In an intense match, Rotherham secured their spot in the Championship with a game left, thanks to Hakeem Odoffin’s decisive goal against a 10-player Middlesbrough team at the New York Stadium.
Middlesbrough, headed for the play-offs, faced a setback when Anfernee Dijksteel received a red card right before the first half’s end, after fouling Jordan Hugill just outside the penalty area. Just after the break, Odoffin’s stunning 20-yard shot brought sheer joy to the home fans as it found the back of the net.
This victory places Rotherham five points above the bottom three, while Reading, currently third-bottom, now depends on Huddersfield’s loss against Sheffield United on Thursday, and a win over the Terriers on the final day to escape relegation. For Rotherham, this means they will remain in the same division for back-to-back seasons, a first since 2016-17.
A Hard-Earned Victory Amidst Struggles
Rotherham’s coach, Matt Taylor, has witnessed just six victories out of 31 league matches since last achieving consecutive wins in October. However, Reading’s declining performance and a six-point deduction last month have worked in Rotherham’s favor.
Middlesbrough’s play-off journey has been challenging, with four defeats in their last six away games. They will finish the season in fourth place, facing the fifth-placed team in the play-offs, while Luton secures third place.
Key Moments in the Match
Early in the match, Riley McGree almost put Boro ahead with a clever shot, but Rotherham’s Richard Wood managed to clear the ball just in time. Shortly after, Jamie Lindsay missed a golden opportunity for Rotherham. Despite these exciting moments, the first half remained mostly uneventful.
Rotherham suffered setbacks with injuries to top scorer Chiedozie Ogbene and Shane Ferguson within the first 40 minutes. However, referee Keith Stroud’s decision to send off Dijksteel seemed to galvanize the home team.
Only three minutes after halftime, Odoffin’s powerful strike left Middlesbrough’s goalkeeper Zac Steffen stranded. Rotherham, with only one win in their previous nine matches, focused on defending their lead, inviting pressure from Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough controlled the final 30 minutes but failed to break Rotherham’s defense. The home team breathed a sigh of relief when Tommy Smith missed a great chance, and in the closing moments, Viktor Johansson made a crucial save to keep Rotherham ahead.
Reactions from the Coaches
Rotherham United’s coach, Matt Taylor, expressed pride in his team’s collective effort during a post-match interview with BBC Radio Sheffield. He emphasized the importance of team spirit and acknowledged the stroke of luck they had in Dijksteel’s red card, which allowed them to change the game’s narrative.
On the other hand, Middlesbrough’s head coach, Michael Carrick, voiced his disagreement with Dijksteel’s red card during an interview with BBC Tees. He felt the decision was soft and believed that another defender was available to cover. Despite the loss, Carrick emphasized the importance of looking forward to the play-offs and seizing the opportunities ahead.