The song, the familiar pattern and the only game that now really matters ... the story of QPR 2 Rotherham United 1

HI Ho Silver Lining rang around the ground at the final whistle.
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Was it a good omen or a bad one? We'll find out soon enough.

Queens Park Rangers, who had just inflicted a sixth successive defeat on Rotherham United, share the same anthem as the Millers' derby rivals, Sheffield Wednesday.

It was being played and sung in a celebratory way at Loftus Road as QPR climbed out of the bottom three. Their season is still alive, Rotherham's isn't.

Early joy as Rotherham United go in front at QPR through Tom Eaves. Picture: Jim BrailsfordEarly joy as Rotherham United go in front at QPR through Tom Eaves. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Early joy as Rotherham United go in front at QPR through Tom Eaves. Picture: Jim Brailsford

The squad boss Leam Richardson inherited from Matt Taylor in December is in bottom spot, 16 points adrift of safety with only 12 games left.

The next two months will be a bleak, hard slog in which the only offer of any relief would be a victory over that lot from S6.

The Owls, also in the drop zone but buoyed by two straight wins and three in their last four outings, are next up at AESSEAL New York Stadium …

In West London on Saturday, it was what has become business as usual for Rotherham: a decent start, a dip, then a terminal fading away towards the end.

Loanee Femi Seriki makes his first start for Rotherham United, at QPR. Picture: Jim BrailsfordLoanee Femi Seriki makes his first start for Rotherham United, at QPR. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Loanee Femi Seriki makes his first start for Rotherham United, at QPR. Picture: Jim Brailsford

Richardson has wrought some improvements but will have to wait until the summer to truly put his stamp on the club.

“We've got a horrible habit at the minute where we go ahead in games and compete very well but then the fine margins tip the other way.

“It affects you so much. The lads are giving everything. The first half was very even. QPR finished the game very strongly. We need to stay consistent and our habits need to be miles better.

“Our habit is that we take two or three steps back rather than two or three forward. It's something we've spoken about at length.

“The other week we were 1-0 up against Hull and possibly could have gone 2-0 up. Today we could have gone 2-0 up. We want to make a good fist of it but we're just falling short in certain areas.”

It is far from the only reason for Rotherham's woes this season, but 25 points have been dropped from winning positions.

THE MATCH

Well, this was a new turn of events. Richardson was being questioned about errors by the Championship's leading shot-stopper, Viktor Johansson.

Characteristically, the Swedish international had excelled in making key saves to protect the Millers' early lead, provided by Tom Eaves.

Uncharacteristically, he had erred in Rangers' two second-half replies, affording shots from Paul Smyth and Chris Willock easier passage past him than anyone would have expected.

The boss lay off the criticism, knowing full well how much Johansson, the runaway contender for Player of the Year, would already be blaming himself.

Rotherham were fast and front-foot from the kick-off. Sam Clucas had already tested Asmir Begovic when Eaves latched on to Sam Nombe's headed flick-on and lifted a sweet seventh-minute lob over the Rangers keeper to join Hakeem Odoffin as joint-top scorer this season with four goals.

Peter Kioso skipped in from the left and should have done better with his right-footed shot, QPR's jittery defenders passed to Millers players more often than they did to teammates and Eaves held his head after failing, badly, to apply a finish to Clucas's deep free-kick.

The home side rallied and Johansson's sharp reactions denied Michael Frey from close range, kept out Steve Cook's powerful header and foiled the contest's best player, Ilias Chair.

The attacker had travelled over from Belgium where the day before he'd been sentenced to a year in jail for assault but had prolonged his freedom by appealing the verdict.

Should his name have been on the opposition team sheet? Richardson diplomatically got out of that one with a swerve of which the Morocco international would have been proud.

“I've got enough problems of my own,” he said.

Whatever, Chair caused Millers wing-back Femi Seriki such grievous bodily harm with his darting runs that the young loanee had to switch flanks on his first start.

Rotherham's resistance lasted until the hour mark when Willock's pass took three visiting players out of the reckoning and Smyth's low effort from a tight angle somehow flashed inside the near post.

Fifteen minutes later, the provider turned scorer. The shot from just outside the area, set up by Chair's feed, was hit well enough but a misjudged dive from the keeper played a large part in it finding the net.

“There's still the hunger there to compete," Richardson said. “It would be easy to roll over and lose games 3-0, 4-0, 5-0, which we were doing before.

“Today is disappointing because we wanted to build on those performances we've had. We want to turn them into results.

“What's needed is more belief, more consistency. I knew I was coming into a difficult position with the mindset. I had to pick the group off the floor.”

The only second-half effort of note by the Millers was an Odoffin header comfortably held by Begovic and it's Boxing Day since they last tasted victory.

Richardson said the only thing he could do publicly: “We'll keep going. We need to stay competitive. We know the challenge and we won't shy away from it.”

THE NEXT GAME

Frustration leached out of the head coach as he spoke on the touchline after the game. He has a thankless task. For now, an impossible job.

“You start the game like you want to, you go ahead," he said. “We missed two or three big chances.

“We need to make better selections in possession rather than trying to score in one breath. That's a mindset instilled from previous experiences this season. It's down to me to slowly try to change that.”

The huge roar of relief at the end was testimony to how much victory meant to the home side and supporters belted out the words in unison. ‘Hi ho Queens Park Rangers’.

For the Millers: on to next Saturday, with fervent hopes of a win and revenge for the insipid 2-0 loss at Hillsborough last October that spelled the beginning of the end for Taylor.

That's all they, really, have left to cling to. A silver lining in a cloud of a season.

QPR (4-2-3-1): Asmir Begovic; Jimmy Dunne, Steve Cook, Jake Clarke-Salter, Kenneth Paal (Ziyad Larkeche 84); Isaac Hayden (Sam Field H-T), Jack Colbeck; Chris Willock, Joe Hodge (Paul Smyth H-T), Ilias Chair (Lucas Anderson 90+2); Michael Frey (Lyndon Dykes 84). Subs not used: Jordan Archer, Morgan Fox, Reggie Cannon, Sinclair Armstrong.

Rotherham (3-5-2): Viktor Johansson; Hakeem Odoffin, Sean Morrison, Cameron Humphreys (Arvin Appiah 84); Femi Seriki (Cafu 56), Andy Rinomhota (Jamie Lindsay 84), Christ Tiehi, Sam Clucas, Peter Kioso; Tom Eaves (Charlie Wyke 78), Sam Nombe (Jordan Hugill 78). Subs not used: Dillon Phillips, Lee Peltier, Shane Ferguson.

Goals: Eaves 7 (Rotherham); Smyth 60, Willock 75 (QPR).

Referee: Matthew Donohue (Greater Manchester).

Attendance: 16,351 (609).