Championship Gameweek 21: More Doom for Wednesday Against Warne’s Rotherham?7 min read
Rotherham United certainly enjoyed their last South Yorkshire Derby.
The Millers out-shot promotion contenders Sheffield United 26-6 at the New York Stadium and although it looked in injury-time as though clinical finishing would see their visitors to a fortuitous victory, substitute Jamie Proctor popped up with a 92nd-minute goal to ensure a 2-2 draw.
What that match showed is that when Rotherham are prepared to almost forget about the financial gulf and believe in their own ability, they produce high-intensity performances which can make more illustrious opponents sweat.
— George Sanders 🌹 (@G_Sanders97) November 26, 2018
They tend to turn in those displays at home, where their only defeat came back in August, so the key on Saturday will be to replicate that mentality at Hillsborough, where a sense of crisis looms.
Many natives have said there is a disconnect between club and fans that they have not felt for some time.
Some of the frustration has been directed at owner Dejphon Chansiri who, despite having reasonable intentions, has not communicated the club’s off-field issues with the transparency that supporters would have liked.
Manager Jos Luhukay, meanwhile, has received criticism for frequent changes to team selection.
Last month’s 0-0 draw at Sheffield United suggested that defenders Michael Hector, Tom Lees and Jordan Thorniley are at their best in a back-three.
Since then though, Luhukay has changed to a back-four; Hector has not had the extra cover to account for his propensity for rash challenges, Lees’ lack of pace has been exposed in open spaces and Thorniley has lacked the athleticism to play at left-back, rather than as a left-sided centre-back.
Last week’s 4-2 loss at Blackburn highlighted severe vulnerabilities, perhaps a result of the lack of defensive understanding that is partly down to the tinkering.
Joey Pelupessy has been off-form since September, leaving Barry Bannan, now walking a disciplinary tightrope following four bookings since his last suspension, as the only player who can offer a semblance of control and creativity in that midfield.
Chances Hard To Come By
Otherwise, Wednesday have not done enough to suggest they can create chances; they have taken just 101 shots from inside the penalty area, the fewest in the Championship, with just nine goals coming from that zone – the second-fewest.
When they do score, it tends to be individual moments of magic – like Lucas Joao’s strike out of the blue at Ewood Park.
The problem with relying on those types of shots is that it is harder to guarantee accuracy from range, especially over a whole season.
Adam Reach enjoyed a golden patch at the start of the campaign by scoring from an unusually high proportion of his shots from outside the box, when he was feeling in confident mood.
More recently though, the ex-Middlesbrough man appears to be burdened somewhat by various issues and thus speculative efforts are now typically saved, blocked or flying off-target.
Shock On The Cards?
The task for Rotherham will be, initially, to keep their shape, but if a disjointed Owls side gives midfielders such as Will Vaulks and Richie Towell some encouragement to press early on, their front three can cause major problems.
Warne has transformed Michael Smith, a hardworking target man; Jon Taylor has the pace to get past a declining Liam Palmer down the left while Ryan Williams, who has completed 17 short key passes – the 9th-most out of all the wide men in the Championship – brings quality in from the right.
If Rotherham score the first goal, it seems very plausible that not only will they grow in confidence, their opponents will lack the mental strength and unity to respond in a coherent manner; we could see one of the most striking scorelines of the weekend’s EFL action.
Rotherham to win -1 handicap –