Lambert: Rotherham Will Face Different Town Side
Friday, 11th Jan 2019 11:52
Boss Paul Lambert says Rotherham will be facing a different Town team in Saturday’s crucial bottom-of-the-table clash at Portman Road, most notably in terms of their physicality.
The 24th-placed Blues go into the game 10 points plus a goal difference of nine behind the Millers, who are fourth bottom.
Town have made five January signings - loanees Callum Elder, Will Keane and Collin Quaner and free recruits Simon Dawkins and James Collins - since their last Championship game - the 3-2 New Year's Day home defeat to Millwall - and have Cole Skuse and Emyr Huws closing in on a return from injury and one or two other players over knocks which saw them miss last week’s embarrassing 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Accrington Stanley.
“We’re playing well and will have a lot of lads back,” Lambert said. “We’ve got new additions in and we’ll be a different side size-wise, physicality-wise.
“There are some guys coming out of the treatment room, which will help us. Our squad and bench will look different from what it has been.”
Asked whether the match is a must-win fixture as the Blues look to pull off what would be the greatest of escapes during the second half of the season, Lambert said: “If I’m lucky enough to still be here next summer and if you ask me if it’s a must-win game on the first day of the season in August, I’ll say it is.
“And the answer’s the same - every game’s a must win. I don’t understand how people can say that, whether you’re in January or you’re in August, what is the difference? There’s no difference. You have to win games from the off, not from halfway through a season. Every game I go into it trying to win.
“The secret is not to get 10 points behind from the start of the season, that’s the secret. It’s not rocket science. It’s from the off how your season pans out, it doesn’t start in December, it doesn’t start in November, it starts in August time.
“My view is that if we play the way we can and we keep doing what we’re doing and cut out the errors, then we’ll be OK.”
Among those back after suffering knocks is keeper Dean Gerken and the former Colchester and Bristol City man seems likely to return in goal in place of Bartosz Bialkowski, who played against Accrington last week.
Lambert admits he has a decision to make at left-back with Myles Kenlock having impressed in the last two league games but with Elder having similarly caught his eye when making his Blues debut against Stanley. Jonas Knudsen is unlikely to be involved with the Dane set to move on at some stage during January.
“The two kids have been brilliant, they really have,” he said. “Two really good players, two good lads as well. I’ll decide on Friday.”
Jordan Spence will continue at right-back, while James Collins looks likely to make his debut at centre-half alongside skipper Luke Chambers.
In midfield, Skuse looks set to return in his holding role with Teddy Bishop appearing likely to start in one of the positions ahead of him after impressing having come on as a sub at Accrington.
Flynn Downes seems likely to continue in the other central roles with Huws, who has been out for 13 months, more likely to be a sub if he is considered ready for a return to the squad.
Up front, Lambert will have to choose between Keane, who made his Blues debut as a sub last week, and Quaner down the middle with the on-loan Hull City man perhaps getting the nod having played more first-team football recently.
Freddie Sears appears likely to continue on the left with Jack Lankester, Gwion Edwards or perhaps Quaner, although Lambert has said he sees the Huddersfield man as more a number nine than a wide player, on the right.
Town’s other new signing, winger Simon Dawkins, wioll probably be among the subs as he hasn’t played a first-team game since the end of the 2017 MLS season.
Rotherham, who were smashed 7-0 at Manchester City in the FA Cup last weekend having beaten Preston 2-1 at home in the Championship the previous week, are expected to be without winger Joe Newell, due to a groin problem, while midfielder Richie Towell, who was watched by former Blues boss Mick McCarthy during his time with Dundalk, is suspended.
Full-back Billy Jones is expected to return having missed the Manchester City thrashing as a precaution having felt a minor niggle.
Kyle Vassell could be back in the squad after seven weeks out with a groin injury but Darren Potter and Jamie Proctor are longer-term absentees who won’t be involved at the weekend.
Jerry Yates and Michael Ihiekwe will be back in the squad having been cup-tied for the Manchester City tie.
First team coach Matt Hamshaw believes that the Blues shouldn’t be underestimated despite their current position in the Championship.
"They're a good team, as everyone is in this league,” he told iFollow Millers. “I know people look at the table and say we should be going there with the target to win.
“We will be doing that, but it is difficult. They've got good players. Anyone that saw the game earlier in the season probably saw a first half which saw us get dominated for the majority.
“These lads always show that work, energy and enthusiasm and always stay in a game. We'll be setting up to get a positive result.”
The Blues have won 14 of the previous games between the sides, all of which have been in the league, eight have ended in draws, with the Millers having won nine, including the last two.
Town have won only once at Portman Road this season, while the Millers, whose victory over Preston is their only success in the last 11 in all competitions, are yet to secure an away league victory this season. In total, they have gone 14 away league games without a win and 38 in the Championship, having spent 2017/18 in League One.
In August at the New York Stadium, Michael Smith netted a 90th minute winner as Paul Hurst’s Blues were beaten 1-0 by the club where he spent most of his playing career.
Town had been on top for most of game and were denied two very strong penalty claims before the Millers’ striker hooked home following a corner.
Last time at Portman Road in October 2017, David McGoldrick netted a brilliant low drive deep in injury time to grab Town a last-gasp 2-2 draw against the Millers, whose point at Town was one of only two they claimed on the road that season.
Sears had put the Blues in front in the third minute but man of the match Ward equalised four minutes later, then put the visitors in front three minutes after the break.
Town rarely looked like getting back on terms in a lacklustre second half until McGoldrick’s late strike.
The Rotherham squad includes ex-Town keeper Lewis Price. The 34-year-old joined Town as an academy scholar from Southampton and went on to make 74 starts and one sub appearance for the Blues between 2004 and 2007.
Millers central defender Semi Ajayi was on trial with Town in January 2015 when he played a game for the U21s.
Rotherham goalkeeper-coach Mike Pollitt enjoyed a one-game loan spell with the Blues in November 2006, helping Town to a 3-1 derby defeat of Norwich City at Portman Road before his stint was cut short by injuries at his parent club Wigan.
Currently injured midfielder Grant Ward was on loan at the New York Stadium from Tottenham in 2015/16 when he made 35 starts and eight sub appearances, scoring twice.
Tom Adeyemi, still sidelined following achilles surgery, spent the following year on loan with the Millers, making 29 starts and one sub appearance, scoring seven times.
Blues right-back Josh Emmanuel, who is on loan at Shrewsbury, spent last season on loan at Rotherham and featured in their play-off victory over Shrewsbury at Wembley. In total, he made 37 starts and one sub appearance for the Millers.
Saturday’s referee is James Linington from Newport, Isle of Wight, who has shown 64 yellow cards and no red in 19 games so far this season.
Linington’s most recent Town match was the 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest at the start of last month in which he booked Skuse and two home players.
His previous Blues game to that was one of 2018’s three home victories, the 2-0 win against Barnsley in April in which he booked Knudsen and one Tyke.
He also refereed the 4-3 win at Millwall in August 2017 in which he booked Iorfa, Chambers, Ward and Joe Garner as well as two home players.
He was in charge during the 3-1 defeat at Cardiff in March of the same year in which he booked only Christophe Berra and Brett Pitman.
Prior to that he was the referee in the 3-2 home victory over Blackburn two months earlier in which he booked Dozzell and Tom Lawrence and awarded Rovers a penalty which was converted by Danny Graham, Adam Webster having tangled with Hope Akpan.
Linington refereed the 2-1 home victory over Sheffield Wednesday in August 2015 in which he booked Jonathan Douglas and Ryan Fraser and two of the visitors.
Before that he officiated in the 3-2 home win against Blackpool in April 2015 in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Earlier in the 2014/15 season he was the man in the middle for the 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest, when he booked only one home player, and the 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at Portman Road in which he yellow-carded McGoldrick and three Teessiders.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Spence, Knudsen, Kenlock, Elder, Chambers (c), Collins, Pennington, Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Huws, Dozzell, Nolan, Bishop, Edwards, Lankester, Dawkins, Quaner, Keane, Roberts, Sears, Jackson, Harrison.
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