ALMOST a decade on, Martin McIntosh still laughs at what transpired on a crazy night at Rotherham United’s former Millmoor home on November 29, 2004.
This was the last time Leeds United called in at Rotherham on league business and, as with tonight’s sell-out clash at the New York Stadium across the dual carriageway from the old Millmoor, the Sky Sports cameras were in town to witness it.
This freezing Monday evening under the lights proved fateful for both clubs, with the Millers – after a start to the Championship campaign which could best be described as torrid – provided some joyous, if ultimately fleeting, respite in a hellish season that ended in relegation.
The most unlikely of 1-0 wins was secured thanks to a 77th-minute goal from ex-Millers captain McIntosh, with the final whistle the cue for mass hysteria among the home support as their side ended their embarassing 20-match winless start to the league season.
For Leeds fans massed in the old Railway End, there was a sense of disbelief at the end, partly at how low their club had descended to lose to comfortably the division’s worst team on paper and also at quite how they had not taken the points back up the M1.
It might have had an unremarkable 1-0 scoreline, but it proved a remarkable game which everyone present in the 8,860 is likely to remember.
McIntosh’s goal may have settled it, but it did not really tell the whole story, with Leeds, then managed by Kevin Blackwell, hitting the bar three times in the first eight minutes.
It was the same player in centre-half Clarke Carlisle who saw all three efforts rattle the woodwork. He then went off injured after 13 unlucky minutes. It truly was that sort of night for Leeds.
Recalling it all, McIntosh, now retired from playing and managing non-league outfit Buxton, said: “The biggest thing I remember about that night is thinking, ‘how is this game still 0-0?’
“Leeds had hit the woodwork something like three times in five minutes and I remember it really well. They had so many opportunities and it was as if we could not get out of our own half.
“It was a huge game for our fans to win. But it seemed more laughable at the end when we were winning because Leeds had that many chances.
“I think a few of our players were turning around to each other during the game thinking, ‘How on earth are we still in this?’ And then it was, ‘How on earth is this 1-0?’
“I remember Kevin Blackwell getting interviewed afterwards and the guy was absolutely shattered. He could not believe it.
“Martin Butler was injured and basically we had no strikers.
“I think I’d only just come back from injury and had been out for a while. From what I remember for the goal, we had a corner and there was a bit of a scramble in the box and Shaun Barker back-heeled the ball and really I could not have missed. Ronnie (Moore) did great with what he had and made that group of players really play for each other. Looking back, we really did our homework on teams, every game was a massive challenge and it was as if we had nothing to lose.”
To put the result into context for Rotherham, who went into the game effectively 11 points adrift of safety, it represented just one of two league wins at Millmoor that wretched season, with 2004-05 ending in relegation by a street with the Millers winning just five times and finishing 21 points behind fourth-from-bottom Crewe. It was a time when all Millers’ supporters worst fears were realised as their four-season stint in the Championship ended so meekly.
Prior to that, the Millers, despite infinitely fewer resources than scores of rivals, punched well above their weight under a managerial talisman in Moore. But their luck – and Moore’s – well and truly ran out that season.
Moore, who will be working for Sky at tonight’s game, admits the present-day Millers, in terms of facilities, financial wherewithal, ambition and clout are almost unrecognisable from those days a decade ago.
But what has not changed, just as with the situation before the club’s league meeting nearly 10 years ago, is that Leeds’s name still has gravitas and as with Moore’s side of the Noughties, the Millers’ class of 2014-15 are hewn on team spirit, an insatiable work ethic and no respect for opposition name once the whistle goes.
Moore said: “You look at it now and see the stadium and Steve (Evans) has got to be on a much bigger budget than I was.
“The game should be a great occasion. Leeds games are always big ones for Rotherham and even though this game is on Sky, it has sold out.
“Leeds might be a name, but it is a team that you are playing. There’s no Bremner or Giles or whoever out there. You are playing Leeds United, but you look at the players who are in the shirt at this present time and they aren’t pulling up that many trees.”
On that night back in November 2004, Moore, mobbed at the final whistle, added: “I remember Leeds absolutely battered us and had chance after chance and we were so lucky to be in the game and then scored. But you see it that often in football.
“It was a typical Rotherham United performance in that we had to fight for everything we got.”