Matt Taylor reveals a hidden reason why Rotherham United's Fred Onyedinma was taken off in the first half at Southampton
Manager Matt Taylor knew he had to stem the Saints' waves of attacks and chose to replace the winger with defender Sebastian Revan, even though he realised the decision would be unpopular with the 1,000-plus throng of travelling supporters.
He revealed that fears that Luton Town loanee Onyedinma, who joined the Millers in the summer after a season of relative inactivity, could break down if he stayed on the pitch also formed part of his thinking.
“No-one wants to take off their best attacking player,” Taylor said. “But I didn't want to see Fred get injured just chasing and chasing and chasing in a defensive capacity. He's been struggling with his calves. He hasn't played consistently for a long period of time. Taking him off was something I'm sure our fans didn't like. I felt it was needed. I had to change the shape.”
The boss's decisiveness in switching from a 4-3-3 formation to 5-4-1 was vindicated as his 23rd-placed side fought back from conceding a second-minute opener to score a second-half equaliser and earn their first away point of the campaign.
“We gave Southampton too much respect in terms of the space on the pitch in the first half,” he said.
“The way we were set up as a team was also contributing to that. I had to address things.”
Taylor - who'd admitted three days before the match, after a home loss to Bristol City, that his position could be coming under threat - heard the discontent from supporters at St Mary's Stadium as he made the change.
“You keep Fred on there and risk breaking him or you take a little bit of a risk and bring him off," he said. "Let's be honest, my job is always on the line.”