ROTHERHAM UNITED manager Neil Redfearn is eyeing a history-breaking derby win in tonight’s televised clash with near-neighbours Sheffield Wednesday.
Since moving to the AESSEAL New York Stadium in July 2012, the Millers have secured bragging rights in memorable home league victories over Sheffield United and Leeds United, while also beating the Owls in the Capital One Cup.
But you have to go back almost 40 years to March 1976 for the last time that the Millers beat Wednesday in a league derby in Rotherham – courtesy of a goal by Dick Habbin.
The hosts were on the brink of ending that particular statistic last March, but two stoppage-time strikes earned the Owls a dramatic 3-2 win.
But if the Millers – for whom Lewis Buxton, Chris Maguire and possibly Joe Mattock could feature against their former club tonight – require any inspiration, a look at Redfearn’s derby experiences last season might provide it.
The 50-year-old has previous experience of helping to rewrite derby history, with one of the most cherished memories of his time in charge of Leeds last season coming against their West Yorkshire foes Huddersfield Town at the end of January.
A late Billy Sharp goal saw Leeds triumph 2-1 to secure their first seasonal double over Town since April 1939 with Redfearn also at the helm when the Whites won the reverse fixture 3-0 at Elland Road.
And Millers’ boss, part of the Barnsley side who secured promotion to the Premier League after a famous win over White Rose rivals Bradford City in April 1997, is hoping for another magical derby moment.
On the Millers’ long wait for a league win over the Owls, Redfearn said: “It is funny because Leeds hadn’t done the double over Huddersfield for a long time, so there’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?
“This derby is a massive game to play in and the lads are really looking forward to it.
“I played in South Yorkshire derbies when I was at Barnsley and they are real blood-and-thunder encounters.”
Both the Millers and Wednesday play their second game in 72 hours this evening, with eight points and 14 places separating them.
Redfearn is the first to acknowledge that the Owls, who would move to within two points of the top six with victory, are favourites with Carlos Carvalhal’s side boasting a seven-match unbeaten streak.
But the Millers’ chief believes that can work in his side’s favour as he urges them to carry on from where they left off in a vibrant second-half performance in Tuesday’s 1-1 home draw with high-flying side Reading.
Redfearn, whose side will move out of the drop zone if they claim a win this evening, added: “The derbies worked well for me last year. But the fact that it is a derby means that league positions go out of the window and form doesn’t count for anything.
“On derby day, it is the side who wants it the most. What we have to do is replicate that second half against Reading and then, when we get our chances, we have got to be clinical.
“It will be a great game. We had a great game under the lights in a fantastic facility against a top side in Reading and took them to task and took something out of the game and we now have another one. From everybody at our football club and no doubt at Sheffield Wednesday, these are fixtures that you look to pick out on the calendar.”
On the threat posed by Wednesday, Redfearn, who has Joe Newell and Danny Ward back in contention and possibly Mattock, said: “Wherever you look they have got good players and they have a way of playing which suits them and have good players who are playing with confidence.
“They will perhaps come into the game as favourites, but that’s good for us because we are starting to find a little bit of form.”
Carvalhal’s first experience of a Yorkshire derby was also on TV, a 1-1 draw at Elland Road in August, with their game against Hull City last weekend also screened live on TV – again finishing 1-1.
Carvahal does not believe either side will start as favourites this evening. The Portuguese, who confirmed that loan defender Michael Turner is not in today’s squad, said: “All the derbies are tough games and this will be very tough because they changed their coach recently and they have new ideas and energy.
“They (Rotherham) are tough and organised, but it will be a difficult match for both teams.
“In the derbies, there are never favourites in my opinion. Even if one team is first and the other is in the last position, we don’t have favourites. These type of games are played in a special environment.”
Last six games: Rotherham LWWLLD, Sheffield Wednesday WWWWDD.
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).
Last time: Rotherham 2 Sheffield Wednesday 3; March 21, 2015; Championship.