|Ipswich Town 1 v 0 Rotherham United|
Saturday, 12th January 2019 Kick-off 15:00
We Have Never Done Well Against Bottom-Placed Sides - Notes for Rotherham
Friday, 11th Jan 2019 11:45 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“Out of the drop zone”, “It worked out brilliantly for us on New Year’s Day with us winning and the three closest to us suffering demoralising defeats”, “I’m so proud to be a Miller and so proud of this team of fighters. Fans from other Championship clubs this season know we are not a pushover anymore.”
Rotherham may have been on the wrong end of a seven-goal thumping at the hands of Manchester City in the FA Cup on Sunday, but Millers felt that their New Year’s Day victory over Preston five days earlier was more relevant. It ended a nine-game winless run and took them out of the bottom three.
“Let’s hope Paul Warne can take some positives out of the City game and get us ready for Ipswich”, “I will always follow the Millers and know that we will generally be the underdogs. All we can do is support the team and hope we have picked up some more points by the time the final whistle goes.”
“I would still take fourth-bottom now”, “We are over halfway through the season and have played every team now. We’re not in the bottom three, and it’s surely the objective of the season for us to just remain out of there”, “I’m at the stage now where I don’t care if we deserve the points or not.”
Rotherham have struggled to convert draws into wins, and fans hope that the Preston win will be a turning point. “We now have more points than in our last debacle in the Championship and with 20 games to go. Paul Warne worked hard to turn things around and the Preston win epitomised that.”
February is a critical month with six-pointers against lowly Millwall, Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading. “Warne has to get his recruits in quickly for these relegation battles. It’s imperative that we have amassed enough points to be safe by early March, as our run-in is frighteningly horrendous.”
“It will have been one hell of an achievement if Warne keeps us up this season. He’s holding his own with the lowest budget in the league and without the cheque book being abused”, “I have always said right from his appointment that we have found a one-off jewel on our hands with this bloke.”
The 45-year-old played more than 250 times for the Millers in two spells before replacing Kenny Jackett in November 2016. He was unable to prevent their relegation from the Championship in April 2017 but guided them straight back up from League One with victory over Paul Hurst’s Shrewsbury in May’s play-off Final.
“Warne comes across as a very good man-manager”, “He has performed wonders with this team. He has got the maximum out of all the players and is pushing them to new limits”, “He is such a breath of fresh air and a decent man, but I don’t think his approach would work at any of the bigger clubs.”
“Prima-donna players won’t get a look in with Warne in charge”, “He has weeded out the bad apples and built a great spirit within the club. He has ensured that the players understand the club and its traditions. That approach has got us promotion and is working reasonably well for us this season.”
There is one aspect of his approach which fans would wish to change. “He must be braver when the need arises”, “We’re lucky to have him, but that said we have to start playing on the front foot more often”, “He seems intent on inviting opponents to score first and expecting us to play catch-up.”
On Being Hard to Beat
“Warne should play the formation that suits our players. If it is 4-5-1 so be it as it seems to make us harder to beat”, “This shape looks negative with one up top but it balances the team. Warne also generally goes 4-4-2 for the last quarter, but it’s his game-plan to start out by keeping things tight.”
“Whether we like it or not, Warne is going to play with one up top and a full, busy midfield behind and supporting the striker.” Rotherham have placed an understandable emphasis on solidity given the relative lack of quality in their squad, but some Millers worry that this can become too negative.
“We ask for trouble because of how deep we sit. Defenders play long balls up to empty space and all our players are so deep in our own half and the ball comes straight back at us”, “We need to get the players to push on instead of always sitting back. It’s getting really boring with our one-way system.”
“We know we have less quality than any other side in this division and we just can’t do things quickly enough”, “It’s not a coincidence that we can’t keep teams out week after week, it’s a simple lack of quality and we often concede in the end. We’re a League One team playing in the Championship.”
The starting XI (above) for the Manchester City FA Cup game played in Warne’s preferred formation. With strikers Kyle Vassell and Jamie Proctor injured, the manager has played three wingers across his midfield five with a view to them breaking forward and linking play with lone striker Michael Smith.
“The ‘three wingers’ model of Ryan Williams, Anthony Forde and Jon Taylor is bizarre and it doesn’t work as we sit too deep”, “I don’t like it when we are top-heavy with wingers. It makes us too light in midfield, and we lack any imagination and creativity with a wideman playing centrally behind Smith.”
“One problem with Smith running wide to get the ball is that there’s nobody making a run through the middle for him to cross to”, “Our woeful lack of pace will punish us every time we play”, “Smith and Proctor are slow so we can’t sit back and hit teams on the break as we did under Neil Warnock.”
“Ryan Manning wasn’t only our best midfielder, he was the one player who did anything creative.” With Manning having returned to parent club QPR, Millers are worried about a lack of a playmaker in the centre of midfield. “We don’t possess movement off the ball or quality on it in midfield.”
With Richie Towell suspended after being sent off at Bristol City two weeks ago, two of Will Vaulks, Matt Palmer or Ben Wiles will sit in midfield. Vaulks is criticised for some overambitious passing and Palmer is viewed as being too lightweight, but teenager Wiles has blossomed in a box-to-box role.
“Defensively we are a bit better than when we were last in the Championship, protecting the keeper and reducing the number of saves he has to make. Our midfield however lacks in ideas. When we do get possession, everyone runs away from the player on the ball so it just gets launched up to Smith.”
Keeper Marek Rodak has been widely praised for keeping the Millers in many games. Semi Ajayi is an athletic if error-prone centre-back. Veteran Richard Wood lacks pace but he is a set-piece threat as is the physically robust Sean Raggett, while Clark Robertson offers some extra mobility at centre-half.
“Our full-backs try to get forward to support the midfield”, “Our full-backs and wide midfielders fail to close down players and stop crosses. We just don’t get close enough.” Left-back Joe Mattock has improved as the season has progressed, but right-backs Zak Vyner and Billy Jones do worry Millers.
For most fans, the need for an out-and-out finisher is paramount. “We have only one fit striker at the club”, “We know we don’t have a goal-getter and can’t afford one in this league”, “The players must work on their finishing as we are wasting too many chances. We have to take more of them.”
Manchester City 7 – 0 Rotherham (FA Cup Third Round)
“A little disappointed and humiliated, but still proud of my club. I guess money talks”, “I’m a bit shell-shocked, to be honest. I have never seen us lose by that many and be so outclassed in 40 years”, “We have a more important game in reality at Ipswich next week”, “What did we expect realistically?”,
“Well, I think we just about shaded the first half.” Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for City on 12 minutes, and Millers felt that they were still making a game of it until just before the interval when Ben Foden on 43 and an Ajayi own goal in stoppage time catapulted the hosts into a three-goal lead.
“City never let up all afternoon, they were still hungry for more goals right up to the final whistle”, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Nicolas Otamendi and Leroy Sane scored after the interval as a strong City side cut loose. “Their ruthlessness was highlighted with Leroy Sane replaced Raheem Sterling.”
“We got what we deserved. We didn’t compete or even make them have to think. We sat back too much and let talented players do what they do best”, “We must stop giving teams too much respect and going defensive all the time. That isn’t how we play best, we’re more effective when attacking.”
Rotherham 2 – 1 Preston
“Three welcome points on a difficult afternoon. That was just the type of dirty win we needed”, “A huge win for us with three teams below us getting thumped into the bargain”, “It was a real battling performance, not great for the ticker but a brilliant win. We have earned a reputation as fighters.”
Will Vaulks’s fine freekick put Rotherham Millers in first-half stoppage time against the run of play and they doubled their lead when Michael Smith headed home Joe Newell’s cross on 76. Preston pulled a goal back when Lukas Nmecha scored from a tight angle two minutes after Smith's finish.
Injuries forced Warne to heavily reshape his starting XI (above) and name only six substitutes, with Semi Ajayi also switching to right-back. “It’s a funny old game. A team put together from whoever was available or could stand up, a bench filled with strange names and we get a first win of 2019.”
Bristol City 1 - 0 Rotherham
“Guess what? We haven’t held out for a draw”, “We may have got a point with 11 or 10 men but we were never going to win this one. Bristol City weren’t poor but they were bang average. A better team would have run riot”, “The Robins were out of ideas and looking desperate before the dismissals.”
Former Town defender Adam Webster headed home on 86 minutes to give the Robins victory after the visitors had been reduced to nine men. Right-back Billy Jones departed on 64 after two cautions for mistimed challenges, while Richie Towell was dismissed on 72 for a late lunge on Josh Brownhill.
“We don’t do things by halves”, “We had plenty of attacking intent but little threat, although there was plenty to suggest that we can be competitive moving forward”, “We had lots of movement and good patterns in midfield and attack. We gave City lots of problems and kept them at arm’s length.”
Millers were happy with the balance of the line-up (above). “It was Jones’s first start in a while. He looked unfit and off the pace, and it led to his two cautions. Towell deserved his straight red. You can’t lunge in from five yards away two-footed, take a man out and say you are going for the ball.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Take Marek Rodak out of our team and we are significantly weaker.” The 22-year-old Fulham loan signing also played on loan for the Millers in last season’s promotion campaign. “He’s an outstanding keeper and a Premier League prospect whose handling is good and who also makes brilliant saves.”
“Rodak is generally assured but he punches more than Joe Bugner”, “He punches when he can catch it easily under little pressure”, “His one-handed and point-blank saves are outstanding and he keeps us in so many games”, “He’s still learning and will occasionally flap but we are so lucky to have him.”
“Zak Vyner always stands a yard off his man and usually invites a cross.” The 21-year-old right-back is on loan from Bristol City. “His errors lead to goals and he struggles to get to grips with wingers”, “We should send him back to Bristol and get Josh Emmanuel back over here, he’s a far superior player.”
“You could put a brick wall in front of Vyner to mark and he would still get on the wrong side of it”, “He is a modern day full-back who likes to push forward, but he loses concentration for 10 minutes in every game”, “He plays long balls up to empty space and his marking simply isn’t good enough.”
“How fit is Billy Jones? Is seems like ages since he last played.” The 31-year-old ex-Sunderland right-back signed as a free agent this summer and played for the first time in two months against Bristol City. “We could do with his experience on the right of our defence but he looked way off the pace.”
“Joe Mattock is an improved player who attacks well down the left.” The 28-year-old ex-Sheffield Wednesday full-back “is adventurous at times and better at going forward”, “He has a tidy left foot and definitely likes to join the attacks, but can have a couple of ‘where am I?’ moments in a game.”
“Mattock is prone to silly mistakes and getting drawn out of position”, “He’s clever at moving players into places and on to sides they aren’t comfortable with”, “He can dawdle on the ball and picks up cautions for silly offences”, “He has had a good season. He has iffy spells but he is generally solid.”
“We need Sean Raggett back at centre-half.” The 24-year-old Norwich loanee and one-time Lincoln man has been absent since September with an ankle injury. “He looked a great addition coming on at Bristol City and steadied the defence nicely”, “He’s comfortable in his role and did well on his return.”
“Raggett is only marginally quicker than Richard Wood which is why he kept getting caught out in the first half against Preston”, “He’s still rusty, but in a couple of weeks he will be fit enough to kick one or two about”, “He’s good at attacking headers, he will have a big part to play in keeping us up.”
“Clark Robertson is a steady, calm and composed centre-back.” The 25-year-old arrived this summer as a free agent having played last season for Blackpool. “He’s a left-sided defender and a really good replacement for Wood. He has fitted in seamlessly when covering and has looked consistently solid.”
“With Robertson back in defence we have the pace there that we need”, “He’s a big unit who is good at protecting that backline but his heading on goal isn’t always very accurate”, “His introduction had made us more stable in defence and he has started building a really decent partnership with Ajayi.”
Andi Weimann (Wolves) v Semi Ajayi
“Semi Ajayi is a physically imposing centre-back with good pace who likes to play and who will take a touch.” The 25-year-old ex-Cardiff man “covered well at right back against Preston. He can distribute the ball better than Vyner and is better and is better with the ball on the move than standing still”.
“Ajayi really needs to cut out those basic errors if he wants to play at a higher level”, “He has been exceptional this season although he still has his mad moments”, “He passes straightforward balls to opponents and these mistakes cost us”, “He needs to go back to doing the basics to regain his form.”
“Wood is a good old-fashioned no-frills centre-back who is a threat from set pieces.” The 33-year-old ex-Charlton man “is nowhere near good enough for this league now. He’s far too slow”, “He carries a threat attacking from set pieces but his lack of pace is a worry”, “He’s a good captain getting older.”
“Wood has clearly struggled and relied on team-mates to get him out of jail”, “He does well against big rough-and-tumble forwards but struggles against quicker ones and gets run around”, “We miss him at set plays. These are very important in this league and the only way we will probably stay up.”
“I like to see Matt Palmer in the team holding and playing very simply as he does.” The 23-year-old ex-Burton man “is good with the ball in the middle of the pitch and he frees Vaulks to get into better shooting positions”, “Not many people like him but he works hard and doesn’t waste possession.”
Matt Palmer (Burton Albion) v Ollie Watkins (Brentford)
“I don’t think Palmer is strong enough for this division. He is lightweight, indecisive and ineffective”, “I think he has a role but he needs to be part of a three-man midfield as he’s too lightweight to boss it physically”, “I thought he would break through but he has trouble breaking out of a paper bag.”
“Ben Wiles was our man of the match at Manchester City. He ran through their players as if they did not exist.” The 19-year-old youth product “is for now, not the future. He has shown great promise with nice touches and clever play at times”, “He still has a lot to learn but doesn’t look out of place.”
“Wiles has made a real difference since coming on and he works his socks off”, “You can see that he has the potential to grow into one of the best players the club has produced in a long time”, “He has a better touch than some of our more experienced players and he also does have an eye for goal.”
“Vaulks is a decent midfielder who does the simple stuff well.” The 25-year-old ex-Falkirk player “is a lower-end Championship or a top-end League One player. He isn’t quick enough and can’t pass with most of them telegraphed and intercepted”, “He can get caught out with him not having a left peg.”
“Vaulks did a very good job calming down a jittery side against Preston and scored a thunderbolt of a freekick”, “I have lost count of the number of times he has played a Hollywood ball straight to one of our opponents. Keep it simple, Will, stop trying these passes and you just might be more consistent.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Anthony Forde is our best winger when it comes to defending and covering back. He can also put in a decent cross.” The 25-year-old former Walsall man “never stops working and his dead ball delivery is probably better than anyone in the squad”, “There’s something elegant about the way he plays.”
Anthony Forde and Jon Taylor
“Forde is better defensively than Jon Taylor but his introduction invites more pressure and totally omits our chance to break out quickly”, “He’s a good tackler and fast enough to get back and cover. Defensively he is excellent, he creates chances with good runs and crosses and his attitude is good.”
“Joe Newell always does well when coming off the bench and his delivery is superb.” The 25-year-old ex-Peterborough man “helps change the game coming on but he can be anonymous when starting”, “One of those players who has real Championship quality, even if he has always been hit-and-miss.”
“Why is Newell completely exhausted after about 60 minutes? Something is not right there”, “He doesn’t look interested in a full game and only turns it on for 15 minutes when brought on. It’s as if he can only last that long”, “He’s the best playmaker of our wingers but is not exactly the quickest.”
“Jon Taylor loves running at defences and causing problems.” The 26-year-old ex-Peterborough man “has a role to play but I’m not sure he’s a wide player. He’s a defensive liability and can’t put a cross in nine times out of 10. I would like to see him in a free role where his pace can cause problems.”
“I have to admit to having my doubts about Taylor. He’s a keen and willing worker but lacks nous when defending and there’s not enough variation to his attacking game”, “He’s so frustrating to watch. He is so quick and gets in all the right positions but he does absolutely nothing with the ball in the end.”
“Williams is a good outlet to help get us down the pitch.” The 25-year-old former Barnsley winger “has a great engine. He harries, attacks and is everywhere”, “He’s a danger man who is energetic with decent feet. He’s happy to float inside and join up with the striker and he can be their spark.”
Ryan Williams (Barnsley)
“Warne has said he likes Williams in a number 10 position but not many people agree with him”, “He doesn’t look like he’s going to score either out wide or playing behind Smith”, “He’s more effective on the wing with space to run at defenders. When he’s stuck in a central role it seems to stifle him.”
“We have a proper number 10 called Jamie Proctor but for some reason Warne doesn’t play us in a formation to suit him.” The 26-year-old ex-Bolton player “offers that more aggressive in-your-face type of threat”, “I love how he puts himself about. He makes a difference and causes real problems.”
“The one thing that Proctor does ensure is that we have someone in the box likely to put the ball in the net when Smith goes wide to collect the ball”, “He can be a threat on goal and the next minute he will be helping the defence to clear the ball. His heart is in this football club and that is priceless.”
“Smith works extremely hard as a one-man band alone up front.” The 27-year-old former Bury frontman “always puts the effort in and his hold-up play is generally good, but he can end up on his own endlessly chasing a lost cause”, “He causes problems, winning the ball well and laying it off cleanly.”
Michael Smith (Rotherham United)
“Smith has good feet for a big man but he won’t run in behind defences. He covers a quite surprising amount ground and will swing wide to recover or keep possession”, “We need to give him support as he is going to be much less threatening on his own. He needs a quick striker to play alongside him.”
Millers’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“This is a real chance to get the elusive back-to-back wins in the Championship which could really put some breathing space between us and the bottom three. Ipswich have recruited three top-flight loanees in Colin Quaner, Will Keane and Callum Elder which well could turn their season around.”
“Ipswich might be one of our last chances to win away but agree if we can sneak a goal it might get the hoodoo off our back.” Rotherham, like Millwall two weeks ago, head to Portman Road seeking a first win on the road so Millers are taking nothing for granted. Not losing is as important as winning.
“I wonder what impact, if any, Sunday's thrashing at the Etihad will have on the lads for this game? I hope it has a positive effect and they come out with a point to prove. This is our biggest game of the season and a win would obviously keep our heads above water and put Ipswich almost out of sight.”
“A defeat would narrow the gap, give Ipswich a huge confidence boost and have a negative effect on ours. It's not a must-win but it is definitely a must-not-lose game. I hope we approach it with a view to winning rather than the usual stand and watch approach, waiting for them to score first.”
“Absolutely. A draw and we will stay 10 points ahead of them, we should remain outside the bottom three and we might even go up a place”, “The players need to go with the mental image of Ipswich being a very good team”, “Don’t do the usual set-up so we don’t lose, as that way we will lose.”
“Ipswich have only won two games all season with just one home victory. If we lose this game like we did at Bolton [on Boxing Day] who were also on a terrible run, it will show we are nowhere near good enough to stop up. I would be disappointed with a draw but think we will lose in typical style.”
“We shouldn't forget we were very lucky to beat them at the New York Stadium [in August]. Ipswich had the vast majority of possession and fluffed a lot of chances. They looked a decent side but it has not clicked for them yet”, “I’m looking forward to it, though it will be a very nervy game.”
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