After 1,068 days, the wait is over ... the story of QPR 1 Rotherham United 2

By Paul Davis | 14/03/2019

After 1,068 days, the wait is over ... the story of QPR 1 Rotherham United 2
Two-goal Semi Ajayi at Loftus Road

FORGET Tony Stewart's OBE for a second, hand out the gongs to every Rotherham United player at Loftus Road.

The never-say-die Millers won a Championship game away from home for the first time in 1,068 days in thrilling style to keep the fire stoked in their push to stay up.

Not since April 9 2016 at MK Dons had Rotherham tasted second-tier victory on the road, but a Semi Ajayi header deep - so, so deep - into stoppage time saw them end three years of hurt on Wednesday against Queens Park Rangers.

Watched by chairman Tony Stewart - in the capital to officially receive the Order of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace the following morning - Ajayi struck in the fifth minute of three added on to snatch all three points.

Paul Warne's men remain in the drop zone but, after just one defeat in eight matches, have pulled other sides right back into a six-team scrap for survival that could go down to the wire.

"It feels pretty amazing," the boss grinned. "We knew we had to come away with something. I didn't think it was coming when QPR levelled late on. It is a really special moment.

"We have unbelievable character. Hopefully this will have a massive effect on us for the rest of the run-in.

"If we can hang on to our place in this division it would be a bigger achievement than winning promotion last season."

Only Millwall's win at Birmingham City stopped the Millers - now level on points with the two teams above them, Wigan Athletic and Reading - from climbing out of the bottom three.

Rotherham went ahead in the 70th minute when Ajayi fired them in front with a long-range screamer, but this is Rotherham and they're not supposed to know how to hold on to a lead outside of AESSEAL New York Stadium.

QPR duly pegged them back 15 minutes later as Bright Osayi-Samuel pounced from close range.

Warne admitted the prospects for the last few minutes had looked anything but Bright and that he'd feared a Rangers winner after the home side had levelled.

But the Millers, wonderfully, crazily, came again, allowing Ajayi, now their top scorer, to send 321 travelling fans right behind the net into raptured dement.

He was worked clear by the order of substitute Anthony Forde's pinpoint free-kick and his increasingly-reliable head did the rest.

Championship away joy at last for the Millers. At the 44th attempt. And they did it without key men Will Vaulks, who was banned and cheering on his teammates from the press box, and the injured Clark Robertson.

"We're a lot better team when Will's not in it," joked Warne, who went back out on to the pitch after the initial celebrations had subsided in a lone salute to the quality of the travelling support.

"Every player I have just shaken hands with has said the same thing!"

A cagey first half saw the visitors give as good as they got, although the only clear opportunity fell to Tomer Hemed and it needed superb ninth-minute reactions from Marek Rodak to deny the Rangers forward a goal following Massimo Luongo's ball forward.

There were 'Give Blood' signs all around Loftus Road and Rotherham took notice in a football sense. Knowing their season could be on the line, they ran and ran and worked and worked to wrest the initiative.

Michael Smith's big chance came and went in the 68th minute when substitute Matt Crooks did well down the left, Joe Newell sent in an inviting cross and the big striker could only direct a free header wide.

Two minutes later, Ajayi showed him how it was done with a lethal low hit from around 22 yards which gave Joe Lumley no chance.

The Millers rode their luck in the 76th minute when centre-half partners Richard Wood and Michael Ihiekwe made their first and only mistake, gifting sub Nahki Wells a sitter which the former Bradford City man put wide.

Osayi-Samuel did better and the clock then ticked down towards a draw until, in the 95th minute, came Ajayi's moment of Millers history.

Former Rotherham striker and boss Ronnie Moore was on the cover of a reversible programme.

Like the chairman, he too was a spectator and will have appreciated more than most the finishing prowess of Ajayi who has now scored seven times in this campaign and five times in his last four outings.

"It's an unreal feeling," Ajayi said. "The belief was still there at the end. We weren't happy to just hole up for a point."

Warne added: "I thought Semi, with his physicality, was the difference between the two sides.

"Last night in the hotel, me and the staff watched the scores come in on television and three of our rivals had lost and another had drawn. It could hardly have worked out better for us. It's been a good couple of days."

Stewart was to mix with the royal family the following day as his much-deserved award was bestowed on him.

But this night belonged to the Millers' own royalty, heroes who deserved honours of their own.

Arise Sir Paul, who finally knows how it feels to pick up a Championship triumph on his travels as a manager.

Arise Sir Semi, the centre-half turned defensive midfielder who can't stop scoring.

Arise 13 others who delivered when the result meant everything.

QPR (4-4-1-1): Joe Lumley; Darnell Furlong, Tony Leistner, Joel Lynch, Jake Bidwell; Bright Osayi-Samuel, Jordan Cousins, Massimo Luongo, Luke Freeman; Ebere Eze; Tomer Hemed. Unused: Matt Ingram, Geoff Cameron, Josh Scowen, Ryan Manning.

Subs: Nahki Wells (for Hemed ,72), Olamide Shodipo (for Cousins, 72), Pawel Wszolek (for Eze, 80).

Rotherham (4-1-4-1): Marek Rodak; Zak Vyner, Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Joe Mattock; Semi Ajayi; Jon Taylor, Richie Towell, Ben Wiles, Joe Newell; Michael Smith. Unused: Lewis Price, Matt Palmer, Ryan Williams, Jerry Yates.

Subs: Matt Crooks (for Towell, 64), Anthony Forde (for Newell, 83), Billy Jones (for Wiles, 90+2).

Goals: Osayi-Samuel 85 (QPR); Ajayi 70, 90+5 (Rotherham).

Referee: David Webb (Lancashire).

Attendance: 10,854 (321).


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