Rotherham’s incredible late-season rally under Neil Warnock reached its peak with a 4-0 win at MK Dons which puts them on brink of Sky Bet Championship safety and delivers a near fatal blow to their hosts’ chances of staying up.
Just eight games ago the Dons were six points ahead of Rotherham but a staggering run of six wins and two draws has seen Warnock’s men surge up the table and move nine points clear of the relegation zone.
It started well and got even better for them as Matt Derbyshire put them ahead in the first minute and then Leon Best’s penalty made it two before the game was even 20 minutes old.
Second-half goals from Kirk Broadfoot and Richie Smallwood made it an afternoon to remember and means it will need a miracle for the Millers to lose their second-tier status.
It will need a similarly miraculous turnaround for the Dons to avoid a return to League One as a fourth straight defeat could not have come at a worse time.
Knowing a win would all but keep them up, Rotherham could not have asked for a better start as they surged into a two-goal lead inside 17 minutes.
It took them just 54 seconds to grab the advantage with a fine counter-attacking goal. Defending a corner, they broke away clear down the right, Grant Ward got to the byline and pulled back for Derbyshire, who slammed the ball into the roof of the net at the second attempt.
MK Dons had chances to level as Dean Bowditch and Alex Revell put headers from good positions wide, but the Millers were a continuous threat at the other end and doubled their advantage from the spot in the 17th minute.
Another incise attack ended with goalkeeper Cody Cropper taking Derbyshire out from behind and Best did the business from the penalty, stroking into the bottom corner.
That gave the Millers a comfortable cushion and they were able to hold MK at arm’s length, with Karl Robinson’s side struggling to threaten.
In fact, it was Rotherham who could have extended their lead as Derbyshire stole possession and then saw Cropper save his shot from the edge of the area, with the Dons keeper also denying Best from the rebound.
The Millers’ third did come nine minutes after the restart and it killed off any hopes of a home revival.
Joe Newell whipped in an inviting free-kick and Broadfoot flashed a header high into the net for his first goal in Rotherham colours.
Warnock’s side were rampant and should have scored two more, but Derbyshire put an effort wide after running half the length of the pitch and then Smallwood somehow put a header wide from two yards.
Finally MK Dons showed some sort of attempt at a comeback when Jake Forster-Caskey tested Lee Camp from a corner and then struck the crossbar with a vicious effort from distance.
But this was Rotherham’s day and they put the icing on the cake in 80th minute when Smallwood scored the best of the lot with a 20-yard looping effort into the top corner.
Warnock, who has inspired the stunning turnaround, was happy to win, but also would not say his side are safe.
“It was an important game but I thought it was a comprehensive victory,” he said. “We started well with the goal and we couldn’t have got off to a better start. We missed a few chances in the second half, but we can’t get too greedy.
“I am not really too bothered if we are safe or not, I am only here for the short term, I want to win every game. I almost said we’re safe, nearly!
“It just goes to show what you can do with a good group who want to listen. I think they are amazing themselves with the ability they have and what they can do with the ball. It’s a great time and they are enjoying ourselves. It was important today.”
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