IF Rotherham United are unsuccessful in their bid to beat the drop then it will not be down to a lack of commitment.
That much is abundantly clear after a gritty and dogged showing against a Norwich City side that looks destined for the Premier League.
Granted, the end result did little to boost the hosts’ chances of clinging onto their second-tier status.
But manager Paul Warne was proud as punch at his players’ attitude and endeavour in the face of such a challenge.
This fixture against the table-toppers was a case of haves versus the have-nots.
Case in point: Norwich had Sheffield Wednesday loanee Jordan Rhodes sat on their bench – a player whose weekly wage most likely surpasses the whole of the Rotherham starting line-up.
With eight games to go, if we can keep that level of performance up, we can collect enough points to have an amazing season.Paul Warne
In stark contrast, the Millers could only name six substitutes as a result of a small squad being stretched to the limit by injuries, suspensions and personal matters.
But, as the cliche goes, football is determined by what happens on the pitch, not off it.
An opportunistic strike before the interval and a defensive lapse ensured the Canaries march on and United remain in the bottom three.
Nevertheless, Warne was one proud man after this contest against the team he grew up supporting.
“I’m quite proud,” said Warne. “Norwich are a formidable side but I thought our lads were great.
“I shook hands with all the Norwich players and 75 per cent of them told me we deserved more out of the game and I’ve told the lads that.
“With eight games to go, if we can keep that level of performance up, we can collect enough points to have an amazing season.”
The Millers made a lively start that belied their lowly position in the table.
They peppered Tim Krul’s goal on numerous occasions in the opening 15 minutes with Joe Newell, Ben Wiles and Michael Smith all going close.
Typically, though, such profligacy was punished although the timing of it was a touch cruel.
A minute before the break, Kenny McLean hooked the ball past goalkeeper Marek Rodak after a clever, chipped ball from Teemu Pukki.
The hosts took that sucker-punch in their stride and within seven minutes of the restart they restored parity.
Semi Ajayi is enjoying an unheralded purple patch and his finish, where he rolled a defender before picking out the bottom corner with laser-like precision, was a sixth goal in just five games.
Not a bad return from someone who started the season as a centre-back.
Sadly for the Millers, that is as good as it got for them going forward.
Norwich hit back just five minutes later when Ben Godfrey nodded home from a corner.
The lack of marking was of particular concern to Warne.
He said: “The disappointment of the game for me was to concede on a set-piece – that, fundamentally, changed the game.”
Norwich looked happy to hold their lead and rely on the counter in search of a third.
Rotherham defended stoutly but could not force a way past Krul for a second time with substitute Jerry Yates poking a shot agonisingly wide as City held on.
The Canaries’ last visit to South Yorkshire came a little over four months ago when they decimated an out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday 4-0.
This latest success was not nearly as convincing but the importance of the victory far outweighed the previous success at Hillsborough.
Here, they were made to dig in and fight for the points – a trait that their manager Daniel Farke outlined afterwards.
“The home crowd is always excited here,” observed the German.
“They do everything to get behind their team.
“Rotherham were aggressive but we kept our nerves and showed a brilliant mentality.
“If I’m honest, I’ve never been prouder of the lads. It’s a massive win.”
Rotherham United: Rodak, Vyner, Wood (Yates 83), Ihiekwe, Jones, Ajayi, Forde (Taylor 62), Crooks (Towell 62), Wiles, Newell, Smith. Unused substitutes: Price, Palmer, Kayode
Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Zimmermann, Godfrey, Lewis, Trybull, Buendia (Vrancic 90), Hernandez (Klose 90), Stiepermann, Pukki (Rhodes 90). Unused substitutes: McGovern, Hanley, Cantwell, Leitner.
Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).