s a lesson learned and, hopefully, we will kick on from that from now on, and from the first whistle.”
Rotherham United: O’Donnell, Kelly, Ajayi, Wood, Purrington; Smallwood; Taylor, Adeyemi (Vaulks 77), Newell, Forde (Yates 46); Ward. Unused substitutes: Bilboe, Mattock, Blackstock, Bray, Ekstrand.
Blackburn Rovers: Steele, Nyambe (Akpan 65), Lenihan, Mulgrew, Williams; Feeney (Mahoney 69), Lowe, Bennett, Conway (Emnes 69); Gallagher, Graham. Unused substitutes: Raya, Joao, Guthrie, Brown.
Referee: O Langford (W Midlands).