Millwall v Rotherham United - Strike duo key to Millers’ survival hopes

TO many observers, getting the most out of Michael Smith and Matt Crooks will determine whether Rotherham United are still a Championship club when this season concludes on May 8.

While stressing the importance of contributions arriving from across his squad in their 12-game marathon over the space of the next 36 days, deep down Millers manager Paul Warne would not argue with that assumption.

Keeping the key duo fit and relatively fresh – and wrapping them up in cotton wool when needs must – will be paramount.

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Warne said: “They are fundamentally important. They are not obviously going to play every minute of every game and we are going to have to use them wisely. But I would like to, that is true.

Paul Warne: Increased options.
Paul Warne: Increased options.

“Smudge (Smith) has always been, in my opinion, a typical ‘number nine’ for a Yorkshire club. He is a physical outlet up top and his attitude to football and life is spot on.

“He is a cracking gentleman and you can see his dedication and how hard he trains and he squats double my body weight after a game. So I have no worries with him.

“In fairness, Crooksy’s (metres) coverage in the league is up there and he might be one of the – if not the – top athlete. His size also detracts what he can do with the ball and he has really improved massively as a footballer.

“A year ago, it (death of Crooks’s best friend Jordan Sinnott) had a massive impact on his family life and I think it affected his football as you cannot leave things at home and turn your brain off, that is not how life is.

“But with this season, he can be truly proud of himself. It has been a joy to watch Crooksy, Smudge and the players around them.

“But there will be games where I think: ‘You know what, I am going to play Chieo (Ogbene) up front with Smudge or Freddie (Ladapo) or not play Crookesy, but Wilesy (Ben Wiles) there. That is what is good about having options now.”

Jamie Lindsay and Ogbene are both back in the fray for today’s game following injury along with Clark Robertson.

Last six games: Millwall LWLWLW; Rotherham LLLWLW.

Referee: J Brooks (Leics).

Last time: Millwall 0 Rotherham 0, February 2, 2019; Championship.

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