Rotherham United captain Craig Morgan believes Easter will be key to the Millers’ hopes of staying in the Championship.
Saturday’s crushing 3-2 defeat to neighbours Sheffield Wednesday left the Millers just five points ahead of third-from-bottom Wigan Athletic.
At one stage in the afternoon, that gap was nine points with Rotherham leading 1-0 – following Ben Pringle’s opener – and Wigan losing at home to Bolton.
But an Athletic equaliser, plus a late collapse by Rotherham – four goals in the final 11 minutes saw the Owls triumph 3-2 – have left Steve Evans’s side looking over their shoulders at the bottom three.
With this weekend blank due to international fixtures, it means Rotherham do not play again until Good Friday.
Centre-back Morgan believes the trip to St Andrews to face Birmingham City, before returning to the New York Stadium four days later to play Brighton, offers the Millers the perfect chance to gain redemption.
For the loss to Wednesday cut deep, the Millers players on their knees at the final whistle, with chairman Tony Stewart even making a rare dressing room visit to console the troops.
Morgan said: “You can always look back with ‘what ifs’, it’s another twist, but there’s six points to play for over the Easter weekend, that’s a massive weekend.
“We will hurt for days, but we have to let it go and build to Easter, it’s a huge weekend.
“I would rather be playing Tuesday after that, and get straight into football again, but it might do us a good to give us some reflection on what happened.
“It’s hurtful,” admitted Morgan, after Saturday’s loss. “I don’t think it gets much worse than that, to be honest, in a way you can make a player feel.
“It was a very low, low place in the dressing room after losing the game. Even when it went to 2-2, we needed to make sure we stayed in the game and goet a draw.
“There wasn’t much said (in the dressing room), there’s nothing needs to be said in that situation, everyone knows.
“It was a good game, both sides went for it. Wednesday never stopped, even when it went to 2-2.
“Credit has to go to them for that, it was certainly brave as they had a lot of people up front. It was a good contest, the referee let things go.”
Rotherham certainly deserved something from the game, having taken a deserved lead through Pringle.
Mid-table Wednesday had little to lose, throwing on three strikers, which paid swift dividends.
Caolan Lavery – back after a loan spell at Chesterfield – headed in Lewis McGugan’s cross, before Millers substitute Jordan Bowery hit back immediately to make it 2-1.
But poor defending from the hosts in seven minutes of stoppage time proved costly, as Atdhe Nuhiu headed in McGugan’s free-kick, before midfielder Kieran Lee ran unchallenged through the centre to grab an unlikely winner.
Rotherham had given debuts to two new loan signings, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and right-sided midfielder Lawrie Wilson.
Both impressed against Wednesday, with Martinez – on loan from Arsenal – producing a stunning first-half save to deny McGugan while also dominating in the box.
Manager Evans is hoping to bring in another loan player before today’s deadline, and Morgan was quick to praise the new players.
“They are two boys with experience who have been at this level before,” he said.
“They have come in, haven’t had a lot of game-time recently, but more than acquitted themselves.”
Rotherham head to Easter on the back of three successive defeats to Wigan, Nottingham Forest and Wednesday.
On paper, Wigan have the tougher run-in, with trips against four clubs pushing for promotion in Middlesbrough, Derby, Wolves and Brentford.
Four of their seven games are away from the DW Stadium, too, but that could be a bonus as Wigan have won their last four away games – including a 2-1 victory at Rotherham this month.
Reading’s involvement in the FA Cup means Rotherham have had to re-arrange their home game with the Royals for a midweek slot in the final week of the season.
Everyone at the New York Stadium will be hoping their Championship status will have been secured long before then.