Rotherham 0-1 Fulham: Millers relegated
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 02/04/17 10:34pm
Rotherham were finally put out of their misery and became the first side in the country to be relegated this term after a 1-0 loss to Fulham at New York Stadium.
With just four wins all season, the writing has been on the wall for a long time, but Sone Aluko's second-half goal was enough to confirm the Millers' return to League One.
It was a 30th defeat of a miserable campaign and, with six games left, Rotherham look a good bet to break the Football League record of 34 for the most losses in a season.
The three points did wonders for Fulham's hopes of leaving the division at the other end as they moved into the play-off positions and their top-six chances are now in their own hands.
They were boosted just before kick-off by news from 15 miles up the M1 that Sheffield Wednesday had only drawn at Barnsley, so they knew a win would send them above the Owls.
But it was Rotherham, perhaps playing with a freedom of a condemned team, that had the better openings in the first 15 minutes, the best of which came with less than two minutes on the clock.
A sweeping move from right to left saw Joe Newell send in an inviting cross for an unmarked Danny Ward, who put his header from eight yards just wide when he should have buried it.
Lee Frecklington also went close for the Millers as he forced David Button into a flying save from a curling 25-yard effort.
Fulham settled and had enjoyed 71 per cent of possession by half-time, though they had nothing in terms of clear chances. Their best moment fell to Aluko but he dragged a shot wide from the edge of the area.
The chance they had been waiting for came just eight minutes after the restart, though Chris Martin fluffed his lines. A lightning quick break saw them get in behind the Millers and Tom Cairney set up Martin with a perfect pass across goal but the striker failed to connect and the moment was gone.
They nearly paid as seconds later Rotherham should have gone ahead when Newell broke through and squared for Jon Taylor, but he poked straight at Button from inside the six-yard box.
The Cottagers' threat on the break eventually told as they went ahead midway through the second half.
They had three opportunities to get the ball in the net but Darnell Fisher and goalkeeper Lewis Price produced brave blocks before Aluko poked home from a yard out.
Fulham's keep-ball ability and constant threat on the counter-attack made it difficult for Rotherham to muster any sort of response. They had a decent half-chance but Ward saw his shot blocked when he might have done better.
Even if the Millers had produced a miraculous turnaround, their fate would still have been sealed by results elsewhere and they can now prepare for League One.
Rotherham boss Paul Warne:
"There's a little bit of embarrassment. I took the reins a few months ago and I haven't been good enough to get the results to keep us up and that is on my head. The performances have been okay at times but we haven't got that strength in depth. But that's my fault, it's not anyone else's.
"I don't think anyone thought before today that we would stay up, we weren't going to win eight on the spin. So to have relegated next to our name isn't too much of a shock. Other people have inherited similar situations and done better, I am the one who takes it home and doesn't sleep. I take that blame. In my eyes I have done the best that I could but other people might disagree."
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic:
"It is a great step for us towards where we want to be. It was a very tough game. I am pleased because I have missed some 1-0 wins, so to get the goal and then finish with a clean sheet is pleasing and it is important news for us.
"We tried to be focused on our job and thinking about what we can do. We weren't thinking about Sheffield Wednesday or about other teams. Our focus is on us in this crucial part of the competition and getting as many points as is possible for us."