Rotherham United are due to play eight times in February and this stretch of games will have a huge influence on how they end up come the end of the season…
After Paul Warne’s side picked up a fantastic 3-0 win at Middlesbrough in midweek, they were tasked with playing 2nd-placed Swansea City next.
When the sides met earlier in the season, the Swans were way off their best. On Saturday however, those watching on found out just how they came to be in such a strong position in the table.
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The first half proved to be very tight contest. The only thing that separated the sides were two moments of quality from the visitors.
Just before the half-hour mark, Jamal Lowe passed it into the area to Yan Dhanda who cutely passed it back to Conor Hourihane. The former Barnsley man struck first time and he caught it sweetly as he found the bottom corner past the static Jamal Blackman.
— Ian Mitchelmore (@IanMitchelmore) January 30, 2021
Swansea were two ahead in the 38th minute. A corner was punched away to the edge by Blackman. Swans captain Matt Grimes met it and his sublime left-footed strike evaded everyone to find the bottom corner.
Freddie Ladapo and Ryan Giles were brought on at half time. Giles, in particular, made a big difference down the left-hand side as he tormented Swansea’s defenders with his pace and crossing. He looks set to play a big role for the Millers in the next few months.
Rotherham had penned their opponents back in their own half and they grabbed a well-deserved goal in the 65th-minute.
Wes Harding’s long throw was headed on towards the back post and it fell nicely for Ladapo. The forward got enough on his header that it went in past Freddie Woodman.
The Millers were now right back in it, yet their hopes of getting something were dashed in the 73rd-minute.
A swift counter-attack led to Jake Bidwell being fed the ball on the left flank. He squared it to Jay Fulton, who finished it superbly just seconds after being brought on off the bench.
The hosts could have got back into it as Clark Robertson struck the bar with a header not long after. 3-1 was how it finished, though.
Losing to Swansea in this manner is nothing to lose sleep over. This was always going to be a free hit and Rotherham gave a good account of themselves despite coming away with no points.
POST-MATCH | We were undone by some quality – Warne
“I thought the lads gave a good account of themselves second half. We made loads of changes and at 2-1 I thought the game could have gone in either direction."#rufc | #ForeverTogetherForeverProudhttps://t.co/CeGahXiGr1
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) January 30, 2021
Despite Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County winning on Saturday, the Millers remain in 22nd. The Owls are a point behind Warne’s men having played a game more.
Rotherham are three points adrift of safety. But they do have two games in hand on their five nearest rivals barring QPR.
It would have been a bonus had the Millers picked up any points against Swansea. There are more important games to come in February and that starts against Wayne Rooney’s Derby on Tuesday…
Rotherham United’s February Games…
- RUFC vs Derby County (Feb 2nd)
- Preston vs RUFC (Feb 6th)
- RUFC vs Cardiff City (Feb 9th)
- RUFC vs QPR (Feb 13th)
- Bournemouth vs RUFC (Feb 17th)
- Norwich City vs RUFC (Feb 20th)
- RUFC vs Nottm Forest (Feb 23rd)
- RUFC vs Reading (Feb 27th)
It cannot be understated how integral these next few weeks are for Rotherham in determining how their season pans out. This is heightened when you look at who they face.
Four of their next eight games are against sides around them in the table. This should suit Rotherham as they have fared well against their closest rivals so far this term.
The Millers have already picked up wins over Sheff Weds, Wycombe and Derby. They have also drawn against Birmingham City and Nottm Forest…
Rotherham’s only defeats against the bottom eight clubs this year have come against QPR and Coventry City. Against QPR, Warne’s side were unfortunate to not come away with a point despite not being at their best.
Then against Coventry, Rotherham were well off the pace in their 3-1 defeat. You feel the result would have been very different had the Millers played to the level that they have in recent weeks.
Rotherham have looked a completely different outfit of late. They have been rejuvenated by the change in system and the clear boost in confidence on the back of the Everton game.
We have seen that when the Millers give it a go, they can cause any side in this league problems. You feel that after the past few weeks, fans are feeling more optimistic about the club’s prospects of survival.
Everyone associated with the team have said time and time again that this squad is more than good enough to compete at this level. Confidence is always key, especially for a Rotherham side that are fighting against the odds in the Championship.
Should Warne’s men play like they have in the past few games, they will certainly pick up a few wins this month. It is just a matter of them believing in themselves and making sure that they are not left with any regrets when all the games are done.
Five out of their next eight games are at home as well, which always gives Rotherham a slight edge. It is all still in the club’s hands when it comes to survival. So it is key that they remain focused and keep doing the right things as they have in the past few games.
The Championship this year is very average in terms of quality, so the Millers have nothing to be wary of in the coming weeks. Squad rotation will be important, but they have set the benchmark of performance now so this is the level they need to try to maintain.
There are bound to be a couple of below-par showings here and there. Yet as long as the team give it their all and enforce their style on opponents, they should fare well and be in a decent position for the run-in…