Please log in or register. Registered visitors get fewer ads.
Opposition Preview - Rotherham United (Home)
Written by ad_wilkin on Tuesday, 20th Feb 2024 10:30

Rotherham are stranded at the bottom of the table on 19 points and should be there for the taking in this Tuesday night game at Portman Road.

They only have three wins all season (Middlesbrough, Coventry and Norwich) but there are no easy games in this division as was proved when two finally played this reverse fixture that ended in a 2-2 draw.

Previous Fixture (Rotherham 2-2 Ipswich)

A 2-2 draw was played out at the New York Stadium and despite Town having most of the ball (71% possession) they failed to create too many clear-cut chances and actually finished with a lower xG than the hosts (1.25 -0.92).

It was a poor start for the Blues as an Axel Tuanzebe cross-field pass was a bit too long, Leif Davis tried to control it on his chest but was robbed as two Rotherham players doubled up on him with Fred Onyedinma stealing the ball, charging towards the goal and crossing into the perfect area for Sam Nombe to poke home on the slide.

Both sides then had blocked attempts before a lovely give-and-go between Kayden Jackson and Sam Morsy sent the former running through on goal before he was bundled over by the byline.

The resultant free-kick was straight off the training ground with Davis playing a perfectly-weighted pass to Morsy on the edge of the area that the skipper could just run onto and bend into the top corner.

George Hirst was then denied a clear penalty as another ball in behind found him and his legs were kicked out from behind him in the box. The referee waved it away.

Jackson was a constant threat down the right-hand side with a penalty shout of his own as he was taken out by two Rotherham players after he had crossed into the box.

He started the second half brightly as well finding Davis with an inswinging left-footed cross which the left-back was unable to pull back to a blue shirt.

Davis and Chaplin then both had wild swings from range before a deep Rotherham free-kick caused the Town defence problems and Sean Morrison ended up with a free header in the box which he put past the post.

Another couple of chances fell Chaplin’s way but were blocked or put over the bar before Town’s third penalty shout of the game when Tuanzebe headed a Davis corner delivery onto the hand of Georgie Kelly. The substitute striker's hand was in an unnatural position and it could easily have been given but the referee adjudged the ball hadn’t travelled far enough from the header to be an offence.

Rotherham again threatened from another deep free-kick, Town failing to clear the ball and a looping header back into the box eventually fell to Kelly. Vaclav Hladky was quickly off his line and spread himself well to block the shot.

The Town breakthrough eventually came in the 87th minute when Davis was released down the left before cutting the ball back. Marcus Harness couldn’t get on the ball and Omari Hutchinson then had a shot blocked before Morsy recycled the ball to Harry Clarke.

An excellent deep cross from the right-back found his opposite number Davis at the far post. Davis drilled across the face of goal where Jack Taylor was waiting to stab a foot at it. His initial shot bounced off a Rotherham defender and then keeper Viktor Johansson but eventually ricocheted off the Town man's standing foot into the net.

With it looking like three hard-fought points were in the bag, a sucker punch came when Town yet again failed to deal with a high second ball into the box.

Morrison’s initial long throw was headed away but a looping second header back into the box wasn’t won and Rotherham managed to knock the ball down to Kelly just inside the box. Kelly took a touch and had a shot blocked but the ball dribbled nicely into the path of Christ Tiehi, who curled an excellent effort past Hladky into the tiny piece of goal he had left to aim at.

What’s Changed

A change in the dugout has done little to galvanise this Rotherham team. Matt Taylor was replaced by Leam Richardson, Paul Cook’s former assistant manager at various clubs.

That change was made just before Christmas but despite a win in his third game, the Millers have only picked up six points during his tenure so far.

They come into this one on the back of a run of defeats, albeit against sides at the top end of the division (2-0 Southampton, 3-0 Leeds, 2-1 Hull, 1-0 Watford)

In terms of transfers over January there are three new faces, all deadline day loans. The one Town will be most familiar with is Charlie Wyke, who has joined on loan from Richardson’s former side Wigan.

The 31-year-old comes with pedigree, although he’s spent the majority of his career in the lower leagues. He has 70 goals in 208 League One appearances but only managed two in 18 last year at Wigan which was his only other Championship spell.

He has, however, scored in his last two appearances against the Super Blues, in the 2020/21 League One season for Sunderland in which he scored 25 in total.

He’s not hit those heights since that season and has suffered from heart problems in his time at Wigan, so will be looking to prove that he can cut it in the Championship with not much more of his career left.

Andy Rinomhota is another interesting one. He played 39 games for Cardiff last season and before that was a Championship regular for four seasons at Reading.

He found himself out of favour this season, either not being included in the squad or being left on the bench for the majority of the games under Erol Bulut before getting some minutes in January when the Cardiff midfield was hit by injuries, prior to being loaned out to the Millers at the end of the window.

He’s been eased in at Rotherham playing 26 and 16 minutes off the bench against Leeds and Hull, before featuring for the full 90 against Watford. He’ll provide more drive and a bit of versatility as more of a box-to-box midfielder in that Rotherham midfield and should complement Tiehi nicely.

The last loan signing they made over January is Femi Seriki. Seriki came through the Sheffield United academy and this is the 21-year-old's fourth loan following spells with Belgian side Beerschot, Boston United and Rochdale.

It’s likely that he’s just been brought in for experience and time off the bench as he’s only been used in one game, playing five minutes as a sub against Southampton. However, he does provide cover in the right-back area following Dexter Lembikisa’s recall by Wolves

Key Players

Viktor Johansson (Saves per game – four, Goals prevented – 3.46, Clean Sheets - three)

Without Johansson there is no doubt that Rotherham would be on fewer than the 19 points they currently sit on.

It is a sign of how leaky Rotherham are defensively that the Swede has conceded the most goals per game whilst also making the most saves per game. That’s where the Goals Prevented metric comes in and a rate of 3.46 puts him second in the league behind only Leicester stopper Mads Hermansen.

He was linked with a move away from the Millers in January with Sheffield United reportedly interested, but Johansson himself has said he’s happy at the club and he’ll now definitely see out the season.

Should Rotherham drop to League One, he could be tempted to move to keep his Sweden career alive having made his debut in October 2023, but for now he is up there as one of the best-performing keepers in the league.

Hakeem Odoffin

Rotherham’s current joint top scorer on three goals has been one of the Millers' best players this season. He was a stop-gap solution when he came into the side at centre-back against QPR and then in the first fixture between these sides, but he has made that position his own since then and has started the last 16 games in a row.

He had an excellent game against Watford last time out with four tackles, three clearances, 11 aerial duels won and one key pass as the Millers fell to a 1-0 defeat to Watford. He was also instrumental in defence in the first fixture between these sides making two very important blocks for his side.

Christ Tiehi

The Rotherham hero the last time these sides met. Tiehi’s edge of the box shot saw Town concede a 91st minute equaliser which wasn’t wholly undeserved.

The Ivorian has gone on to score once more this season, only a week ago at Hull, which has surely used up his complement of goals (the max he’s scored in a season is three for Le Havre B).

When he’s not scoring last minute equalisers, he’s a solid Championship defensive midfielder with his tackling, interceptions and in particular blocks all in the top half of players in the division.

The Teams

Back-to-back wins in back-to-back away games with only one rotation but a heavy use of substitutes means that once again this Town team could be tough to pick.

Conor Chaplin surprisingly dropped out against Millwall, but it proved to be the right decision with Hutchinson and Wes Burns terrorising Millwall’s left-hand side.

haplin returned as Burns dipped out against Swansea with Hutchinson again playing a crucial part in the first goal there and doing his chances of regular starts no harm.

Ali Al-Hamadi has also put in an excellent couple of cameos in those games so competition for places will be fierce.

The back five is only slightly more straightforward. Hladky made another excellent save against Swansea but did still look shaky on the first couple of attempts that were sent his way. Hopefully, that save will boost his confidence. Manager Kieran McKenna has kept faith with him as number one keeper and will continue to do so throughout.

At right-back Harry Clarke is in fine form and the only real option there. At centre-half, despite George Edmundson being a more than able deputy, the return of header magnet Cameron Burgess and his left foot has allowed Davis to get higher up the pitch and into more dangerous attacking areas. He’s a cert to start this one again for me.

The Luke Woolfenden/Tuanzebe rotation stopped while Burgess was away at the Asian Cup and the former Manchester United man hasn’t overly impressed in the appearances he’s had, so for me I think this one will be an unchanged backline.

The only concern I have is that Davis was limping at the end at Swansea and has missed the odd game this season with a muscular issue. Hopefully he can recover in time for this one otherwise Cameron Humphreys could be getting more time at left-back.

With Taylor a short-term injury absentee, it’s unlikely he’ll feature in this one from the start which leaves Morsy, Massimo Luongo, Lewis Travis and Dominic Ball to choose from. Could this be a game to give Travis more game time and trial Morsy further forward (the skipper did score in the reverse fixture)? Not for me. I think the Morsy-Luongo partnership will continue.

My attacking four would be the same as Millwall which does mean leaving Chaplin out again. I think Burns and Hutchinson could have similar success down that right-hand side so they’re the two I'd go for.

For Rotherham, Johannson is the number one. Peter Kioso and Sebastian Revan have been favoured as attacking wing-backs in recent games and their athleticism will be needed again in this one.

Odoffin, as mentioned earlier, has been a mainstay on the right of a back three and is likely to start alongside two of Morrison, Lee Peltier and Cameron Humphreys. My money would be on Morrison and Humphreys.

New loan signing Rinomhota came into a three-man midfield against Watford and impressed alongside Tiehi and the more advance Oliver Rathbone.

Richardson could chose to bring Sam Clucas back in to be a bit more defensive but I think he’ll stick with that three providing all of them are fit.

Up front, new signing Wyke has been forming a little and large partnership with Nombe, who was one of the Millers' standout performers against Ipswich at the New York Stadium.

This has relegated three-goal joint-top goalscorer Jordan Hugill to the bench, but looks to provide a more-rounded attacking threat with different attributes than just having Hugill up top on his own.

Action Areas

In their home fixture Rotherham got their game plan spot on. They are effective at pressing teams high whilst also remaining solid at the back and have taken points off of Ipswich, Southampton, Sunderland and Middlesbrough this season, all sides who favour possession-based football.

As McKenna hinted in his pre-match interview, since Richardson has come in they have yet to be blown away by a team which is a contrast to big defeats to Stoke (4-1 and 6-1, the latter in the Carabao Cup), Watford (5-0) and Hull (4-1) under Taylor.

The addition of Wyke will give them a focal point up front and enable to ball to stick a bit more. The two games both Wyke and Nombe have played together has seen Rotherham have 52% possession (Watford) and 40% possession (Hull) both of which are significantly higher than their 35% season average.

It’s also enabled them to create more shooting opportunities with 19 shots against Watford their second-highest number of shots in a game of the season. Only one of those was on target, so accuracy is an area to work on.

Town will need to be wary of the high press early on in the game with Rotherham likely to fly out of the traps. If they can manage that, then width will be crucial with Rotherham tending to pack the middle of the pitch.

The Blues' wide players will be looking to force their counterparts back with the two tens then trying to find the space. This is a game where Nathan Broadhead’s close ball control could be crucial to unlocking the door.

With Rotherham rock bottom, this should be a game Town are winning, but since January there have definitely been improvements in Leam Richardson's side. They’ll still be fighting to get points on the board, so it won’t be a rout. I’m going for a rare low-scoring game at Portman Road with a 1-0 win.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

bobble added 22:43 - Feb 20
got that prediction very wtrong
You need to login in order to post your comments

Blogs 295 bloggers

About Us Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies Advertising
© TWTD 1995-2024