Preview: Rotherham United

A midweek win over Millwall could well have breathed life into Coventry City’s flagging campaign. Back in the top-half and with just a five-point gap, with a game in hand, on sixth-place, turning that win into an extended run of form would surely put the Sky Blues back in the mix.

An away trip to a struggling Rotherham United side looks as good an opportunity as could be hoped for in order to get a run going for Coventry City. Of course, there is always the danger with teams lower down in the table at this stage of the season that they can pluck an inspired performance out of nowhere, but if the Sky Blues’ are serious about their play-off ambitions, they should be able to match that spirit and beat their opponents on quality.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-2-1): Wilson; McNally, McFadzean, Doyle; Norton-Cuffy, Eccles, Hamer, Bidwell; Allen, Palmer; Gyokeres.

With Matt Godden added back onto the injury list at Coventry City, Mark Robins’ team selection for the time being seems to be pretty much set. Of Tuesday night’s bench, only Michael Rose has started a game since the new year, highlighting that anyone not in the starting XI at the moment is not really seen as a viable candidate to do so by the manager.

The only piece of team news for this game is the return of Josh Wilson-Esbrand after his suspension. It would be a bold call from Mark Robins to bring the youngster back into the side after a pretty naïve showing leading up to that sending off against Luton Town last week. While there is an argument that Wilson-Esbrand’s pace could help the team pen Rotherham United into their own half in this game, that this is an away game against a pretty physical side is likely to see the manager stick with the experience of Jake Bidwell at left wing-back.

Last Time We Met

After a run of three wins on the bounce, Coventry City were eyeing up a home game against Rotherham United in October as the perfect opportunity to finally get out of the relegation zone. With Gustavo Hamer, Kasey Palmer and Callum O’Hare all available for selection for just the second time this season, the Sky Blues looked as strong as ever as they took on an out-of-form Rotherham.

However, the Millers made much of the running in the opening period of the game and eventually took a first-half lead after Kasey Palmer played a loose pass in midfield, which allowed Dan Barlaser in Rotherham United’s midfield to slide Cohen Bramall in behind Fankaty Dabo, who was then given pretty much an open goal by Ben Wilson to aim at.

The second-half saw Coventry City take control of proceedings and turn the screw on the Millers defence. This led to an excellent exchange between Gustavo Hamer, Callum O’Hare and Kasey Palmer, which saw the latter slip Hamer through to beat the Rotherham keeper at the near post. Looking set to go on to win the game, the Sky Blues lost concentration at the back, allowing Dan Barlaser to bisect Callum Doyle and Jonathan Panzo to send Conor Washington in behind to finish after a rebound.

Coventry City at least kept going after that blow, and were rewarded for their efforts after Callum O’Hare won a pretty soft penalty off Richard Wood, leading to Viktor Gyokeres successfully converting a penalty-kick for the first time at the club.

The Opposition

The Manager – Matt Taylor

It was always going to be a difficult task at Rotherham United for whoever replaced Paul Warne – an inspirational figure who had won three promotions with the club – especially with the Millers having to compete in the Championship with one of the smallest budgets. However, Matt Taylor has now had quite a while to stamp his mark at the club and it’s still not clear what kind of team that he wants Rotherham to be.

Rotherham United may not be in the relegation zone, but they have been one of three-worst teams in the division since Matt Taylor took over. The manager has chopped and changed the side a lot, including a quite hefty reshuffle in January, but to limited effect. The Millers have picked up a couple of impressive results against some of the division’s better teams during Taylor’s reign, but those have largely been backs-to-the-wall performances that haven’t been replicable over the long-term.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (4-4-2): Johansson; Peltier, Wright, Humphreys, Bramall; Ogbene, Odoffin, Coventry, Fosu; Washington, Hugill.

Rotherham United used January to get in some vital Championship experience, albeit with the caveat of having lost star performer, Dan Barlaser, in central midfield. The additions of Bailey Wright in defence and Jordan Hugill in attack theoretically make the Millers a stronger outfit, but they have yet to fully see the benefits of those additions.

Instead, the key element of this Rotherham United side is the pace and skill they have on the counter-attack. Star winger, Chiedozie Ogbene, has been held in reserve of late after hefty January transfer speculation led to nothing, but that still leaves the Brentford loanee, Tariqe Fosu, and the rapid left-back Cohen Bramall as big threats down the team’s left. The hope is that another January addition, Conor Coventry, can pick out the passes from central midfield to get them into the game, as Dan Barlaser had been earlier in the season.

There remains an element of physicality to this Rotherham United side, with Hakeem Odoffin in central midfield a considerable roadblock for opponents, the aforementioned Jordan Hugill in attack, as well as Tom Eaves occasionally from the bench. On top of that, they have some powerful defenders in Wes Harding, Cameron Humphreys, Leo Hjelde and Bailey Wright to call upon, with a good shot-stopper, Viktor Johansson, between the sticks.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

While Rotherham United have been one of the weaker teams in the Championship over the past few months, their performance against the Sky Blues back in October should serve as a warning that the physicality, pace and work-rate in their ranks can make them a difficult opponent to deal with. The key to this game for Coventry City could well be in how they look to control possession in order to deny Rotherham opportunities to get at them.

Playing a more controlled game potentially takes away from some of the threat that Kasey Palmer and Viktor Gyokeres can pose on the counter-attack. That makes it important that the duo avoid their tendency to float away from the penalty area when they’re not on the ball, otherwise, it could make it relatively easy for Rotherham to frustrate and slow down Coventry City’s creative play in possession.

The Sky Blues should have the physicality at the back to stymie the threat of Rotherham United’s strike duo, Conor Washington and Jordan Hugill, the main defensive concern is how counter-attacks are defended against. In particular, Rotherham’s two quickest players – Tariqe Fosu and Cohen Bramall – are on their left-side, leaving Brooke Norton-Cuffy with the task to be wary in his positioning or risk being caught out against his former club.

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