AMID what proved a landmark Boxing Day afternoon for Rotherham United, perhaps the most significant development arrived midway through the second half.
It came when the North Stand Kop broke out into a chorus of “There’s only one Neil Redfearn”, which was the sweetest festive music that the Millers’ manager will hear this Yuletide season – and the first time that the Yorkshireman has been heralded in his time here.
Talk about the festive clock going around, too. This time last year, Redfearn was reeling after his Leeds United side suffered a dismal and dispiriting 2-0 home loss to Wigan Athletic to continue the Whites’ December malaise which reached a nadir at Derby on December 30.
Twelve months on and he can reflect on orchestrating the Millers’ biggest win since they returned to the second tier – and most emphatic at this level since a famous 6-2 win at Burnley in December, 2002.
Speaking of milestones, it was also a red-letter day for Danny Ward against his former club, with gloss provided to two man-of-the-match showings with his first goal for the Millers since early March in a second-half blitz that left stricken Bolton Wanderers wounded and wilting.
Ward’s renaissance is perhaps a microcosm for the savvy work being tutored by Redfearn, with the circumspection prevalent among certain Millers supporters in the early weeks of his tenure now replaced with quiet confidence – and a few nodding heads.
The upshot is that the Millers find themselves out of the drop zone, which certainly looked a fair way off in early November.
Ward, whose coolly taken 74th-minute strike effectively sealed the deal – and made up for what could have proved a costly first-half miss – said: “I thought after the chance in the first half that it was going to be one of those seasons where it never comes.
“But to get that goal personally gives me a big boost to my confidence.
“It was one of those games where nothing really was happening and it just depended on who got the first goal and then it would spark something and luckily it was us and it sparked something massive. To look and see yourself in the bottom three, you think, ‘we need to get out of it’. Now we are out of it, we need to keep looking forward and head towards the top half.
“When the gaffer came in, we started a bit slow, but everything is seeming to click now and we are playing in this shape and everyone is getting used to it and we are putting out some good performances.”
Given a pretty dank first half that was the embodiment of a tense battle between two sides stuck at the wrong end of the table, what followed was somewhat inexplicable.
In the final analysis, it probably said everything about Bolton’s shattered confidence, although the way in which they capitulated after the Millers scored their 54th-minute opener through Grant Ward had to be seen to be believed.
The only significant first-half developments saw Zach Clough and Danny Ward spurn big chances with it taking an error from Ben Amos to present the hosts with the first goal.
He could only divert Grant Ward’s fierce half-volley into the net and was then rounded by Danny Ward, who latched onto Joe Newell’s through ball before tidily netting from an acute angle to make it 2-0.
The white flag was duly raised by Wanderers, who came into the game without a win in 16 matches and with just two away successes this calendar year and no road success since early April. You could see why.
Bolton, whose players will receive part of their November wages shortly, resembled a sorry bunch, with the raucous visiting supporters turning on their side in a shambolic final quarter.
United laid siege with Tony Andreu setting up strikes for Newell and substitute Jonson Clarke-Harris. In truth, it could have been more than 4-0. But it will suffice.
Rotherham United: Camp; Richardson, Rawson, Broadfoot, Mattock; G Ward, Smallwood, Frecklington, Newell Newell (Green 90); Andreu; D Ward (Clarke-Harris 80). Unused substitutes: Collin, Collins, Thorpe, Ledesma, Derbyshire.
Bolton Wanderers: Amos; Holding, Dervite, Wheater, Moxey; Feeney, Danns, Spearing (Wellington 61), Pratley; Clough; Heskey (Madine 48). Unused substitutes: Rachubka, Prince, Derik, Dobbie, Twardzik.
Referee: G Eltringham (Tyne and Wear).
Man of the match: Danny Ward.