Promotion hero aims to topple Owls in key derby

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A FAMOUS picture of Lee Frecklington celebrating his promotion-clinching goal for Rotherham United in April, 2013, adorns the walls of Steve Evans’s office at the Millers’ training ground.

The midfielder’s decisive late strike sealed a 2-0 win against Aldershot at a packed New York Stadium and was the cue for ecstatic scenes among Rotherham supporters after they ended six seasons of hurt in the bottom tier.

Lee Frecklington

Lee Frecklington

Frecklington has produced several other sweet goal-scoring moments in his Millers career, including a key play-off strike against Preston last May and a cup goal in August, 2013, against the side he and his team-mates are aiming to topple tomorrow afternoon – Sheffield Wednesday.

A few more choice entries would not go amiss for Frecklington and if he can round off a frustrating season by displaying his penchant to score a couple of similarly vital goals to clinch the Millers’ Championship safety, another picture might just be hung on his manager’s wall.

Frecklington returned from suspension in Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at Nottingham Forest, after previously missing much of 2015 after undergoing hernia surgery.

For the 29-year-old, it is a case of making up for lost time between now and May 2 and if he can rewind the clock to his feats of last season, all the better.

Rotherham United's Lee Frecklington is mobbed after scoring the goal that got the Millers up into League One.

Rotherham United's Lee Frecklington is mobbed after scoring the goal that got the Millers up into League One.

Frecklington fired 13 goals from midfield in 2013-14 and was given plenty of attacking licence at the City Ground, hitting the post in the second half and seeing a goalbound strike blocked.

It was at least encouraging for the Lincoln-born player, who has netted just once this term and is keen for some payback.

Summing up his personal experiences thus far this season, Frecklington said: “I have been very frustrated, it is probably the best word to describe my season.

“I have done well in some games and not as well as I’d have liked in others and have been injured and suspended and it’s been stop-start.

“I’d now like to get a run of nine games and get back to how I was previously.

“I enjoyed it at Forest. I have been out for a lot longer than I wanted to be and it took a while to get back into the team.

“It is a case of trying to play as many games as I can between now and the end of the season and making sure I put in performances which gives the manager a question for the next game.

“In my position, you get chances at goals, but it only suits you if you manage to keep the ball, otherwise you are running around like a headless chicken trying to close everyone down.

“But, in recent weeks, we have managed to keep the ball and if we keep doing that, I think I will get more chances to score goals.”

The Millers may have one day’s less rest than the Owls ahead of tomorrow’s sell-out, but Frecklington believes the game is exactly what he and his team-mates need as they seek to round off a testing week on a winning note.

Bragging rights are not exactly inconsequential for the Millers, seeking a first league win over the Owls in Rotherham since March, 1976, but that is outweighed by the need for three points to take a giant step closer to safety, with Evans’s side having lost their last two games against Forest and Wigan Athletic.

Frecklington said: “I realised the importance of the game when we played Wednesday in the cup in my first full year here. It’s a massive one for the fans and us.

“I remember it being a great win and to score a goal made it extra special and I will be doing all I can to try and repeat that.

“For whatever reason, people seem to raise their game for local derbies more and it is probably exactly what we need to bounce back from the Forest disappointment.

“But not only it is a local derby, but a game we really need three points off.

“Bragging rights is just a term you use for the fans, they can brag about it down the pub.

“For players, we have to treat it as another game and while we know it’s importance for the fans, it’s three points and a massive three points we need at this crucial stage.

“We can take confidence from the past couple of years when we have finished the season strongly. Confidence is a word we don’t lack and we believe we are good enough to stay up and get the points.

“It is all right saying that, but you need performances on the pitch to show that.”

The Millers must go into battle tomorrow without the influential Kari Arnason, out for two games after amassing 10 bookings, but Frecklington believes that the fourth-from-bottom Millers, six points above Wigan, will cope.

He said: “Since he has come into a midfield role, Kari has been fantastic and he was our best player at Huddersfield by a million miles.

“He is a big presence we are going to miss. But we are a squad and I am sure somebody will come in and do just as good a job.”