“If ever there was a night to win a game it was tonight,” said Millers manager Paul Warne but when push came to shove, Rotherham were not good enough to earn the right to decide their own fate.
Derby County were the only winners after last night’s 0-0 draw. Victory for them at home to the Owls on Saturday will keep them up. Anything else makes things complicated.
Throughout the relegation run-in, Rotherham have stubbornly refused to clarify who will be going down this season.
“A pretty good conclusion of our season up to now – loads of endeavour, loads of hard work,loads of organisation but (we were just missing) a little bit of quality in the final third,” Warne reflected. “We created enough chances to win – as did Luton – and we just haven’t taken one.
“There’s been some brilliant crosses into the box to have got on the end of or scored and unfortunately we didn’t and that sort of sums us up – one effort away from greatness.”
The Millers could have made life so much easier for themselves but this is a team with a habit of letting opportunities slip. For months they have had the theoretical advantage of games in hand but now they have squandered it, mired in the bottom three with no more points to play for than the rest.
Luton could point to twice hitting the woodwork in the first half and although Rotherham did once through Matt Crooks, both he and Michael Smith missed the target from excellent Ryan Giles crosses.
Crooks also had a shot cleared off the line but considering how desperately they needed to win, the kitchen sink remained in its fittings despite pleas of “everybody get up!” from the directors’ box in stoppage time.
“At this level they are your chances, you don’t get many clean through one-on-ones unless we gift them,” said Warne.
The eagerness of both sides, as demonstrated by Lewis Wing kicking off when he was supposed to be taking a knee – nearly a year on, it is amazing how often someone forgets – was not matched by the quality but how they got the win was irrelevant to Rotherham so long as they did.
They needed to ride their luck in the opening 45 minutes, Luton hitting the woodwork twice despite a few decent chances at the other end in an open game.
Luton midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was the class performer, putting an early shot wide and curling wide when Jamal Blackman – retained after his heroics against Blackburn Rovers with Viktor Johansson on the bench – came for a corner but let it through his hands.
It was no surprise it was Dewsbury-Hall who played Elijah Adebayo, the Hatters’ other big threat, through to smash against the underside of the crossbar in the 21st minute, and it was his corner Blackman had to touch onto his post on the half-hour, Richard Wood clearing off the line from Glen Rea.
The Millers were almost caught on the counter-attack shortly after, but were fortunate James Bree’s return pass to Adebayor allowed Matthew Olosunde to jump in and block.
Rotherham had good chances too, and Smith should have put the best away, instead glancing Giles’s cross wide after 25 minutes. It would be similar from Crooks in the second half.
He looked like he had poked the ball in after 42 minutes, but it hit the inside of the post, and after a long look across to his linesman, David Webb was satisfied Simon Sluga had clawed it back from in front of the line.
Wing had a free-kick saved and shot at Sluga before the recalled Dan Barlaser had a shot blocked.
The chances dried up a little in the second half, Adebayo curling a shot at Blackman, Pearson heading a free-kick at him and Naismith heading over.
As well as Crooks’s header, Wing slipped taking an 86th-minute free-kick but Sluga still needed to scramble across.
“We were always going to have to win at least one game,” shrugged Warne.
“We’ve taken a point. Wednesday now think if they win they can get out of it so it might give them an edge. A draw from Derby’s point of view might not be enough if we win but we have to go and win. We can’t control the uncontrollables, it doesn’t matter what happens elsewhere on Saturday, we have to work out a way to beat Cardiff. If we do that and fall short I don’t know how I can criticise the lads.”
Luton: Sluga; Pearson, Bradley, Naismith; Bree, Tunnicliffe (LuaLua 76), Rea, Dewsbury-Hall, Potts (Cornick 46); Adebayo, Collins (Mpanzu 63). Unused substitutes: Shea, Cranie, Moncur, Nombe, Morrell, Pereira.
Rotherham United: Blackman; Olosunde (Ogbene 65), Harding, Ihiekwe, Wood, Giles; Barlaser (Mattock 74), Wiles, Wing; Crooks; Smith (Ladapo 65). Unused substitutes: Johansson, A MacDonald, S MacDonald, Lindsay, Sadlier, Jozefzoon.
Referee: D Webb (County Durham).
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.