HOT-SHOT Michael Smith has been playing through injury during Rotherham United’s quest to reach the Championship.
The striker has taken his goal tally to 24 for the table-topping Millers despite suffering with a damaged toe for a number of weeks.
He is one of several players undergoing “procedures” during the three-week gap in League One fixtures to prepare them for the seven-game run-in that will decide the club’s promotion fate.
“His toe is as black as anything,” manager Paul Warne said. “The injury has been there for weeks and it looks horrendous, like his toe is about to fall off.
“Smudge doesn’t moan about it and never misses training because of it. He’s just prepared to do everything he can to help the team win. He’s as reliable up top as Richard Wood is at the back.”
Because of the international break and their involvement in the Papa John’s Trophy Final at Wembley a week on Sunday, Rotherham don’t have a league game until April 9 when they are at home to Charlton Athletic.
“We’ve had some issues that I haven’t been vocal about over recent weeks,” Warne said. “Hopefully this time away will get everyone back to their best.”
Known problems include Jamie Lindsay’s shoulder, Dan Barlaser’s groin and Ollie Rathbone’s quad.
“Jamie will be back to his best in terms of his fitness, so will Dan, Ollie and Smudge,” said the boss, who was at Boundary Park to watch Papa John’s opponents League Two Sutton United beat Oldham Athletic 3-1 on Tuesday night.
“They’re all getting certain procedures and certain help this week to get them back buzzing for the run-in. We’re not talking operations, just the odd jab here and there and things like that.”
The Millers have been given a huge lift by news that 15-goal striker Freddie Ladapo is likely to have recovered from his quad pull in time for the Charlton clash.
Another centre-forward, January signing Georgie Kelly, who has yet to make his debut, should also be ready following a calf complaint.
“They were out running on the grass on Tuesday, which was really good to see,” Warne said.
“I’m led to believe they will both train with the group prior to Wembley, although whether they will be available for Wembley is a different matter.
“There is a good chance they will be available for the Charlton home game if they keep progressing the way they are. That is the scenario we’re keeping our fingers crossed for.
“Freddie coming back will be a right boost for us.”
ROTHERHAM United have failed in their an appeal to overturn the dismissal that has left defender Angus MacDonald with a three-match ban.
The centre-half received a straight red card during last Saturday’s League One home loss against Shrewsbury Town for an aerial challenge on Luke Leahy.
Referee Anthony Backhouse adjudged MacDonald had used his elbow in the 36th-minute incident but that was contested by the Millers.
They made their submission to the Football Association before Monday’s noon deadline and the verdict has come back from the FA’s disciplinary panel that the suspension will stand.
“I watched the incident back, took some advice off people and decided to appeal,” said manager Paul Warne.
“Angus hasn’t moved his elbow to cause damage. He’s legitimately gone up to win the ball. He’s got his arm in front of him. You see worse than that with throw-ins down the line.”
The FA could have lengthened the ban had they thought Rotherham’s action was without merit.
“We didn’t make a frivolous appeal,” Warne said. “We wouldn’t do that because we know the risk of it.”
MANAGER Paul Warne has welcomed the Easter fixtures changes that will give his promotion-chasing side more recovery time after an arduous midweek away trek.
Rotherham United had been due to face Ipswich Town on Good Friday (April 15) at AESSEAL New York Stadium — only three days after a 454-mile round trip to Portsmouth — followed by a clash at Burton Albion on Easter Monday.
But the League One showdown with the Tractor Boys has been put back to 12.30pm the day after, Saturday April 16, for Sky Sports TV coverage and the Burton match will now take place on Tuesday April 19.
“I’m very happy with that,” said Warne. “Playing at Portsmouth on a Tuesday night, getting back at God knows what time and then facing Ipswich on the Friday wouldn’t have been easy.
“In elite sport especially, there is no better recovery than sleep. The more periods of sleep you can get in between games, the better.”
The news brought a mixed response on social media from fans, some of whom had already made plans around a Friday-Monday schedule and now can’t make the new dates.
Rotherham are in top spot in the third tier, followed by Wigan Athletic and MK Dons.
Wigan’s home game with Cambridge United and MK’s home match with Sheffield Wednesday have also been switched from Good Friday to the Saturday and will be shown on Sky.
Rotherham kick off first followed by Wigan at 5.15pm and MK at 7.45pm.
Meanwhile, the Millers’ Wembley ticket sales for next Sunday’s Papa John’s Trophy final had reached 11,300 by yesterday morning.
Warne, some of his players and the trophy will be travelling to schools, the town centre and Parkgate Shopping Centre in a Papa John’s bus next Wednesday to promote the final and give fans and youngsters picture opportunities.
The tour starts out at 11am at New York and is due in the town centre at 1.40pm and at Parkgate at 4.10pm.