|Rotherham United 1 v 0 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 22nd April 2017 Kick-off 15:00
What the Hell Have We Done to Deserve This? - Notes for Rotherham
Friday, 21st Apr 2017 11:30 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at the New York Stadium by delving into their forums.
“Oh, to be a Miller”, “Thank God, only three more games before this thoroughly depressing season is over”, “It has just been train wreck after train wreck, no pride, no fight and no hope”, “This season has not been enjoyable in any shape or form”, “It’s the worst season ever. I can’t wait for it to end.”
“Desperate times.” The Millers’ 2-1 loss away to Reading on Easter Monday was their 33rd defeat in what has been a catastrophic campaign. Their 1-1 draw at home to a poor Birmingham side on Good Friday broke a sequence of 10 straight losses which included five-goal drubbings at Cardiff and QPR.
“We have been served up absolute dross”, “It’s like watching Colombo, you know what happens at the end.”
Having engineered a great escape under Neil Warnock last year, many blame this season’s regression on poor recruitment and management which has badly dented the squad’s confidence.
“It’s totally embarrassing how we capitulate every week”, “There is such a losing ethos in the club at the moment”, “Our problem has been the same, stupid mistakes at crucial moments. Once the first goal goes in, heads go down and we get worse. After the season we have had, that isn’t surprising.”
“I’m not hurting over relegation. I’m hurt by the way we have been relegated. It was coming since last November but the way we waved the white flag so early hurts”, “We cannot defend a lead for five minutes. We cannot last 90 minutes and keep making the same mistakes week in, week out.”
“I was looking forward to League One but I’m worried now”, “Not a single player we have today would make the 2014 League One promotion team so any thoughts of promotion or even the play-offs are pie in the sky without wholesale changes”, “Staying in League One is the key objective now.”
“We have appointed a manager who is currently not qualified to do the job and plans to gain some qualifications over the summer. What could possibly go wrong?”, “The most bizarre appointment in the history of the Millers”, “I wish him all the luck in the world but he knows what he is taking on.”
The 43-year-old Norwich-born manager and Canaries’ fan took over in an acting role after his predecessor Kenny Jackett resigned last November. Millers’ chairman Tony Stewart confirmed that the former fitness coach was given the job on a permanent basis at the beginning of this month.
“How can we afford such an inexperienced manager at this stage of the club’s development?” Many Millers fear the worst. “I quite like Warne but can only see the games without a win sequence being extended to 20-plus and Stewart, having given him a role he cannot cope with, pulling the plug.”
“The manager’s job here is a poisoned chalice, it’s terrible he has had this given to him”, “There will not be a less experienced manager in the United Kingdom. That’s a very sobering thought indeed”, “He needs to handle himself in a more professional manner. The word naïve sums him up to a tee.”
A Lack of Quality
“The majority of players are clearly not good enough for this level. That is the big factor and not our tactics”, “Warne needs to be ruthless this summer with the squad”, “The team as a whole is clearly not good enough for this level and no manager would have been able to keep us up this season.”
“We have strikers who can’t score the simplest of chances, defenders who look like scared rabbits and set pieces that look like they are made up on the hoof”, “We play okay for most of the match but our sloppy defensive mistakes and our lack of firepower means that we lose all the time.”
“Can you think of a player who has actually improved in their time with us?”, “Our players are weak. They are too scared to put a tackle in and cannot play quick football. They will wait for ages before deciding what to do when on the ball”, “Confidence is non-existent and it’s worrying to watch.”
“Why do we keep switching off?” Rotherham have played with a back four this season but they have switched between a 4-4-2 shape and using a lone striker. They used the latter with Monday’s line-up at Reading (above). Millers have criticised the side’s habit of losing games though costly blunders.
“Who would have thought that we would no longer have a decent keeper?” With Lee Camp absent with a knee injury, Richard O’Donnell and former Blue Lewis Price have covered in goal but both are seen as back-ups at best. If anything, fans are more worried about the poor form of their back four.
“The core reason we are rubbish is our central defence.” Centre-half Richard Wood lacks pace while right-back Darnell Fisher has pace but lacks everything else. Semi Ajayi is a talented but error-prone centre-half and left-back Joe Mattock is suited to League One. “The whole back four can go for me.”
“Our defensive problems have a lot to do with midfield.” Tom Adeyemi and Lee Frecklington have been absent this season through injury and Millers feel that their drive has been missed. “We are desperate for a decent ball-carrying midfielder”, “We need someone like Burton’s Jackson Irvine.”
Jon Taylor and Joe Newell are both viewed as lightweights on the flanks while up front the side has been over-reliant on Danny Ward. The striker has only recently rediscovered his early-season form after being criticised for regularly missing easy chances during United’s recent 10-game losing run.
The side has lost experienced players to long injury periods or poor form. Apart from Lee Camp, defenders Kirk Broadfoot (back), Stephen Kelly (achilles), Joel Ekstrand (knee), and midfielder Lee Frecklington (knee) have been absent. Striker Dexter Blackstock’s form has been heavily criticised.
A Lack of Fitness
“One worrying thing is that Warne was our fitness coach and we are not fit enough. Now he is our manager”, “He has admitted we are not fit enough”, “We need to make an effort to help existing players improve their fitness”, “All our players at Reading, as ever, were knackered after an hour”,
“Despite the elevation of our fitness coach, our match fitness has been well below Championship standards. It is no coincidence that we also have more than our fair share of lengthy injuries”, “In every game we have played, we have not only been lacking in skill but also in our fitness levels.”
Reading 2 – 1 Rotherham
“This was one of the more enjoyable defeats this season”, “You would have expected Reading to win but I didn’t expect us to be in the match at such a late stage”, “Another Millers’ defeat with two ex-Millers scoring against us”, “I can’t recall our last win”, “Only four more goals for 100 against us.”
A Tom Adeyemi goal on 19 minutes latching on to a rebound gave visiting fans the rare pleasure of an interval lead. Reading hit back after the break when former Miller Lewis Grabban fired powerfully home on 66 and John Swift finished off Chris Gunter’s cross 13 minutes later to secure a home win.
“The back four played well and battled for every ball. I always had the feeling that if Reading scored an equaliser, they would go on and win”, “Our lack of fitness cost us after the break”, “It was huff and puff in the second half. I can’t remember Reading’s keeper having a save to make to make.”
Rotherham 1 – 1 Birmingham
“We have got a point!”, “We weren’t too bad, some decent stuff in places”, “Quite an entertaining game, even comical at times but way below the quality you would expect at Championship level”, “We made the best chances and should have won this but that’s the story of the season, isn’t it?”
“We are on a one-match unbeaten run!” Kerim Frei curled a freekick in after 73 minutes to put the West Midlanders ahead but Danny Ward lashed a low powerful shot into the net five minutes from time to give the hosts a well-deserved point and bringing their 10-game losing streak to an end.
“We should have beaten them in the second half. It was the worst Birmingham team I have ever seen”, “I’m not sure we are really improving or just that today’s visitors were the worst team I have seen all season”, “Is there a chance the Bluenoses will be relegated? They were worse than Wigan.”
Warne paired Danny Ward and Norwich loanee Carlton Morris up front in the starting XI (above), but fans felt that the late introduction of the physical Jonson Clarke-Harris gave their attack a better balance and sharper cutting edge. “A good battling performance against an admittedly poor team.”
Wigan 3 - 2 Rotherham
“Ah well, that’s me finished with away matches until such time as I see a fighting Rotherham again”, “I was there and there was nothing to be cheerful about, the same old and two shocking teams. A 3-2 scoreline suggests an exciting game but for me it ranked with our worst displays of the season.”
Ward put the visitors ahead on 29 minutes before Gabriel Obertan equalised for Wigan five minutes later. Anthony Forde’s long-range effort restored Rotherham’s advantage on 61 only for Alex Gilbey to level the score on 65 before Nick Powell’s stoppage-time freekick gave Wigan a major victory.
“Two League One teams playing average League One football”, “The only way to lose a game is to concede more goals that your opponent but we seem to come up with a new twist every week”, “The story of our season. We would have to score five or more to get anything out of a game.”
“Get a new goalie, Warney.” Millers blamed starting keeper Lewis Price (above) for conceding the decisive freekick deep into stoppage time and he was rested for the subsequent Birmingham game with tonsillitis. The team’s “glaring misses and comedy defending” typified many previous losses.
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Richard O’Donnell with a clean catch. It seems ages since we have had that.” The 28-year-old ex-Bristol City keeper “is a let-down”, “He won’t come off his line and dominate the box. He relies on others to clear the ball. He is okay with long-range shots but doesn’t give his back four confidence.”
Richard O’Donnell playing for former club Bristol City
“Choosing between O’Donnell and Lewis Price is like asking someone ‘toothache or migraine?’” The 32-year-old one-time Ipswich and Owls goalkeeper “can’t hold a weak shot. How many times have we seen him push a shot aside and not gather it, resulting in a goal?”, “He has fooled us for sure.”
“Price reminds me of a golfer with the ‘yips’. Perhaps he suffers anxieties with his kicking”, “He is braver and stronger than O’Donnell and gets in where it hurts. He collects deep crosses, punches the ball and looks like he wants to make a mark”, “Two poor keepers who couldn’t clean Camp’s boots.”
“Joe Mattock stands too far away when marking his winger and allows him to cross unchallenged. This ‘car crash television’ defending is repeated in just about every game this season.” The 26-year-old former Owl “shouldn’t get a new contract. He doesn’t do the simple things in football properly.”
“Mattock is way past his best but continues to get game time at left-back”, “He has been very hit-and-miss and much too slow”, “He lacks interest and has been awful for most of the season but is putting a shift in with possible contract discussions soon”, “He picks up both injuries and bookings.”
“Next season will be more telling for Ben Purrington.” The 20-year-old arrived from Plymouth in the January window. The left-back “doesn’t get forward much. At times his winger would welcome an overlapping run. His first thought it to pass sideways and backwards but his confidence will grow.”
“Darnell Fisher is one of the worst right-backs I have seen in a Millers’ shirt.” The 23-year-old August signing from Celtic “is poor. Has he got his feet on the wrong way around?”, “Our worst player, he is all arms and legs, quick but nowt much else”, “Getting him into the opposition half is hard enough.”
“If Fisher is on the retained list next season, that’s me done”, “I don’t think I have seen him have a good game and there’s always an error in him but I have a feeling he will come good”, “His positional play is awful”, “He is good a winning freekicks by drawing fouls and he puts in some decent tackles.”
“Aymen Belaid has decent pace and a natural ability to read the game.” The 25-year-old ex-Levski Sofia man “can’t jump or head a ball and backs out of any high-ball situation. He lacks strength”, “It is refreshing to see a centre-half with pace who reads the game well and protects his left-back.”
“Typical of Richard Wood to put in a steady performance before making an error for Birmingham’s goal.” The 31-year-old ex-Charlton defender, a Town target during Jim Magilton’s time at the club, “is too slow. He has been at the heart of all things bad in our central defence this season”, “He can’t make up for his lack of speed with a sharp footballing brain.”
“Wood may not be the best centre-half in the world but you can’t fault his commitment and bravery. He is chronically slow and agricultural”, “He would be a solid League One defender and he puts his head where it hurts, but he is not Championship standard”, “You simply can’t put speed in old legs.”
“Ayaji is starting to win me over.” The 23-year-old, who had a trial at Town in January 2015, joined in January on loan from the Bluebirds and will complete a permanent deal in July. “He’s strong, athletic and can mix it up both on the ground and in the air”, “He reads the game well, is fast and he could be a weapon up front from set plays.”
Andi Weimann (Wolves) v Ajayi
“Ayaji is impressive, cutting out the silly mistakes will come with more experience”, “League One will bring his game on because his screw-ups have been when he has tried to be too fancy. All he needs to do at that level are the simple things right, ie head, tackle, boot and mark, and he will be fine.”
“Tom Adeyemi galloping forward with the ball looks tremendous but the rest of his cumbersome game leaves a lot to be desired.” The 25-year-old Cardiff loan signing “hasn’t looked fit enough to compete for a full 90 minutes since we signed him. It’s a shame as he has looked good in patches.”
Tom Adeyemi playing for parnet club Cardiff v Danny Williams (Reading)
“Adeyemi adds the solid physical presence we need between the boxes”, “He often plays in the hole between midfield and attack when we have three in the centre. He is hard to stop when he is on the ball and has scored come cracking goals”, “Tom likes to ghost into the opposition penalty area.”
“Some fans criticise Richard Smallwood for rarely passing forward but if you watch him he nearly always wins the ball back for his team and looks to move it forward.” The 26-year-old ex-Boro man “is one of those players who isn’t noticed much in the side but we notice more when he is absent”.
“Smallwood is the only player that can tackle. He breaks up the opposition play and would give the ball to a creative team-mate if we had one”, “We rarely have anyone showing for the ball so his only options are to go sideways or back”, “He must stop giving freekicks away on the edge of our box.”
“Vaulks had a determined and resolute performance at Ipswich which made their midfield look poor. He is in opponents’ faces harassing, menacing and not giving them a minute on the ball.” The 23-year-old summer signing from Falkirk “does have a terrific shot on him even if some land in Row Z”.
“Vaulks has covered well in various positions, a good header of the ball, good at tackling and he has a good range of passes. We need a more positive partner than Smallwood with him in midfield”, “He has a great throw in him and is a great option at right-back”, “He tackles and gets in where it hurts.”
Wingers and Wide Midfielders
“Anthony Forde is a bit of an enigma. He’s strong and quick but seems incapable of beating his man and putting quality crosses in.” The 23-year-old ex-Walsall right winger “never tackles his opponent. I can’t see a solid tackle in him and he hardly gets stuck in. He’s not for me, although he has pace.”
“Alex Bray is a good young player who is fast and direct and who likes to beat an opponent.” The 21-year-old arrived on loan from Swansea in January. “He’s a bit easy to push off the ball and needs to get stronger. His crossing could also be better but he will work hard and give us much needed pace.”
“Get rid of Joe Newell and replace him with some pace on the wing. His display at Wigan surprised me as he was really bad, lethargic and slow as if he was ill.” The 24-year-old ex-Peterborough midfielder “is a big bloke who is all muscle but on the pitch, he turns into a wallflower letting players past him”.
“Newell has always been a player destined to attack more than defend”, “He bottles tackles and his full-back is exposed by his being poor defensively”, “He has been terrible off the ball, ghosting round the pitch”, “He is way off the level he has previously shown. He can go if he won’t work for his shirt.”
“Taylor is a tiny but very quick winger who can be dangerous cutting in from the left flank.” The 24-year-old one-time Shrewsbury man’s “final shot or pass is often wayward. He runs about a lot but flatters to deceive with a poor end product”, “He huffs and puffs but he rarely if ever finds his man.”
Anthony Forde and Jon Taylor
“I don’t know what Taylor brings to the team apart from pace. He never looks in control of the ball running with his head down. He’s not great a dribbling or crossing and makes poor passes or finishes in the final third”, “He isn’t big enough. He looks fast buy takes three strides to most full backs’ two.”
“I don’t want Carlton Morris here next year. He looks like he could play all season and not score.” The 21-year-old January loan signing from Norwich “is a strong, physical player whose game is about hold up play and using his strength to help others in the team”, “His control is good but he’s not fit.”
“Morris is not exactly pacy”, “The problem being a young striker relying on strength is that it’s hard to do the same in senior games as defenders are bigger and stronger”, “He’s not prolific but he can handle himself in hustle and bustle situations”, “He has yet to learn the art of bullying defences.”
“Jerry Yates is a young fox-in-the-box striker unsuited to playing on his own against giant centre-backs.” The 20-year-old youth product and bench option “is quick enough to get there but he seems to wait for the defender to make a mistake instead of trying to make something happen himself.”
“Jonson Clarke-Harris gives us something we have missed all season, a proper physical presence up front.” The 22-year-old ex-Oldham striker “is a real handful who wins his headers and has a terrific left-foot shot”, “In the short time he was on the pitch, Birmingham’s defence couldn’t handle him.”
“If Clarke-Harris was 10 per cent of the player he thinks he is, he would be brilliant”, “If he outgrows his baby-grow attitude and knuckles down he will have a field day in League One”, “He is now a bigger unit who rattles defenders’ cages and is so difficult to beat in the air”, “He needs more game time.”
“Ward’s value is going up right at the end of the season, just in time for the transfer window.” The 26-year-old former Terrier “is scoring again which is interesting. I wonder if he’s trying to sell himself again”, “He had a purple patch at the start of the season which he has not looked like repeating.”
Danny Ward v Richard Keogh of Derby
“Warne says Danny is banging them in during training, is he? Well, that’s hardly surprising given the state of our defenders, is it?”, “Another common phrase since January has been ‘Ward should have scored’”, “If we dropped him when he wasn’t scoring, the woeful Blackstock would have started.”
“Ward hasn’t been the same player since the rumours of a £2 million move in January”, “Izzy Brown and him had a very good understanding before Brown left. Most of his goals were a result of Izzy’s vision. Include a dip in confidence and Ward playing on his own up top and this will affect his performance.”
Millers’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich next, is it worth saying owt?”, “It’s community takeover day for this game. Activities will be going on round the stadium, face painter, inflatable pool using your feet amongst other things. The veterans truck will be there. We might see a few players who won't be in the squad walking about.”
“The football served up by our waste of a side this season is so enthralling that I'm off to work instead on Saturday. My season is now over”, “I have lost all interest in this season. I just want it over and done with and couldn't care less if we win, lose or draw as it won't change anything.”
“We might as well turn the day into a circus. We have been watching the clowns all season.” Many Millers just see the game as simply another step nearer to the end of what has been a wretched campaign. They are aware that Mick has discussed the possibility of altering his side for this game.
“McCarthy wants us to win by making changes to his side but it won't happen”, “It’s a nailed-on win for us Saturday suggests Mick McCarthy. He is fielding a weakened side against us and saving his strong sides to play the Pigs [Sheffield Wednesday] and Forest as they have something to play for.
“Well to be fair, Mick has been very generous so far to us, giving our only point away from home all season (something Ipswich will look back on and be ashamed of). Thanks for your kindness but if you gave us a six-goal start and half a team of kids to play, we would still be capable of screwing it up.”
“Mick McCarthy could walk up to the away end of the New York Stadium 15 minutes before kick-off and pick 11 Ipswich fans out, tell them to get their kit on and they would still beat the shower of rubbish we will put out on Saturday afternoon.”
“Yes, but if two of their fans were sent off early on we may scrap for a draw. Football is a funny old game.”
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