Blues Visit Rotherham Aiming to Stretch Lead at Top
Monday, 27th Jan 2020 17:14
League One leaders Town visit second-placed Rotherham on Tuesday evening looking to cement their place at the top of the table (KO 7.45pm).
The Blues go into the match a point ahead of the Millers, who were top until their 2-1 defeat at Peterborough on Saturday. The South Yorkshiremen are level with third-placed Wycombe, who weren’t in action at the weekend, who face Blackpool at Adams Park on Tuesday.
Town boss Paul Lambert is expecting a difficult match against one of the five sides to beat the Blues in the league this season.
“It’s another hard game, they beat us here,” the Town manager said after Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Lincoln City.
“It’s a different type of game. They came down with us last year and they’ve done well to be up there as well. They’ve kept a few of their players from last year, it’ll be a tough game but we’re playing well.”
Lambert doesn’t anticipate the Millers being overly affected by their weekend loss having previously been unbeaten in seven in the league, winning the last five.
“No, because I think they’ve got too much experience there, I think they’ve got some experienced guys,” he said.
“The stadium is good, the field will be good, so we have to go and come up with a game plan so we can go there and try and win.”
The Blues boss says he expected Rotherham to be among the challengers at the top of the division.
“Yes, just because they’ve kept a few of their guys [from their time in the Championship] and physically they’re very, very strong, really strong. They use their physicality well,” he said.
“Their set plays are really good, you know everything will come into your box and we’re not the tallest side, so we have to come up with some way of combatting it. But equally, it’s going to be a hard game for them.”
Since the turn of the year and their return to form, which has seen them go five League One games unbeaten and pick up 11 points while returning to the top of the table, the Blues have fielded a settled side with the same XI starting the last two matches.
Asked whether there might be changes on Tuesday, the second of three games in eight days with Peterborough visiting Portman Road on Saturday, Lambert said he would assess the situation ahead of the journey to South Yorkshire.
“I’ll have a chat with the guys and see how they feel,” he said. “But the guys are playing really well at this moment in time. On Sunday we train, on Monday we train and then we travel. I’ll see how they are.”
Will Norris looks certain to continue in goal behind the back three of skipper Luke Chambers, James Wilson and Luke Woolfenden. Luke Garbutt and Gwion Edwards are again set to be the wing-backs.
In midfield, Lambert will want to continue with Flynn Downes and Emyr Huws behind Alan Judge but may have concerns regarding the Welshman playing too many games in such a short space of time. If that is the case, Cole Skuse seems Huws’s likely replacement.
Teddy Bishop is likely to be hoping Lambert is considering resting Judge for a game, the academy product having impressed as a sub in recent matches after returning from the knee injury he suffered in pre-season.
Like Huws, Lambert may have concerns regarding Will Keane playing three games in eight days, in which case James Norwood will return to the XI. However, unless there is a fitness worry it seems likely the former Manchester United trainee will continue alongside Kayden Jackson.
Blues wing-back Edwards will be walking a disciplinary tightrope having amassed nine bookings with a 10th leading to a two-match ban.
Rotherham will have striker Kyle Vassell and midfielder Matt Crooks back in their 18 after they missed the defeat to Posh.
Vassell has been sidelined due to a calf injury while Crooks was left out for personal reasons, his close friend and former Huddersfield team-mate Jordan Sinnott having been killed at the weekend.
“We knew earlier in the week that Vass was going to struggle,” Millers boss Warne told the Sheffield Star. “He should be OK for Tuesday night which is good news.
"Crooksy's personal issue was at 11am in the team hotel. He jumped in a taxi and went home. Our thoughts are with him.
"I want my best players available. If Crooksy's back and Vass is back, even if I don't start them they are better options off the bench. I don't mean that rudely to anyone.
"They have been pivotal to our recent run of form, Crooksy especially. Vass has been crucial in the last few games. Vass should be all right, which is good news."
Right-back Billy Jones (hamstring) and centre-half Clark Robertson (groin) both remain unavailable.
Norwich-born Warne is very much looking forward to the top of the table clash.
“It was always going to be a big game anyway, after we both got relegated from the Championship," he told the Yorkshire Post.
“Being a Norwich fan it makes it an even bigger game for me but I think we just need a response [after the Peterborough loss].
"If we play as well as we can and lose, then I accept that but I just think there were a lot of bad decisions made by even some of my more experienced players on Saturday.”
He added: “It is nice being top of the league, with Ipswich winning it makes the game even more exciting.
“Obviously it is just about where you finish at the end of the season but the longer you stay on top the better chance you give yourself.”
Town have won 15 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 10.
In October at Portman Road, Rotherham inflicted Town’s second League One defeat of the season and their second in four days as Crooks netted twice to secure the Millers a 2-0 victory. The midfielder struck first on 11, then added the second three minutes after the restart.
The teams last met at the New York Stadium in August 2018 in last season's second game, Michael Smith grabbing 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.
The Rotherham squad includes ex-Town keeper Lewis Price. The 35-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 winger Chiedozie Ogbene had a spell on trial with the Blues in January 2018 - along with his Limerick team-mate Barry Cotter - before joining Brentford.
Tuesday’s referee is Marc Edwards from Tyne and Wear, who has shown 58 yellow cards and one red in 22 games so far this season. Edwards will be taking charge of his first Town match.
Squad from: Norris, Holy, Edwards, Donacien, Garbutt, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Wilson, Woolfenden, Earl, Skuse, Dozzell, Downes, Huws, Judge, Bishop, Nolan, Jackson, Keane, Norwood, Sears.
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