Rotherham can climb out of the Sky Bet Championship bottom three ahead of the final day with victory at Luton on Tuesday. Joe Townsend has a preview and two best bets.
2pts Under 2.5 goals at evens (General)
1pt Luton to win at 2/1 (Sky Bet)
0.5pt Luton to win by one goal at 39/10 (Sport Nation)
Somehow, Rotherham United head into the final week of the Sky Bet Championship season with survival firmly in their own hands.
No club in English football has been more severely affected by Covid-19-enforced postponements than the Millers, with Paul Warne's side forced to play their final 12 matches in 36 days. Their final 10, in just 28.
In terms of points accrued, they haven't coped well with the backlog. Lewis Wing's late equaliser against Blackburn on Saturday meant Rotherham narrowly avoided a sixth straight defeat.
Only one match has been won, and five points been added, across their past 10 fixtures, leaving them firmly stuck in the relegation zone.
But largely thanks to the appalling form of Wayne Rooney's Derby County, victory at Luton on Tuesday night would see Warne's men start the final day outside the bottom three.
That could be enough to keep them up, too, as a final-day win for second-from-bottom Sheffield Wednesday in what is a gargantuan clash with Derby would, cricket scores aside, then guarantee the Millers' survival.
Put simply, though, two wins and Rotherham are safe.
Having taken it so close, I wouldn't be recommending you to back the Millers to be relegated at 4/11. Midway through this piled up end to the season, I took the 13/8 price on them going down, but it hasn't been a comfortable few weeks.
While to the naked eye, Rotherham are in poor form, they've actually been playing OK. But that, in a nutshell, is the story of their season. They simply cannot convert chances.
It was ironic, then, that having dominated Barnsley and Birmingham either side of a controversial defeat by Middlesbrough, and run Brentford so close, that Blackburn (xG: ROT 1.01 - 3.18 BLA) should tear them to pieces at the New York Stadium, only for the Millers to snatch an undeserved point.
That performance in itself told a story though. Have they finally run out of steam?
On the whole, Rotherham are a decent team. Infogol's Expected table, based on performance, has them sitting in 18th.
All season long, they have fallen just short. No team in the Championship has lost more games by a single-goal than they have - 19 of their 26 defeats have come that way, a staggering 43% of all their league games have been one-goal losses.
So while the underlying numbers might suggest the Millers are playing well, and will results should eventually catch up, there is undoubtedly a long-term issue of failing to turn performances into points.
What doesn't stack up for me, is how can Rotherham really be 4/11 certs for the drop, and yet 13/10 favourites to beat Luton? The latter is born out of the underlying numbers suggesting the Millers aren't all that bad, and the mid-table Hatters having 'nothing to play for' as the old adage goes.
Look at Luton's recent results and someone must have forgotten to tell them to start rolling over.
Over Easter weekend, back at the beginning of April, the Hatters lost back-to-back games, after which manager Nathan Jones apologised for experimenting with his team selection, promising to field his strongest XI for the remainder of the campaign.
Luton have won three and drawn two games since. A run of fixtures that included matches against promotion-chasing Watford, play-off hunting Reading and relegation-battling Wycombe. Nothing to play for...
I must confess to being mightily tempted by the 23/20 on offer for Luton draw no bet (DNB), but the 2/1 Sky Bet are putting up for LUTON TO WIN is too good to turn to down.
Given Rotherham's penchant for glorious failure, and Luton's habit of chalking up ground out, rather than flamboyant, wins - nine of their last 11 victories have been by one goal - taking LUTON TO WIN BY ONE GOAL at 39/10 is something I'm happy to hold a small interest in too.
Finally, having considered going down the Luton DNB route, and decided against watering down my punt, I'm instead happy to go with a bigger stake on this being a low-scoring encounter, taking the result out of the equation.
Even money across the board for UNDER 2.5 GOALS seems a little generous given it has paid out in eight of Rotherham's past 11 fixtures, and seven of Luton's past 10.
Score prediction: Luton 1-0 Rotherham (Sky Bet odds: 17/2)
Odds correct at 1630 BST (03/05/21)
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