HE was the best player on the pitch.
Rotherham United were rampant, the Millers masterful as they destroyed Gillingham on the Kent club’s own turf.
But no teammate in a white-and-red away jersey could quite match the quality of Jamie Lindsay. The summer signing had arrived. The shirt was his.
As players and fans came together in the autumn wind and rain at the final whistle, no-one could have predicted what would happen next.
For a few scary weeks soon afterwards, as Rotherham were climbing the League One ladder, Lindsay was tending his young son in hospital.
The doting dad knew his place when new-born Jaiden fell ill and it wasn’t in the Millers’ midfield, it was at his boy’s bedside in Glasgow.
Happily, Jaiden has made a full recovery but Lindsay has become a victim of Rotherham’s success as they chase a second promotion to the Championship in three years.
The Millers, at home to MK Dons tomorrow, have found a way of winning without him and a mean competitor yet to have a bad game since his summer switch from Ross County has started only one league encounter since that memorable afternoon at Priestfield Stadium in early November.
Paul Warne, who has led his men to the higher reaches of the table, believes Lindsay will harness the hardship to become an even better player.
“He’s moved away from Scotland, come down here with his wife, got two young kids and started again in a new area,” the manager said.
“He’d got no friends or family here initially. His football was going really well, then he had personal problems and went out of the side through no fault of his own.
“It’s been a tough year for him. He’s a young lad and it will make him, I think. It will also make him appreciate when he gets back into the team how important it is to keep all your standards up.”
Warne has some sympathy for the former Celtic youngster ... but not too much.
“He’s got two choices really,” the boss said. “He keeps motivated, trains really hard, waits for his opportunity and when he gets it he takes it. Or he sulks and won’t get an opportunity.
“I don’t feel that sorry for him. If Jamie was in the team and, say, Dan Barlaser wasn’t, I don’t know how much thought Jamie would give to Dan. It’s just how football is. It’s tough at times.”
Lindsay’s chances of game-time this weekend have increased after Barlaser suffered an ankle injury at Coventry City in midweek.
Back in the autumn, the Scot took the Man-of-the-Match award and set up Matt Crooks to score a wonder-goal as Rotherham demolished Steve Evans’ Gills 3-0, but his only subsequent third-tier start came in a shock mid-December 1-0 home loss against Rochdale.
The 24-year-old, a popular figure in the Millers camp, worked hard to prove himself at Ross County and win his move south of the border and is not the kind of character who’ll let his standards drop in adversity.
“He is desperate to play,” said Warne whose team have lost only one of their last 14 league outings. “He’s been excellent in training.
“If you get out of the team you’ve got no guarantee you’re going to get back in it.
“It’s the same with Freddie (striker Ladapo). He scores virtually every time he plays but we didn’t play well when he started the Peterborough United game, I brought Kyle Vassell back in and we won three and drew one of the next four games.
“Freddie is absolutely desperate to play as well. I see his face most days. He doesn’t enjoy being out of the team. They just have to keep professional.”
Fans warmed to the midfield man when he was a regular starter in September and October, recognising the same desire, bite and relish for a scrap they had appreciated in Will Vaulks before the Welsh international’s big-money sale to Cardiff City.
Lindsay doesn’t have the long throw but he’s a sharper across the ground and, like his predecessor, doesn’t back away from anyone or anything.
Boss and player have talked as Lindsay bides his time in the dugout delighted to see the team prospering but wishing he was playing a greater part.
“I think, as a staff, we speak more to the people out of the team than in the team because you’ve got to try to keep their pecker up,” Warne said.
“That is our responsibility, but then they’re not 11-year-old kids, they’re men, so they need to self-motivate as well.
“The team are doing well and the substitutes just have to play a part when they can.
“I go on all the time about game-changers. Every game we play, I nearly always make three substitutions. The subs have always come on and had a positive impact.
“If they started taking their eye off the ball, didn’t train hard and didn’t live right, they wouldn’t play for me.
“I had a chat with Jamie the other week. He understands that the team are doing really well and it’s not down to any lack of ability that he’s not in the team, it’s just that the lads in front of him have really performed.”
One league start and five sub appearances in four months wasn’t in the script when Lindsay was so emphatically turning the battle against Gillingham in Rotherham’s favour.
But everyone who witnessed him colour every blade of Priestfield grass white and red knows that his time will surely come again.
Gillingham 0 Millers 3
League One, Nov 2 2019
JAMIE LINDSAY: 9
Man of the Match. Here, there, everywhere. Never stopped running and pressing. Forced Gillingham into mistakes and won a lot of
ball for his side. He’s turning out to be a
JAMIE’S MILLERS RECORD
12 sub appearances