Rotherham United’s hopes of avoiding an immediate return to League One were dealt a blow on Friday when they were docked three points for fielding an ineligible player.
The Yorkshire club were earlier this month charged by the Football League after on-loan Derby County defender Farrend Rawson played the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 Championship win over Brighton and Hove Albion on April 6.
Rawson’s youth loan deal had expired and with paperwork for an extension to his stay not correctly completed, the Football League have deducted Steve Evans’ men three points and fined the club £30,000 – half of which is suspended until the end of next season.
That punishment leaves Rotherham just one point ahead of third-bottom Millwall with a game in hand, with Wigan Athletic now only two points adrift of Evans’ side.
Rotherham, who secured promotion by winning the League One play-off final last season, wasted no time in vowing to appeal against the decision.
A club statement said: “Rotherham United FC are very disappointed by the decision to deduct three points for fielding a player who was ineligible purely because of an administrative error.
“It is our view that true sports fans want to see competitions settled on the pitch and not to have them affected by what happens in disciplinary proceedings.
“We await the reasoned judgement of the FDC and once we have received it we will issue our appeal after discussion with Jim Sturman QC.
“In the meantime we are confident that our team possesses the will and spirit to ensure that the points deduction is academic by securing our Championship status on the pitch.
“It would not be appropriate to make any further comment on this matter until after the appeal process has been concluded.”
Rotherham face a home clash with automatic promotion contenders Norwich City on Saturday.