IF ROTHERHAM United required any extra motivation to clinch their Championship safety, they have received it from a Yorkshireman down south.
The Millers, who face Reading in a date with destiny at the AESSEAL New York Stadium tonight, woke up to headlines yesterday morning which may well be pinned up in the home dressing room this evening.
The words of inspiration arrived from Millwall’s Sheffield-born striker Lee Gregory.
The former electrician sparked a debate by revealing his hopes that Reading will “do the business” against the Millers and that Steve Evans’s side will “bottle it” on the final day of the season at Leeds to help provide relegation salvation for the Lions, who visit Wolves on Saturday.
Evans, never one to miss a trick, has seized upon the comments from the ex-Halifax forward, who hit a hat-trick in Millwall’s 3-3 weekend draw with Derby County.
They have been duly noted and if the Millers triumph tonight – victory would be enough to secure their Championship status with a game to spare – then Gregory’s name will be added to the list of those outside Rotherham to whom the club have proved a point.
Evans said: “We woke up on Monday morning to some south London media headlines saying we are going to bottle it.
“That is a strong statement and we will only know the answer to that come 10 o’clock (tonight). I think people try to play mind games. I would rather, if it was my player, he was focused on their game that comes on Saturday.
“They cannot affect what we do. That will come down to Rotherham United and Reading. We’ll dismiss the comments. We note them, but we dismiss them.
“And we have to prove a point now, don’t we?”
Given climactic ends to the previous two seasons at the NYS, it is a case of plus ça change tonight.
Just under 12 months ago, the Millers held their nerve to see off Preston 3-1 in an epic League One play-off semi-final second leg to book a date at Wembley.
Two years ago, Evans’s side beat Aldershot 2-0 to clinch automatic promotion from League Two, but the 52-year-old admits that victory against the Royals this evening would top those two feats and he is adamant that this evening’s game is the biggest since the stadium opened in July 2012.
He is calling on the Millers supporters to do their bit as ‘twelfth man’ tonight.
Evans said: “The New York is becoming famous for big occasions, but this is the biggest game of all, the biggest the stadium has hosted.
“Against Norwich, for spells in the second half when we went behind, the fans took the decibels and the atmosphere to a new level for me. Some of our players were talking about the hairs on their neck going up, such was the atmosphere. We ask once again for the Rotherham public to come out, get behind us and give us an atmosphere.
“It’s a big opportunity to secure our Championship status.
“We will have to produce a performance because I have nothing but total respect for a good Reading team.”
Emotions are still running high among everyone connected with the club after the deduction last Friday of three points for fielding an ineligible player, but Evans is calling on his side to maintain their focus from the first minute to the last tonight to finish off the job.
He added: “We feel harshly treated by it as a dressing room, but we need to keep our focus and energy levels.
“We don’t need to win it in five minutes, although an early goal is always appreciated.
“But we need to get the three points over the 90 minutes.”
Last six games: Rotherham LLWLDD, Reading DDLDLL.
Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire).
Last time: Rotherham 1 Reading 0; March 15, 2005; Championship.