THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Millers may rue missed chances in first leg

icon league115 May ~ Rotherham United go into tonight's League One play-off second leg looking to repeat the magic of Ronnie Moore's 1999-2001 team who managed back to back promotions from the bottom division to the second tier. While those teams managed automatic promotion, Steve Evans faces the more nerve wracking task of having to negotiate the play-offs instead. Though maybe nothing will ever come close to Alan Lee's goal against Brentford in the dying moments that took the Millers up to Division One in 2001.

Going in to the play-offs many Rotherham fans were divided about who they would prefer to face in the semi-finals. Most wanted to avoid Preston, but the record between all four teams is such that, ultimately, I doubt very much it matters. Rotherham drew both games against tonight's opponents, 0-0 and 3-3, and won one, lost one against both Leyton Orient and Peterborough.

The first leg was indicative of the progress that Rotherham has made under Evans this season. The 0-0 draw at New York Stadium was our first home game of the season and it looked like we would have a difficult season if all of the opposition was of the same standard as Preston. However, since then the team have won 14 away games, gaining more points away from home than Preston did at home, and enjoying the second best unbeaten run in the club's history.

This culminated in being much the better team in the 1-1 first leg at Deepdale. In the league games both sides have enjoyed periods of dominance, but arguably nothing like the control the away team had on Saturday evening. Other than Joe Garner's wonder goal, the Millers deserved to win the game with two good chances missed in the second half.

Whether those misses come back to haunt us remains to be seen. If Evans is to be believed three of our best players could be out with injury tonight. That would make things extremely hard, but the self-belief in this side is obvious to all, as is the talent that Evans has put together. Not having been around when the club spent 17 season at the second level from 1951-52, or to have watched the 1980-81 side that won the Division Three title, this has been the best footballing Rotherham team I have seen.

If the previous three games are anything to go by then it would appear the only way of separating these two side is extra time and penalties. Given that Rotherham have lost three times in the play-offs and Preston eight, something has to give. Phil Kyte

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