Match Preview: Rotherham United
The Championship is a relentless league that has been compressed even further thanks to the issues surrounding Covid-19 and so Middlesbrough won’t have the opportunity to catch their breath before they dive in once more against Rotherham. The game against the millers will pose a serious question about a flip in home form as Boro could go three home games without a win if they fail to get a result against the Millers.
The Millers managed to gain promotion to the Championship at the end of last season and so will be aiming to consolidate their place in the second tier of English football and so far they have been able to maintain the possibility of staying in the league while also feeling the constant danger of the drop.
Rotherham United's season so far:
These troubling times have proven to be a bigger issue for clubs that sit lower down the ladder as the heavy reliance on matchday income could cause a number of these clubs to go into administration. So Rotherham will have been thankful that they managed to earn promotion in an unprecedented fashion as the reward money in the league is a step up from League One, helping to shore themselves up.
They will be aiming to consolidate themselves in the Championship this season and they have a real chance of securing their place in the league next season despite their current position in the relegation zone.
After 22 games, Rotherham United find themselves in 22nd place having won and drawn 5 games. The clubs 20 points will be seen as a good footing to push off from in the second half of the season, though the 12 loses so far this season will be a concern for the Millers.
The teams biggest issue is their defence as the side have conceded a considerable 32 goals so far this season with only Wycombe Wanderers, Coventry and Huddersfield conceding more. On the other hand they have been relatively strong in the oppositions third scoring 23 goals, while far from outstanding, this tally is higher than any other team between 17th and 24th.
Rotherham United's Recent Form:
There are some indications that the team is going through a slight upturn in form following a win and draw against Derby County and Rotherham United. Further still, when ignoring their clash against Everton in the cup, their form looks increasingly more impressive as they also managed to win against Bristol City. So over the past 5 league games the club has won 3, drawn 1 and lost 2, against Blackburn Rovers and Barnsley.
This form puts the Millers at 2 points per game which, if they could maintain it, would be enough for the side to push past the relegation zone and into the comfort of mid-table. So Middlesbrough will have to be precautious against the South Yorkshire side as they could be getting into a goos stride of form.
Comparison: Middlesbrough vs Rotherham United
The history of this fixture weighs on Middlesbrough’s side as they have won 5 of the 7 times that the two sides have faced off. Rotherham, on the other hand, have only won one and one finished on an even keel. So the Teessiders will be hoping that history will repeat itself tonight allowing them to make up the gap to 6th place.
The current inferiority of the Millers is clear when comparing the two teams statistics so far this season too. While Rotherham are a larger threat from set pieces, scoring 9 goals from dead ball situations, they have scored considerably less overall. Further still, the Miller have been heavily reliant on their threat from set pieces, almost matching the 10 goals they have scored from open play, indicating that if Warnock can get the best of the South Yorkshire side in these situations then it would go a long way to a Middlesbrough win.
After reading this, it may come as a surprise that Rotherham is not too far behind Middlesbrough on shots per game, firing the ball 3.1 times to Middlesbrough’s 3.5. However this is because the Millers are willing to shoot on sight with them making just 20 big chances so far this season, in comparison to Middlesbrough’s 37.
The North-East sides superiority continues in their defensive capabilities too with the Millers conceding 1.5 goals per game to Boro’s 0.8. Interestingly the rest of the stats are shared relatively evenly, though Rotherham’s goalkeeper does make 2.5 saves per game to Bettinelli’s 1.6 showing that the Teessiders are more capable at shutting up shop, as their 9 clean sheets indicate.
Top Goalscorer: Michael Smith (5)
Top Assists: Matthew Olosunde (3)
Most Yellow Cards: Michael Ihiekwe (7)
Most Red Cards: Angus MacDonald (1)
One to watch: Daniel Barlaser
The former Newcastle United player made a loan move permanent in 2020 and he hasn’t looked back since, scoring 3 goals and setting up 2 assists from defensive midfielder the player has the ability to dictate his teams play, while also having such good discipline that he has only had 1 yellow card so far this season.
The 24 year old has made the most average pass attempts per game with 41.1, with a high success rate of 69.6%, fourth in the team, showing how important he is in the teams build up play. He is also very influential going forward too as he makes 1.8 key passes per match, the highest in the team showing him to be the most creative force in the side. Finally the player holds his own in defensive stats too and is particularly successful in screening the defence by making interceptions.
If Middlesbrough can prevent the player from orchestrating his team then there is a good chance that the Teessiders will come out on top.
Manager: Paul Warne
The current Rotherham manager has been at the club, in a coaching capacity, for a number of years and has been involved in a number of the clubs highs over its most recent years.
Born in Norwich, he made his first set into the world of football for Great Yarmouth Town, but his first major club, Wigan Athletic signed him for £32,000 from Wroxham FC. He made 36 midfield appearances for Wigan Athletic scoring 3 goals despite a loan to Kettering Town in the middle of his time with the Tics. He followed his time at Wigan with a move to Rotherham United as a free transfer making 232 appearances and finding the net 28 times during his first stint his current managerial home. He was moved on loan to Mansfield Town in the 2004-2005 season, making just 7 appearances as it became clear that his first stint at Rotherham was coming to an end. Warne found himself as a free agent once more, signing a deal with Oldham Athletic and between 2005 and 2007 he managed to make 86 appearances scoring 18 goals. Then he made yet another free agent move to Yeovil Town where he played until 2009 making 77 appearances and scoring 5 goals. Finally he returned to the club that he had made the majority of his career appearances, managing to add 29 more to his tally for the club and netting another 3 goals. He ultimately made 261 appearances for the club he would later manage.
By the time he hung up his boots he had grown in popularity among the Millers fans who called the now manager ‘Warney’. He had teased the possibility of being involved in coaching before he started working at the club behind the scenes as he took over as joint Caretaker-Manager in 2010. He has worked with youth sides and took an interest in player fitness from an early stage of his managerial career, where he would later specialise for a long bout of his career at Rotherham. He has had the privilege of working with a number of high quality managers including his next opposition Neil Warnock, which set him in good stead for him taking the head role in 2017, where he has remained since.
It would be worth sticking around social media after the game to hear what the manager has to say about the match as his honesty and passionate interviews have brought him praise from the Millers fanbase.
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Michael Salisbury has followed in his fathers footsteps, Graham Salisbury, a current EFL referee encouraged his son to partake in refereeing in local games around Preston. After a few years he earned himself an assistant referee role in 2010. Since then he has had the opportunity to officiate in 8 different countries, visited Wembley 6 times and was the referee for the League Two Play off final.
So far this season he has taken charge of 8 Championship fixtures and hasn’t been afraid to brandish yellow cards distributing 20. However, despite him giving out 40 yellow cards in 15 games in all competitions, the referee has only given out one red card so far this season in the clash between Stoke City and Barnsley.
Neither club has yet to be officiated by the referee.
Daniel Barlaser (highlights):