Rotherham United 1 Wigan Athletic 1: Millers and Latics show why they occupy the top two

THE TALK across the land on Friday may have surrounded Storm Eunice, but in League One circles, Rotherham United’s riproaring form has been the chief topic of conversation for a good while.

Most rivals have been blown away this season. Wigan were made of sterner stuff in this particular engagement between the division’s best two sides on current statistical evidence. Nothing that transpired deviated from that view.

Both are the real deal at the top of the table and it will take two strong sides to usurp them from the automatic promotion positions.

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Rotherham remain title favourites as they seek to secure their first championship since 1988-89. That was achieved under Billy McEwan and the ex-Millers manager, whose passing was announced on Friday, would have admired his old side's perspiration and moment of inspiration.

Ollie Rathbone celebrates his equaliser for Rotherham United against Wigan Athletic. Picture: PA.

It was not that night for free-flowing football. But both sides exhibited elements to enthuse about in a fiercely competitive contest.

The game ended all-square; the right result. Although Rotherham, who came from behind to maintain their six-point lead at the summit, will have reason to be more pleased after doing it the hard way after falling behind.

Fittingly, the contest produced two stunning goals. A 28th-minute opener from Stephen Humphrys was head-turning.

But Ollie Rathbone’s leveller 15 minutes from time - in an almost identical area of the pitch - was every bit as special.

In the process, Rotherham showed a strong jaw on a night when they extended their unbeaten home sequence to 18 matches. Their second-half response was in-character.

Rathbone’s strike arrived after Callum Lang saw a goal ruled out for a perceived foul on Ashley Vickers. Wigan weren't enamoured with the decision. But there was no doubting that the Millers deserved their point.

These sides may yet meet again this season. At Wembley. The smart money would be on it being in the Papa John's Trophy and not the play-off final.

In difficult conditions, competitiveness was total and unflinching. Chances were sparse, but the zeal to win the battle and second balls reflected admirably on both Paul Warne and his counterpart Leam Richardson, a good friend.

The venue may have been Rotherham’s AESSEAL New York Stadium, but it was akin to watching two proud fighters slugging it out at the York Hall as they jabbed away at each other in their attempts to prize an opening.

A moment of quality or a mistake was likely to open it up and it proved to be the former.

A couple of minutes before the half-hour, Humphrys stayed alive after threatening to burst clear, only to be denied by Michael Ihiekwe.

Humphyrs hovered in the vicinity and the ball found its way back to his feet and he cashed in a momentary switch-off him with devastating effect.

He found a pocket of space before cutting inside and firing home a deadly left-footed low drive and showed just why Warne was keen on recruiting him last summer.

It was Rotherham’s first concession in nine and half-hours and stopped them from chalking up a seventh successive league clean sheet for the first time since 1982.

Wigan’s big travelling contingent were patently up for the game beforehand against a Millers side seeking to guild Sunday’s statement win at Hillsborough with an equally important result.

The sight of former Millers defender Curtis Tilt stepping out at Rotherham - something he never managed to do during his time with the club - added spice in a first half when the Latics matched the hosts’ workrate and physicality.

Rotherham’s chief moment of danger came when Max Power had to head clear in the nick of time following a fine cross from Chiedozie Ogbene. They needed to do more on the resumption to crack a strong and compact visiting side..

Regardless of the lack of opportunities on goal - bar one - it was still an absorbing watch with Rotherham having to contend with the rare sensation going behind at home.

The Millers finally conjured something on 55 minutes with their first effort on target.

Somewhat inevitably, it came from Michael Smith, whose shot was beaten away at his near post by Ben Amos after good work by Ben Wiles.

It had the effect of energising the home support with the sight of some tempers getting heated between both sets of players testament to the importance of the occasion.

Wigan's defence held firm and won their fair share as the Millers tried to impose their will before the narrative of the game changed in startling fashion thanks to Rathbone's fine strike from 25 yards.

Rotherham United: Vickers; Harding, Wood, Ihiekwe; Ogbene, Barlaser, Rathbone, Wiles, Ferguson (Osei-Tutu 60); Ladapo (Kayode 71), Smith. Substitutes unused: Johansson, Bola, Lindsay, MacDonald, Odoffin

Wigan Athletic: Amos; Kerr, Whatmough, Tilt; Massey, Power, Naylor, McClean (Darikwa 79); Lang; Humphrys (Keane 71), Magennis (Rea 83). Substitutes unused: Jones, Watts,, Shinnie, Edwards.

Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).

Attendance: 10,588 (2,003 Wigan supporters).