Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder is backing South Yorkshire neighbours Rotherham United to avoid relegation from the Championship.
The Blades host third-from-bottom Millers in a lunchtime kick-off tomorrow (12.15) with both sides desperate for three points.
The Millers are unbeaten in six games, but their 3-2 win over Blackburn Rovers last weekend – which Wilder watched at the New York Stadium – was only their first three-point haul since New Year’s Day.
But Wilder, who pipped Sheffield Wednesday boss Steve Bruce to the Championship manager of the month award for February, has seen enough of his former club Rotherham under Paul Warne to be convinced they can avoid relegation back to League One.
“I think Paul will recognise they will have to pick some results up along the way, but I think they have have got enough to stay up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do it,” Wilder told The Yorkshire Post.
“They can score goals, they scored three on Saturday. I went to watch that game.
“They have got enough togetherness, and a good goalkeeper (Marek Rodak).
“They also have enough desire, determination to keep it out at the other end as well.”
A point in the early kick-off at Bramall Lane tomorrow would be enough to take Rotherham out of the bottom three while a win for the Blades could see them leapfrog second-placed Leeds United – even if only for a few hours.
Wilder admits his team were “outfought and outbattled” and lucky to escape with a point in a 2-2 draw at Rotherham back in November.
“We were very fortunate to get away with a result,” he said. “It was one of those games where we didn’t play particularly well and got a positive result.
“They can be a little bit aggrieved that they didn’t get more from the game.
“It was a difficult afternoon for us, and one we can learn from. There’s not been many afternoons like that where we have been outfought and outbattled. We have possibly done that to the majority of teams.
“I have nothing but respect for what those guys have done down the road. They have different targets to us, and it would be a fabulous achievement if they preserve their Championship status at the end of the season.”
While the South Yorkshire neighbours straddle either side of the M1, 32 points and 18 places divide the Millers and the Blades in the Championship.
But that gulf will count for nothing tomorrow as Wilder prepares for key home games against Rotherham and Brentford (next Tuesday) before a trip to Leeds United next Saturday.
“Rotherham always give themselves an opportunity of winning a game of football because of the attitude of the manager, the togetherness of the players,” said Wilder, who played for both clubs in the Eighties and Nineties.
“If our supporters think that we are just going to roll up on Saturday and stroll about the pitch – and our players think that – it’s going to be different. We are going to have to earn the right and play well. There is respect on both sides, but we are going to go toe-to-toe with them.”
If the Millers – winless on their travels this campaign – are to stay up their home form will be key.
But their five remaining New York Stadium games are against teams in the top half of the Championship in leaders Norwich City, Nottingham Forest (9th), Aston Villa (11th), Birmingham City (8th) and Middlesbrough (5th).
While Wilder’s and Bruce’s sides shared the points in a 0-0 draw on Monday night, the Blades boss had the consolation of pipping his Steel City rival today to be named the Sky Bet Championship manager of the month.
The Owls were unbeaten in six outings last month – keeping four clean sheets – as new boss Bruce oversaw the banking of 12 points.
United collected 13 points from a possible 15 last month – including four clean sheets – although Wilder pinpoints the one game where they did concede as a crucial moment in February.
Many pundits anticipated the Blades would implode after throwing away a 3-0 lead at Aston Villa in the final 10 minutes to draw 3-3. But they roared back with wins over promotion rivals West Brom and Middlesbrough to keep the pressure on top two Norwich City and Leeds.
“It’s quite ironic that we got this award off the back of a 3-3 draw at Villa,” he said. “When we look back that was a big reaction to a disappointment. I am delighted they have shown that reaction.
“We take these awards because we have had a great month. The challenges that we have had, at home and more importantly away, have been stiff and competitive.
“To come through with the points total we have got at the business end of the season is fantastic. If we are to achieve we have to be consistent and match what we have done in February.”