AN automatic promotion spot may be what Rotherham United fans craved – and many expected – last summer, but Steve Evans insists the play-offs would not be the end of the world.
The Millers, rated as title favourites by many bookies last August, head into today’s key game at the side just below them in the table, sixth-placed Cheltenham Town, three points behind the team in the final automatic slot, Port Vale, but with a game in hand.
Yet inconsistency, especially at home, is bedevilling their bid to cement a top-three spot, despite knocking on the door at several junctures this season.
Manager Evans has endured frustration this week with his team collecting just one point from two games against Wycombe and Dagenham – fresh from thrashing Oxford United 4-0 – with the Millers’ longest winning streak in the league this term still standing at three matches.
He said: “We know if we win at Cheltenham, some people will have us promoted. But if we lose, some will have us in the play-offs – and if we get beat by more than two, maybe outside the play-offs.
“We know what we have got to achieve over the next nine (remaining) games, which is to finish in third place – automatic promotion.
“That is going to be difficult. But let me make it clear, there will be no doom and gloom if we end fourth and are in the play-offs.
“The chairman (Tony Stewart) is often reminding us that this project has seen us put a new team together and come back home to a new stadium so, with all the expectation, to achieve promotion is one mighty ask.
“But we are capable of doing it and in a great position to do so.”
Evans has revealed that an unofficial ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between himself and Robins counterpart Mark Yates precludes Jason Taylor’s involvement for the hosts today.
The combative midfielder joined Cheltenham on a free transfer in January after his Millers deal was terminated by mutual consent.
While there is nothing official to say he cannot play, Evans, who spoke with Yates when the deal was done, says the issue is resolved. He added: “Mark made that agreement in (good) faith.
“There is nothing in writing or confirmed or nothing we can do if Jason walks out on the pitch. But I would not expect that of Mark.”