Ipswich on Saturday is Most Definitely a ‘Must-Win’ Game - Notes for Rotherham United
Friday, 10th Aug 2018 12:00 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.
“It’s less than seven miles from Wembley to Brentford but at the moment it feels like a million miles. All the pundits said we would struggle and we knew this too, but as always on a sunny day in August the season started with optimism and excitement”, “The time for rebuilding starts with Ipswich.”
“Reality bites.” The Millers departed Griffin Park on Saturday having being dismantled 5-1 by a rampant Bees side in the sunshine. It was a chastening reintroduction to Championship football after their solitary season playing in League One. “We were in trouble as soon as we were promoted.”
“Can we get better? Of course, but it will take some time”, “Sentiment has no place in football. You have to be ruthless to survive. A lot of these players are not good enough at this level and to play the team that won promotion was daft”, “Realistically, I don’t think we have thought this through at all.”
The manner of Saturday’s defeat left some fans badly shaken. “We aren’t properly prepared for the Championship. If we don’t change things against Ipswich, it will be the same again”, “It won’t take many losses like this to fatally damage the team’s confidence”, “Patience people, it’s early days yet.”
“I don’t think Paul Warne quite expected the vast jump up in the quality of the opposition at Griffin Park”, “He will be cutting his cloth according to the situation he finds himself in this season. He has a group of players he has chosen to fit his mould. He’s the best man to give us a chance of staying up.”
Paul Warne (Rotherham United)
Warne replaced Kenny Jackett as Rotherham’s caretaker-manager in November 2016, the 45-year-old taking on the role permanently two months later. They were relegated from the Championship in his first season, but he secured their immediate return from League One through the play-offs.
“It must be like juggling soot when he’s so restricted in the quality of players he’s able to recruit.” He has been praised for building a close-knit promotion-winning side on limited funds, but many Millers felt he showed excessive loyalty to last season’s players when Saturday’s starting XI was announced.
“I love Paul Warne and hope he can turn this around quickly, but he needs to get this ‘give his mates a chance’ nonsense out of his system and think of the bigger picture”, “I understand why he did it, but I don’t think he realised how bad it would be”, “He said that we put up a fight today. We didn’t.”
The Last Waltz
“I thought we would play with a defensive 4-1-4-1 shape and I was surprised when I saw the line-up, especially against a confident, passing team”, “When we came up against a slick, fast, well-organised Brentford who passed it around, we couldn’t cope”, “It was as we expected and not as we hoped.”
“Has Warne rewarded the players for promotion?” Millers expressed doubts even before a ball had been kicked when the starting line-up (above) was announced. Nine of the side started their play-off final win over Shrewsbury. Playing a two-man midfield at Brentford was also seen as a brave move.
“Our line-up was very brave, but you could also say it was naïve and the result was fairly predictable. I will be very surprised to see that team again”, “We need to play a defensive 4-5-1 away from home with two holding midfielders. We also need an experienced head who can keep a hold of the ball.”
“Our midfield needs to stamp a bit of authority on the game but we haven’t got one.” This comment made in the first half highlighted where Rotherham’s house of cards started to tumble. Will Vaulks and Matt Palmer couldn’t contain the trio Josh McEachran, Romaine Sawyers and Lewis Mcleod.
“Jon Taylor is not covering for Zak Vyner.” The right winger was obviously drifting infield to support the centre, but he was not alone and the Bees were overloading the visitors with 2-v-1s and pulling them out of position. “We didn’t need wide men as we ended up playing far too narrow a shape.”
“Three of that back four took us down two years ago”, “We were unable to defend set pieces at all but having no midfield didn’t help the defence either.” Millers highlighted individual errors for four of the five goals conceded with the defence lacking both the speed of thought and foot to compete.
“Long balls didn’t work.” Striker Michael Smith was too isolated while inside forward David Ball “was not strong enough” and they made little impact. Playing with Warne’s “up-and-at-em” direct style of football meant that the Millers couldn’t control possession. “You can’t do anything without the ball.”
“That was inept and naïve. It was the wrong formation, poor individual performances and the lack of tenacity and the never say die attitude that got us promoted last season”, “We were overrun in the middle of the field from the first to the last minute. Nobody was either tracking back or tackling.”
“Playing a five in midfield seemed to calm it down.” The introduction of young midfielder Ben Wiles for striker Matt Smith on 67, with Brentford cutting loose and the score at 4-0, helped to stem the flood. Many now expect a similar shape to Saturday’s finishing XI (above) albeit with new faces.
“Warne should focus on (1) defensive shape, (2) getting wingers to track back and help full-backs, (3) set pieces, both attacking and defending, (4) strengthening central midfield and (5) shooting”, “We are woefully short of midfielders that can block, tackle and generally rough-up the opposition.”
“Didn’t we learn anything from out last tortuous season in the Championship?” Warne has added to the back four, but many Millers want to see some midfield steel and a more pragmatic approach to games. “Our only option now is set pieces and pressure. Fill the team with big lumps and press.”
The club failed to make any permanent additions before Thursday’s transfer deadline but local news outlet the Sheffield Star reported Warne saying, "We’ve got a dearth in central midfield, everyone knows that, and I’m hopeful for some really good news on one if not two tomorrow [Friday].”
“Towell was our most effective midfielder last season.” Many Millers want to see the return of Richie Towell, who enjoyed a successful loan spell at the club last season and who at the time of writing is with parent club Brighton. “He’s a proper player and we were really lucky to have him last season.”
“We want opposition fans to say we were the most boring team they have played, not the weakest”, “We desperately need a dominant experienced midfielder at this level”, “Our midfield was overrun, Palmer and Vaulks could barely string a pass together. It was the most alarming part of the team.”
Brentford 5 – 1 Rotherham
“We were totally outclassed. A good quality Championship club against what was basically a League One club”, “I thought we would be four down in the first 15 minutes”, “We were caught cold by the pace, quality and organisation of Brentford”, “It’s Groundhog Day. We didn’t even make a fist of it.”
“It’s men v boys at the moment.” Brentford went ahead on four minutes when Neal Maupay scored from close range after Macleod's shot was saved. Canos hammered home a second goal one minute before the interval after a flick-on from Macleod's corner. “We were sleeping from a set piece.”
“The goal before the break was a killer.” Brentford killed the match when Watkins rifled a third off the underside of the bar on 48. Maupay scored his second and Brentford’s fourth on the hour mark after Marek Rodak parried a shot to him and Macleod made it five a minute from time from 20 yards out.
“The fightback is on.” Will Vaulks scored an injury-time consolation for the Millers with a powerful strike from 25 yards out. “If we don’t get some players in we are screwed”, “There are going to be a lot of very nervous people at the New York Stadium next week”, “Is it over yet? I need a stiff drink.”
“Brentford fans were saying after the game that we were the worst side they have ever seen in the Championship”, “They were just quicker in every department”, “I was more fearful than angry at the time, but now I feel angry having travelled all the way down there to get totally destroyed like that.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Marek Rodak is not spectacular but he is effective.” The 21-year-old Slovakia U21 international was on loan with the Millers last season from Fulham. He has returned for the coming season. “His first games were often calamitous and error-prone but his improvement was dramatic and undeniable.”
“It’s good to see Rodak back but his punching style of play will be seriously tested”, “You can’t parry balls in front of forwards in this league.” He was criticised for failing to catch one shot in the lead-up to one of Brentford’s goals. “He doesn’t move off his line and this puts pressure on his defenders.”
“Zak Vyner must be thinking he has made a big mistake signing for us.” The 21-year-old right-back is on a season-long loan from Bristol City, having been loan out to Plymouth for the second half of last season. “The lad was given a torrid time by Ollie Watkins and Romaine Sawyers but kept going.”
“Vyner is a rookie and will take time to settle”, “Taylor cutting inside and leaving him exposed added to his woeful game. If he has little support he can’t stop everything, but his positioning and lack of tracking back at the right moment didn’t help either. He got skinned by his man when he was 1-v-1.”
“Billy Jones would give us more stability.” The 31-year-old right-back arrived from Sunderland in July and was a bench option at Brentford. “He’s a solid experienced defender, something our backline was crying out for the calm everyone down. Maybe a lack of fitness was the reason he didn’t start.”
“Jones is as thick as an omelette. I have seen Greggs bags blowing about on the pitch with more positional sense that this useless idiot.” Sunderland fans were scathing about Jones last season. “It’s criminal. He ruins attacks and runs like he has a wardrobe strapped to his back”, “Epically woeful.”
“Joe Mattock is not the best defender but he always tries to bomb forward.” The 28-year-old former Sheffield Wednesday left-back “struggled at times in League One. He was out of position constantly and allowed crosses to come in all the time”, “He’s a good player when partnered with Joe Newell.”
“Mattock gives us something extra going forward and takes on players”, “Sometimes he’s his own worst enemy. He has red mist moments and does reckless things on the pitch”, “He can be far too petulant when things are going wrong, but he’s at his best bombing down and getting crosses in.”
“I can see why Clark Robertson got Blackpool’s Player of the Season award last year.” The 24-year-old centre-back arrived from the Tangerines in July and was on the bench at Griffin Park. “He’s an aerial threat from set pieces and he can also play very decent and controlled long-range passes.”
“Robertson is a good player.” He played for Aberdeen before moving south of the border, but his time at Pittodrie was blighted by knee and thigh injuries. “He’s a good reader of the game and makes vital tackles and interceptions with his positioning. His accurate distribution is his biggest strength.”
“I liked the look of Sean Raggett in the Cardiff pre-season game [which the Millers won 2-1].” The 24-year-old centre-half has arrived on a season-long loan from Norwich and, like Robertson, was an unused substitute at Brentford. “He’s a tall defender and he will be a real threat from set pieces.”
Raggett also played in the Lincoln side which put Town out of the FA Cup in 2017. Imps at the time felt he was a solid defender but less confident with the ball at his feet. “He’s a 6ft 5in tall monster who defends but he looks like Bambi on ice at times when trying to do the basics with the ball.”
“Semi Ajayi is a great player when he cuts out the daft mistakes.” The 24-year-old ex-Cardiff centre-half, who once had a trial with Town, “has all the attributes to be a top-class defender and on his game he’s as solid as the proverbial rock”, “He showed little inclination to run with the ball or pass to his team-mates at Brentford.”
“Ajayi comes on and so does the blood pressure”, “He made half a dozen mistakes last season which led to goals. Take that away and he didn’t do much else wrong. He’s strong in the air, has good pace and works well with his fellow defenders. His biggest weakness is that he loses concentration.”
“This has got to be Richard Wood’s last hurrah.” The 33-year-old former Charlton centre-back “was too slow at Brentford and didn’t pick anyone up”, “He gets exposed by long or through balls played to quick forwards with his lack of pace”, “He’s perfect to close a game out in the last 15 minutes.”
“It’s no good playing Wood touch-close to his striker without cover as he will get skinned for pace. He needs a partner to cover behind him”, “Everything a League One player should be and nothing a Championship player should be”, “He will always be a Rotherham hero but he isn’t good enough.”
“Ben Wiles came on after 67 minutes at Brentford and he was the highlight for me.” The 19-year-old youth product “could be our next box-to-box midfielder given a chance”, “He was efficient, creative and challenging and deserved his place on the bench. He played without fear and with enthusiasm.”
“Matt Palmer had a particularly bad game at Brentford.” The 23-year-old former Burton man “was virtually invisible. He was overrun and outmuscled in the centre of the park”, “He is more accurate with his link-up play and short passes than any other midfielder but he was not involved enough.”
“Palmer is great on the ball and doesn’t tend to lose it, but he’s not the strongest. He’s not blessed with pace, he’s probably our weakest tackler and he’s economical with his work rate”, “He makes himself available and passes to feet, but at Brentford these were five yards sideways or backwards.”
“Vaulks simply isn’t good enough.” The 24-year-old ex-Falkirk man “miscontrolled the ball and ceded possession for Brentford’s third. He scored a late goal but did nothing else. His poor positioning and mobility meant that Jon Taylor was constantly having to come into the centre to pick up his man.”
“Vaulks’s strengths are his heading and tackling. He is comfortable on the ball and has good feet. His weaknesses are his lack of pace, his habit of trying too many long passes and hiving the ball away too much”, “He should have a surgical implant in his ear that repeats the words ‘simple ball’ on a loop.”
“Vaulks is a player who won’t be intimidated and will stand up to a battering”, “He gives the ball away so often going for the Hollywood pass. If only he played the simple ball he would be a great rather than a good player”, “I don’t think I have ever seen a more one-footed [right-footed] player.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Jon Taylor offered some attacking threat in fits and starts at Brentford, but he kept coming inside to mark midfielders.” The 26-year-old ex-Peterborough right winger is “a player who can be all over the pitch leaving his full-back exposed”, “He’s a real winger but he hasn’t a defensive bone in his body.”
“Taylor sets the tempo with his non-stop chasing and harrying”, “He plays like a man possessed, not always brilliant with the ball at his feet but he’s a thorn in the opposition’s side”, “He is a terrier at defenders’ ankles when he presses but he doesn’t give chances to overlap playing in front of you.”
Ryan Williams (Barnsley)
“Ryan Williams is a skilful winger who will take on a player.” The 31-year-old “struggled with injuries at [his previous club] Barnsley and they were never able to get him fit”, “He’s a two-footed player who will battle all game and likes to get stuck in. He can run with the ball as if it’s glued to his feet.”
“Williams is a bit of a jigsaw player, ie he goes to pieces in the box”, “He defends when needed. If he improves his finishing and final ball, he will be worth millions”, “He needs to reduce his habit of playing for freekicks and concentrate on getting his pass or shot off, or playing the obvious ball.”
“Newell is one of our most talented players.” The 25-year-old former Peterborough midfielder or winger “has a genuine football brain”, “He does things without you seeing how it has happened”, “For all Newell’s qualities, if he starts games poorly that’s him done for the entire 90 minutes.”
“Newell is valuable not just for his threat out wide, but he’s more often a greater scoring threat than our forwards”, “We have seen him go past players with such ease that you wonder how he did it. In some games his skill is worth the entrance money”, “He beats players for fun but can be frustrating,”
“At Brentford he didn’t look didn’t look fit and had to be substituted”, “He is great when you are playing free-flowing football and on top but rubbish when it’s back-to-the-wall time and defending is needed”, “He was not involved enough at Brentford apart from one shot that he could have scored.”
“David Ball might as well not have been behind Michael Smith at Griffin Park. He’s not strong enough at all.” The 28-year-old ex-Fleetwood man “didn’t do enough because he simply isn’t strong enough. He needs to toughen up and stand up to defenders”, “He works hard and is skilful but lacks goals.”
“The problem with Ball is that I’m not sure if he fits our style of play”, “If we play him, we need to move the ball on the deck and if we do launch it, it needs to be in the channels”, “He has great touch and good skill, but when he uses these to get past his man he lacks the pace to leave them behind.”
“Kyle Vassell is a different type of striker to Ball.” The 26-year-old July acquisition from Blackpool “roughs teams up and makes a nuisance of himself”, “I liked what I saw. He was ruffling the feathers of defenders and was constantly in their faces”, “He’s a big unit who likes shooting from distance.”
Kyle Vassell (Blackpool)
“Vassell looked a threat when he came on at Brentford. He looks strong and mobile and I would pair him with Michael Smith against Ipswich”, “They could be deadly together and they will definitely be interesting to watch”, “I have this feeling that Vassell could be our surprise package this season.”
“Smith battled with no supply against Brentford’s defence.” The 26-year-old January signing from Bury “was effectively on his own up front and it didn’t work”, “He created lots of chances last year and his work rate was immense, but he has to put more than one in four or five of them away.”
“Smith is good in the air and a good leader of the line. He has good awareness of others and scores goals”, “He has a decent touch for a big man and is a better player on the floor than Kieffer Moore. He brings other players into the game”, “It’s good to see that he’s not just a big oaf of a forward.”
“Smith’s main attribute is holding the ball up. He likes to bully centre-backs and he won’t be quite so effective at this in the Championship”, “He’s really strong and has a good touch, but needs midfield players getting forward to support him”, “He needs a striker beside him to get the best out of him.”
Millers’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“The season starts against Ipswich next Saturday”, “Just maybe Ipswich may be a lower end side so you never know. We live in hope”, “The Ipswich game will probably tell us a lot more about our season than the Brentford one as I can’t see them being more than mid-table.”
“Some people have said that Ipswich isn't a ‘must-win’ game but I disagree. It absolutely is. We have to beat less fancied teams like Ipswich if we are to have any chance of surviving this season. We're going to have to win most of our home games to stay up so Saturday most definitely is ‘must-win’.”
“We have the chance to redeem things at home to Ipswich and it’s important that the team put in a battling performance. Anything else and alarm bells will start to ring”, “It’s important not to concede an early goal”, “Beat Ipswich and we’ll be halfway up the table. Things will start to look a lot better.”
Warne’s comments about making minimal changes to the starting XI raised concerns: “Everyone is good and there are no issues. We played against a very good team, so it would be wrong of me to make too many changes based on that. I have to pick a team to go toe-to-toe with Ipswich.”
“Good luck against Ipswich on Saturday Paul, you will need it”, “I told you he wouldn’t make too many changes.” Millers also had some kind words to say about Town right-back Josh Emmanuel who had a highly successful loan spell at the club last season. “A great modern full-back who will go far.”
“I wonder if there’s still a chance we could get Josh Emmanuel”, “He was immense for the most part last season, although he always had a costly mistake in his pocket”, “Once he’s not bombing on as much he will be a better defender, maybe two or three years away from Championship standard”,
To Me! To You!
“’To me! To you!’ That’s what the Chuckle Brothers fans want singing for a minute’s respect on Saturday, and apparently the Ipswich fans are up for it too. We chant ‘To Me!’, Ipswich chant ‘To You’ back at us etc.”
Millers plan to commemorate the sad news of the death of life president Barry Elliott, one half of the famous Chuckle Brothers comedy duo, by calling out their famous catchphrase and hoping that Town fans play along. The idea has been gathering momentum on social media during the week.
Be ready to join in if you are at the game, as it will be a truly memorable tribute. One Miller did add this grammatical observation: “The hospitality boxes will be singing, “To Whom!’”, “It will make a change for them to be singing anything.”
The busiest Millers’ forum is the very friendly and well-informed Millers Mad.
Photo: Action Images
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