Unbeaten still, just about. As encouraging as it is to see your team claw back points from losing positions, allowing your opponent to continually get into winning positions is unsustainable over the long-term.
This upcoming away trip to Rotherham United is another one of those ‘true tests’ that this team keeps on coming up against and passing. As difficult a side Rotherham are going to be, this feels like an important juncture to pick up a first away win of the season before what has looked like an early season quirk becomes a trend or mental block.
There are two potential areas of interest with regards to team selection for this game, and as we move forward over the coming weeks and months.
The first is the dynamic of the front three, where, with a little more quality in that area, we could four or more points better off. While the two wide players are, more or less, doing what they’re being asked to do, both Hiwula and Jobello have been guilty of lacking conviction with their end product in recent games. Godden, meanwhile, appears to be dropping deeper and deeper to get himself involved in the game and having fewer chances to himself as a result.
With Gervane Kastaneer still looking too untamed a talent to play a starting role, and the possibility of bringing in Amadou Bakayoko or Maxime Biamou likely to involve a change of system that would upset the functioning midfield dynamic we have, Robins is likely to persist with the current attacking formula for the foreseeable future. One tweak might be to push Callum O’Hare further forward and Jordan Shipley back into a midfield pairing with Liam Walsh, but that again runs into the issue of upsetting the midfield.
The other area of interest heading into this game is whether Kyle McFadzean retains his place in central defence after another sloppy defensive display last week. While McFadzean’s aerial presence and leadership in the absence of Liam Kelly is in his favour, his lack of pace and lack of accuracy in possession doesn’t seem suited to our possession-based system. While Kelly remains out, McFadzean seems likely to retain his place, but Michael Rose – the 6th most prolific passer per 90 minutes in League One – seems a better fit for what we’ve been trying to do this season.
Last Time We Met
In what was the last great result for Steven Pressley’s Sixfields wonders, the Sky Blues scored three goals in the final 20 minutes at the New York Stadium to turn around a 1-0 deficit.
The game turned on a questionable penalty decision, which looked to have occurred outside the penalty area and saw Rotherham’s Craig Morgan sent off, with Carl Baker tucking away the resultant spot-kick. Franck Moussa then put City ahead, before Rotherham had a penalty of their own, which was saved by Joe Murphy.
The win was then sealed as Rotherham sent their goalkeeper forward from a corner, which was cleared as far as Carl Baker, who put the ball into the empty net from 50 yards out.
We went on to pick up just four wins from the following 22 games, while Rotherham went on to win promotion via the play-offs.
The Manager – Paul Warne
Although Rotherham are in a slightly false position as a result of having played two fewer games than many in this division, Paul Warne has found himself under pressure for probably the first time in his managerial career as a result of an inconsistent set of opening results.
Whereas in his first two-and-a-half seasons as a manager there were few expectations of Warne – initially as he was a very reluctant caretaker, then permanent, manager, while last season, Rotherham were outgunned financially in the Championship – this season, there is pressure to attain at least a top six finish given Rotherham’s relative resources at this level and their recent promotion. Thus far, only one of the three teams Rotherham have beaten have won a league game.
Who To Look Out For?
Paul Warne’s big gambit over the summer was to allow the four wingers in his squad – Ryan Williams, Jon Taylor, Anthony Forde and Joe Newell, all strong performers at League One level – to leave on free transfers and being patient in his efforts to replace them. As a result, Rotherham have largely played a narrow 4-3-3 formation with three strikers up front, which has made them abrasive but struggling for creativity in the final third.
The late addition of Rangers loanee Jake Hastie could well provide that level of quality and incisiveness that Rotherham have missed over the opening weeks of the season. Direct in driving towards goal and cutting inside to get shots away, Hastie is also an excellent set-piece taker, which is useful in what is a physically powerful side.
Another key piece of summer business was striker Freddie Ladapo from Plymouth, who scored 18 goals at this level last season. A big striker, but someone who often offers little outside the penalty area, Ladapo is getting plenty of service in this Rotherham side and is someone who could go on a hot run once he hits his straps.
Youngster Ben Wiles in central midfield adds a creative touch to what is otherwise a side built around aggression and physical power. There are two target-man strikers to pick from in Michael Smith – who has a good goalscoring record against us – and Carlton Morris. Jamie Lindsay and Matt Crooks in central midfield have the ability to overpower our slighter midfield, while Clark Robertson and Michael Ihiekwe in central defence will make crossing into the box very difficult for us.
Areas To Exploit
Although Rotherham are yet to going this season, they are a side that could be well set up to pinpoint our weaknesses. Physical and intense without the ball, they are likely to put us under heavy pressure as we look to play out from the back, while possessing a big threat from set-pieces.
With Rotherham tending to play a high defensive line so that they can press teams, we may want to try and play balls in behind for Jordy Hiwula and Wesley Jobello to run into to exploit their aggressive defensive positioning. Although, this approach will require us to hold firm against Rotherham’s crossing and set-piece threat.