STEVE EVANS insists that the battle to avoid the third and final relegation spot in the Championship is not a two-way Roses fight between Rotherham United and Wigan Athletic.
With seven games left, the fourth-from-bottom Millers hold a five-point buffer over Wigan going into this afternoon’s game at Birmingham, with the Latics in action at Middlesbrough.
Fulham remain eight points clear of Wigan, while Reading and Huddersfield Town boast a nine-point advantage, but given the fluctuating nature of Championship fortunes, Evans does not believes that the trio are by any means home and hosed yet.
Evans, whose side head to the Midlands on the back of three-match losing sequence, said: “People are getting very highly focused on us and Wigan Athletic.
“It’s not just us; I suggest Millwall will still believe they have got a part to play. I would also certainly believe Fulham, Brighton and Huddersfield think they have some results to get.
“Teams from 45 (points) down, you have to say they are in it. There’s five or six teams involved in this battle and it can all unfold.
“But we can’t rely on anyone doing us a favour. We need to assume teams are going to pick up points and win games. Like Wigan proved when they won at Norwich, there are going to be results when people come in and go, ‘Look at that’. That’s going to happen, that’s football.
“We just need to keep focused. There’s seven games left and we can win every one. But we can also lose every one. That’s the tight margins we face in the Championship and that was never better emphasised than two weeks ago when we were winning after 93 minutes on the clock.”
Last time out, the Millers were not just on the precipice of a first home league victory over derby rivals Sheffield Wednesday since 1976, but more importantly three huge survival points to take them to the brink of safety.
But, instead, they plucked defeat from the jaws of victory, with the Owls netting twice in stoppage-time to win 3-2, a defeat which Evans has labelled as his lowest moment in football.
While the immediate days after the shattering loss were difficult, players and staff are now keen to move on and if the Millers can secure two positive Easter results against Blues and Brighton, it will be consigned to history, certainly in Evans’s mind.
Evans, without the suspended Kari Arnason again today, said: “The hurt was pretty deep and probably my lowest point in football without a shadow of a doubt. Just the nature of it, not the losing – you win games and lose games.
“I think people knew what happened was unfair. But football’s unfair, isn’t it?
“The players have lifted themselves this week. After the Wednesday game, you could have heard a pin drop in our dressing room.
“The only person who spoke was our chairman who was in the dressing room for the first time in two and a half seasons reminding us how good we have been and the challenges we have met.
“We gave the players a couple of days to go away and remove it from their system.
“They came in a bit down, but it’s two weeks ago now and everyone is back to being focused on St Andrew’s.
“If we get three points, Sheffield Wednesday won’t matter to me in any iota whatsoever, other than they are opposition. If we go and get two positive results over the weekend, I will never want to think about it again.”
Evans has revealed that a number of figures in football, including Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, passed on messages of support in the wake of the Millers’ tough loss last time out.
Words of comfort and defiance from those closest to him, and in particular Millers chairman Tony Stewart, have further hardened Evans’s resolve to finish off the job and secure the club’s Championship safety – and reward his go-ahead boss.
While Stewart’s moral support has been unstinting, so has his financial backing, with Evans revealing that the club have put together seven-figure packages to sign players this season, a clear sign of ambition.
Evans, who has not ruled out bringing back loan pair Jonson Clarke-Harris and Richard Wood if they are required this month, said: “We have been in for lots of players this year and tried to break the million-pound barrier on four occasions with written offers that have gone to clubs.
“Each time we could not get them over the line, twice because the clubs wouldn’t agree and next as we couldn’t get the terms agreed.
“But we are in fantastic position. This club is debt free with no overdraft and built on an infrastructure and the chairman runs it meticulously.
“How do we give him the payback? By winning the fight to stay in the Championship.”
Last six: Birmingham LWWDDL, Rotherham WLWLLL.
Referee: D Whitestone (Northants).
Last time: Birmingham 2 Rotherham 2; November 4, 2001; League One.