Rotherham United beat Derby County on Saturday to earn their second away victory of the season. Now it is important that they follow this result up…
This meeting at Pride Park was a key six-pointer at the bottom of the Championship and Rotherham were out for their first win at Derby since 1965.
All the headlines in the lead-up centred around Wayne Rooney. The former Man United and Everton striker had announced his retirement on Friday to become Derby’s boss on a full-time basis.
But Rotherham ensured that his first game as a permanent manager was one to forget. The Rams were well off the pace at the weekend. On the evidence of this game, they are in big trouble and Mr Rooney has a massive job on his hands to keep them up.
Looking at the other side, this was a great away performance from the Millers when they needed it most. The better chances in the first half fell to Derby, but Paul Warne’s side were clearly the better side overall.
Jamie Lindsay should have put the visitors ahead in the 83rd minute, but his miss-hit shot was cleared. Thankfully, this did not matter in the end…
A few minutes later, Dan Barlaser almost scored the perfect free-kick and he even reeled off to celebrate only to see his effort bounce away off the inside of the post.
The move was not dead though as Michael Ihiekwe brilliantly chipped it back into the danger zone. Matt Crooks challenged for it before the ball fell right to Lindsay. The Scotsman made no mistake this time as he smashed it home to give the Millers the lead.
📽️ | "Danger still there, Crooks attacks it… and its been forced home…. JAMIE LINDSAY!" 👏
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) January 17, 2021
Rotherham were not really troubled at the end, as they earned a fantastic three points on the road. Had Warne’s side lost this one, the Championship table would have looked pretty grim.
Instead, the Millers will be high on confidence off the back of a valuable away win. They are now level on points with Sheff Weds and Derby. Rotherham also have at least two games in hand on those around them.
This win against Derby feels really important. There are a few points of the season that clubs can look back on as decisive moments, and this is definitely one of them.
Rotherham ruin Rooney’s retirement 😈
— Quest (@QuestTV) January 16, 2021
But as big as this win is, it is vital that they follow it up with more positive results. Should they fail to win in their next couple of games, all the great work done at Pride Park will be undermined.
When Rotherham were relegated in 2018/19, they did not win back to back league games all season. Draws were among the reasons they went down, as 16 of their 46 Championship outings ended in stalemates.
In October-November, they went on a seven-game unbeaten run in the league. But they only won once in this stretch (2-1 vs Swansea City).
They recreated this later in the season, as in February-March they were six Championship games unbeaten. They drew five straight games before their 3-2 home win over Blackburn.
If you fast forward to this season, their longest unbeaten run so far is two games. This came in the form of back to back 1-1 draws against Birmingham and Huddersfield Town.
Along the way, the Millers have picked up impressive victories over Preston, Bristol City and obviously, Sheffield Wednesday. Up to now though, Warne’s men have not been able to follow these wins up with a sustained run of positive results.
The club have been hampered more than most with injuries to key players, which obviously has not helped their cause. Regardless of this, the South Yorkshire outfit still have a better squad this term compared to any other of their recent years in the Championship.
Rotherham’s set-up behind the scenes has helped with this, especially the job done by Rob Scott in the recruitment department.
They do have genuine quality in their side and players that can cause rivals real problems. The Millers have an enviable midfield three that complement each other greatly.
Matt Olosunde and Wes Harding have been in great form down the flanks, while Michael Smith and Crooks are hitting their stride at the right time.
There is no doubt that Rotherham have more than enough quality at their disposal to stay up. Their hopes are obviously going to be aided even more by having players return from injury…
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) January 16, 2021
This point of the season is a great time for clubs to put a run together. This is especially the case for Rotherham with so many games coming thick and fast.
There is currently seven points separating Rotherham in 22nd and Millwall in 16th. Should the Millers go on a decent unbeaten run, it would drag that group of clubs above the bottom four right back into the relegation fight.
Rotherham have fared well against their rivals at the bottom so far, having already beaten all three of their closest competitors. It is so important that they sustain these performances because if they are inconsistent, they will no doubt be punished for it.
Warne’s side have shown this term that they are good enough for this level. Yet they need to have confidence in themselves, which should have been boosted by the win at Derby.
The Millers face Stoke City on Tuesday night at the New York Stadium. The Potters are winless in four and even though they currently sit eighth, this is a really winnable game for the home side.
If the hosts can play as they did against Preston and Bristol City earlier in the season, Stoke could be bang in trouble.
This is such a pivotal time of the season. How Rotherham react to the Derby victory will define their campaign as they have an opportunity now to kick on and build a gap to those behind them. Three points against Stoke would make for a lovely start…