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Wands, Lady Luck and one-legged men

Rotherham's fantastic season carried on at full pace on Thursday as they delivered a superb performance to book their place in the League One play-off final at Wembley, seeing off a strong Preston side.

It was a rampant display, which was rewarded with a final date with Leyton Orient at the home of football next Sunday.

Here's a sideways analysis of a great night for the Millers.

The Entertainers

Rotherham have had periods of success over recent years, but have they ever been so good to watch? With this current crop, you know that whatever happens they will go out with the intention of scoring goals and the result has been a season of pure entertainment and drama. The way they went for the win at Deepdale in the first leg on Saturday typified their intent and even when Preston took the lead at New York there was no panic because of what Steve Evans’ men had in their locker. Their ability to get from front to back so quickly, coupled with a lethal counter-attack and a relentless commitment to get men forward has been the catalyst of the success. Evans has vowed not to change his tactics for the play-off final, but whatever happens at Wembley, long may that ethos continue.

The Wand

‘There’s a little bit of stardust in Ben Pringle’s left boot’ was one of the better sound bytes from commentator Gary Weaver in Sky Sports’ coverage of the game. Pringle, who has won plenty of acclaim this season, had a magical night and was at the forefront of virtually everything the Millers did. His deliveries for the first two goals were superb, but not as good as ones that set up chances for Kari Arnason and Wes Thomas and if his first-time volley early in the second half had gone in, then Evans might have been wondering if he was going to wake up a chicken. He nearly bent another one in at the end and the watching millions (okay, probably thousands) on TV were left wishing they had him in their team.

Wooing Lady Luck

Who knows what sort of moves Adam Collin had been making on Lady Luck ahead of this game, but whatever they were they worked as she well and truly put out on the stroke of the break. With the hosts leading 2-1 and preparing for some half-time oranges that would have tasted particularly sweet, Collin let John Welsh’s 25-yard tame effort slip through his grasp. It looked for all the world like it was going to drop into the goal and allow Preston to level at a crucial time, but Lady Luck had been wooed and she made sure it went just the right side of the post and the Millers escaped. Most would say that the former Carlisle mad had earned that.

The one-legged man

Although there is some conjecture about exactly how much smoke Steve Evans was blowing regarding the injury situation in the build-up to the game, it was clear that Kieran Agard was not fully fit. After passing a fitness test at about 11am the Millers’ top scorer battled on and although at times he looked like he was playing on ice, he showed exactly why Evans took a risk by playing him. His pace was a constant threat and it was his 26th goal of the season, courtesy of the composure in the penalty area which has been the trademark of his sensational tally, that put one foot on Wembley way. Evans deserves credit for gambling on his and Lee Frecklington’s fitness, but the biggest praise has to go to retiring physio Denis Circuit and his magic sponge.

New York foundations

There’s no doubt that the New York Stadium is a magnificent piece of architecture and it has provided a fine home for the Millers for the last two seasons. However, its true test has come with the manner of Steve Evans’ celebrations, firstly after promotion last year and then again after Thursday night. Climbing on a ledge in the directors’ box, with little support, the sizeable Scot jumped up and down and waved his tie around like a mad man. But the main stand stood firm, when many other buildings would have crumbled, proving it's made out of stern stuff. 

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