Rotherham boss Paul Warne admitted his side will have to perform better than they did in the 3-1 loss at Rochdale if they are to secure promotion to the Championship.
The Millers’ title hopes suffered against League One strugglers Dale, who were far superior on the day with Ian Henderson bagging a brace either side of the break before Matt Lund added a third.
Jamie Lindsay’s stoppage-time volley was scant consolation for the visitors, who were well below par.
Warne, whose side have now won only once in five games, said: “We haven’t turned into a bad team overnight. We’ve been amazing away from home for most of the season and perhaps we weren’t as amazing on the day but we had 20-odd shots at goal, more than 40 crosses into the box.
“We just have to find another way to score because the crosses weren’t quite hitting the spot or the strikers weren’t making the right runs or whatever it was.
“Take nothing away from Rochdale, they went up, back and through us and they played the conditions much better than we did.
“We’ve got nine games to play between now and the end of the season and I knew we’d lose some of those games.
“I hadn’t earmarked the ones we’d lose but it’s disappointing – we have to be critical of the team but also pick them up and be better than we were today if we want to achieve something.”
After an end-to-end opening to the match, Henderson fired Dale ahead in the 27th minute, applying the finish to Aaron Morley’s delivery.
Rotherham had the ball in the net after 35 minutes only to see it disallowed. Ben Wiles’ header was on its way in when Michael Smith touched home from two yards before being flagged offside.
Henderson’s second arrived in the 70th minute when he raced onto Lund’s through ball and stroked the ball wide of Daniel Iversen. Lund then wrapped up the points when he lifted the ball over the Millers goalkeeper six minutes later.
Lindsay’s late volley denied Dale a clean sheet, but that did not take the gloss off a fine win for Brian Barry-Murphy’s men.
Barry-Murphy said: “I’m just pleased for everyone at the club – the atmosphere in the stadium reminded me of games towards the end of last season when we put together a good run of form.
“The lads gave everything last week at Portsmouth where we lost, but we knew we’d played well against a top team and we repeated that today.
“The forward line have been asking for the kind of service we provided for them on the day and we scored the goal.
“The challenge for us now is to replicate that performance in our next game and in all our games going forward because we have had good moments like this throughout the season but we haven’t replicated them.”