Forget the champagne, three points matter to Rotherham United against Reading

IF Rotherham overcome Reading on Saturday there will be no ties round foreheads and no talk of knocking back the bubbly.
Steve EvansSteve Evans
Steve Evans

The last time the Royals were beaten at AESSEAL New York Stadium, the Millers secured their Championship survival and manager Steve Evans found a novel way to model his neckware as he celebrated deliriously in the West Stand in front of pitch-invading fans.

Goals from Matt Derbyshire and Lee Frecklington brought a 2-1 win in the penultimate match of the 2014/15 campaign, Rotherham's first year back in the second tier after a decade-long hiatus.

Lee Gregory, of relegation rivals Millwall, had made the mistake of questioning the Millers' bottle in the build-up to the match. Evans taunted him in interviews after the final whistle. 'No bottle? 12 bottles of pink champagne for us, Mate.' The Lions duly went down.

The visit of Reading this weekend will be a more sober affair. The Royals could arrive in South Yorkshire still managerless and are in a relegation spot, two places and three points behind the Millers.

Rotherham are proving hard to beat after returning to the Championship following last year's League One promotion but would love to put a win on the board after seven draws in their last nine league outings. Both sides need a result.

“I know there’s speculation about a new manager,” said caretaker boss and former Millers loan defender Scott Marshall earlier this week. “We’re just preparing for Rotherham this weekend. Rotherham are a competitive bunch. They’ve had some good results at their ground.”

Marshall was placed in temporary charge following the sacking of Paul Clement last week.

There has been only one other New York clash between the two clubs since Evans' moment of tie jinks: the first of Kenny Jackett's five matches in charge, in October 2016, when an 85th-minute Paul McShane goal condemned the Millers to a 1-0 defeat.

Four games later, Paul Warne was in charge and the rest is history.

Reading were chasing Bolton Wanderers manager Phil Parkinson this week and the Millers will be glad if that pursuit is still ongoing when the teams step out on to the New York turf.

Warne would much prefer not to be facing a team with the filip of a new man at the helm.

Clement's exit came as a surprise to the Royals squad who have won only once on their travels this season.

“It was a big shock,” said midfielder Garath McCleary. “I went to see him personally to thank him for how he treated me. Unfortunately him leaving is the nature of the beast.”

Marshall has had fitness concerns over his two stop scorers, Yakou Meite and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, who both have seven goals to their name.

Meite has missed the last two matches while Bodvarsson has been out since last month with a back issue.

“Meite hasn’t been out on the grass yet but we’re hoping he could be involved at the weekend,” said Marshall on Wednesday. “Bodvarsson has been back out with us. We’re considering him. We have to be sensible.”

The only bubbly at New York on this occasion will be at the Chairman's Ball which takes place on Saturday evening. But a home victory would make the Italian lager in Warne's New York office taste all the sweeter.

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PAUL Warne used a Christmas party to get the low-down on Saturday's Championship visitors to AESSEAL New York Stadium.

The Millers boss was at a midweek festive bash when he bumped into Sheffield United management duo Chris Wilder and Alan Knill whose Blades side won 2-0 at Reading last weekend.

“I was asking those two about them,” Warne said. “I was also quizzing the Bolton Wanderers staff.”

After seven draws in their last nine outings, the 20th-placed Millers are targeting a win over the Royals who occupy the third and final relegation place.

“Every home game is a great chance of three points,” Warne said. “We're not playing a top-of-the-table side but that can bring other issues because Reading are fighting for their lives.

“They have got great players. They'll have a lot of the ball. They've got Sam Baldock up front and he's a pretty renowned striker. They have got threats.

“These are the games where we need to turn our draws into wins. If we drew every game between now and the end of the season that would still be an amazing achievement, but obviously everyone wants to win football matches. That's why we work so hard.”

At the time of writing, the Royals still hadn't appointed a successor to the boss they sacked last week, Paul Clement.

“I don't think their managerial uncertainty affects anything really,” Warne said on Thursday morning. “It makes a difference only if it's a new manager's first game in charge and Reading get a lift from that.

“That's the one scenario that, as the opposition, can be awkward.”