Rotherham United display all the qualities needed for survival bid

To escape relegation you need character, belief, willpower and a striker to put the ball in the back of the net.

Rotherham United’s Michael Smith is congratulated by team-mates after scoring the third Millers goal against QPR. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

All of those characteristics might have gone missing in other parts of South Yorkshire these days but in Rotherham last night, for 30 minutes at least, they were in abundance.

And how Rotherham United need all of them and more if they are to extend their latest stay in the Championship beyond their traditional single season.

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This was their second game of four in nine days, the first of four in a row at home in the same timeframe, the next two of which are huge games against Coventry City and Birmingham City, who sit one and four places above them outside of the relegation places.

Rotherham United's Freddie Ladapo (centre) celebrates scoring their side's first goal. Picture: PA

It is an exhausting, exacting schedule, and when QPR took the lead on 51 minutes, this particular test looked beyond them.

After Lyndon Dykes lashed the ball home from just inside the area, Paul Warne’s side would have been forgiven for letting their heads drop and allowing their thoughts to turn to the six-pointers ahead. But these Millers are made of tougher, more defiant stuff. Warne threw on three substitutes before the hour mark; Michael Smith, Lewis Wing and Jamie Lindsay and each of them played a part in turning the game on its head.

They also had a striker in Freddie Ladapo who went from ineffective to lethal in the space of three minutes, scoring twice to turn the game on its head and transform the Championship relegation battle.

The first was from a cross in from Wing, the second a through ball by Lindsay that Ladapo raced onto and calmly slotted home.

Rotherham United's Wes Harding (left) and Queens Park Rangers' Charlie Kelman battle for the ball. Picture: PA

Smith got in on the act with a breakaway goal of his own in stoppage time, a left-foot shot that sealed only a fifth home win of the campaign and took even his manager off guard.

“Left foot,” laughed Warne afterwards.“That’s a collector’s item.

“The subs had a real energy and a real drive. We pressed with more impetus. But they’re decisions that if we’d have lost, you’ve got them wrong; if you win, you’ve got them right.

“It’s a great start for us,” continued Warne, whose side began this intense period with a goalless draw at Huddersfield on Saturday that keeps the Terriers within touching distance.

“It gives us a real impetus going into Thursday.”

It certainly does, and it will give the teams directly above – Coventry, Derby, Huddersfield and Birmingham – palpitations.

For Rotherham now will feel they have their destiny in their own hands; three points from safety with two games in hand and superior goal difference than all four of those above.

Not that such an equation looked likely six minutes after the break.

Rotherham had huffed and puffed through the first half, pressing high but creating little.

Matt Crooks was the driving force, teeing up Dan Barlaser who fired straight at Seny Dieng, and then running at the heart of the Rangers defence, only to drag his shot wide. George Thomas, occupying a similar position to Crooks behind the front men, carried the biggest threat for the visitors. Twice he found space on the edge of the area to shoot but on both occasions missed the target.

It was 40 minutes before Rotherham goalkeeper Victor Johansson was called upon, beating around the post a 35-yard drive from Charlie Kelman and then tipping over a curling, dipping effort from Osman Kakay.

Kakay created the opener for QPR on 51 minutes, playing the ball along the edge of the penalty area for Dykes who raced onto it and struck a fierce first-time shot past Johansson.

Such a hammer blow could have sunk weaker teams but Rotherham have much to play for and plenty of desire.

Step forward Ladapo, chesting down Wing’s ball into the box, turning on it and lashing it past Dieng on 64 minutes.

Then Wes Harding’s through ball from deep in his own half sprung QPR’s high line and although Ladapo had acres of space and plenty of time to dwell on the enormity of the opportunity that presented itself, he calmly slotted the ball beyond the advancing Dieng. Ladapo exited shortly after with a groin strain and is a doubt for Thursday.

The goal that sealed it on 90 inutes was almost identical; Lindsay this time the provider, Smith the beneficiary to cap a dramatic, timely turnaround.

“I’ll enjoy this evening’s win for about 30 minutes before thinking about Coventry,” concluded Warne.

Rotherham United: Johansson; Harding, A MacDonald, Robertson; Olusunde (Wood 46), Wiles (Lindsay 59), S MacDonald (Wing 59), Barlaser, Giles; Crooks (Smith 59), Ladapo (Sadlier 81). Unused substitutes: Blackman, Hirst, Ogbene, Jozefzoon.

Queens Park Rangers: Dieng; Dickie, De Wijs (Kane 46), Barbet; Kakey, Johansen, Field (Chair 80), Hamalainen; Thomas (Willock 80), Kelman (Bonne 67); Dykes. Unused substitutes: Lumley, Ball, Bettache, Adomah, Duke-McKenna.

Referee: D Whitestone (Northampton).

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