Millers’ tale: Can McIntosh magic keep Rotherham afloat against Leeds United?

Leeds United's Clarke Carlisle his the crossbar three times against Rotherham United in November 2004 (Pictures: Dan Oxtoby)
Leeds United's Clarke Carlisle his the crossbar three times against Rotherham United in November 2004 (Pictures: Dan Oxtoby)
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CUT adrift and deep in the relegation quicksand ahead of a televised home fixture with Leeds United in the final throes of autumn, Rotherham United have been here before.

Twelve years ago, in fact, in late November 2004 – before the Millers ended a similarly desperate sequence without a league win with a famous, if slightly unfathomable, 1-0 victory.

Leeds United's Simon Walton is stopped in his tracks by skipper Martin McIntosh.

Leeds United's Simon Walton is stopped in his tracks by skipper Martin McIntosh.

How the present-day Millers would gladly accept a repeat when Leeds head to Rotherham for another game in front of the Sky Sports cameras this Saturday evening.

As for the comparisons in the positions of Kenny Jackett’s side now and Ronnie Moore’s class of 2004-05, well they are somewhat uncanny.

As it stands, Rotherham prop up the Championship table with a paltry seven points from 17 matches and are 11 points adrift of safety after a 13-match league streak without a three-point 
haul.

Rewind a dozen years ahead of Leeds’s visit to the South Yorkshire town on November 29, 2004, and the Millers were in an almost identical sorry predicament – having taken eight points from 20 winless league games at the start of 2004-05 and also being 11 points behind the team occupying fourth-from-bottom.

Echoes of the past: Martin McIntosh, who went on to head the winning goal for Rotherham, blocks a shot by Michael Ricketts of Leeds in the 2004 fixture. (Graphic: Graeme Bandeira)

Echoes of the past: Martin McIntosh, who went on to head the winning goal for Rotherham, blocks a shot by Michael Ricketts of Leeds in the 2004 fixture. (Graphic: Graeme Bandeira)

In both instances, somewhat coincidentally, the team in 21st place was – and currently is – Cardiff City.

All Millers fans worth their salt will know what happened next against Leeds 12 years ago.

The most unlikely of 1-0 triumphs was secured thanks to a 77th-minute goal from ex-captain Martin McIntosh, with the final whistle being the cue to mass hysteria among Rotherham supporters as the Millers ended their embarrassing and joyless opening to that particularly bereft league season.

It was an occasion which all those 8,860 present are unlikely to forget, both Millers and Whites fans, with the latter watching on aghast in Millmoor’s old Railway End as Leeds amazingly hit the bar three times in the first eight minutes – through the same player in Clarke Carlisle.

Kevin Blackwell’s side continued to batter Rotherham, but remarkably, the Millers somehow hung on – ahead of delivering a late haymaker.

How everyone of a red and white persuasion would take a re-run on Saturday night to administer a badly-needed kiss of life to their torrid season.

Sadly, there was no happy ending to that campaign in the mid-noughties with the Millers winning just four more games following that remarkable victory and going down with a whimper.

But fast forward to the present day and despite the Millers’ parlous predicament, no-one is contemplating throwing in the towel in any way, shape or form, fortified by events of last Spring when the club performed a Great Escape mission with Neil Warnock starring in the ‘Red Adair’ role.

One of the leading on-pitch lieutenants in that stunning act of escapology was seasoned central defender Richard Wood who, as you would expect, is still raucously defiant.

Granted, the Millers could do with a modicum of hope sooner rather than later, but as far as Wood and his team-mates are concerned, giving up the ghost is something that no-one is entertaining. Perish the thought, in fact.

Affronted by that mere notion, the vastly-experienced 31-year-old – recently restored to the Millers’ line-up by Jackett after being on the periphery under his predecessor Alan Stubbs – said: “I will never give up. The lads will not either.

“We have just got to keep going. I don’t know what else I can say to fans.

“We are giving it our all and we will keep going.

“It is not a good position to be in. Things do not look good, but time is on our side. There are plenty of games to go. If we put a run together, you never know, but it is going to be tough.”

If Jackett requires any inspiration he will find it from not just the events against Leeds of 12 years ago, or from last season’s heroics under Warnock, but also from other once-feted ex-Millers managers in Moore and Steve Evans.

Both, like Warnock, defied the odds and successfully forged a siege mentality to help the club stave off relegation from the second-tier.

The recipe was not akin to a trade secret. Just plain old-fashioned organisation, team spirit and an insatiable work ethic, married with a scant respect for the name of any opposition once the whistle goes.

You sense that is the template that Jackett will follow too.

Wood said: “We have got a new manager and he has been top drawer so far in training.

“He has been very direct with us and has put a lot of hard work in on the training ground to get the right set-up defensively.

“We have got to take it game by game. The next few games are massive for us going into December. We have to pick points up quickly and when it comes to January not be adrift.”

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