Defender Stephen Kelly key to Rotherham United returning to their miserly ways

Rotherham United's Stephen Kelly. Picture: Simon Hulme
Rotherham United's Stephen Kelly. Picture: Simon Hulme
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NEIL REDFEARN is keeping his fingers crossed that lucky charm Stephen Kelly can hand Rotherham United a New Year boost this weekend.

The former Reading and Spurs full-back has been sidelined with a problematic calf strain since being substituted midway through the 2-0 victory over Hull City on December 19, but could return for Saturday’s Roses trip to Preston.

The Millers are yet to concede a goal when they have had 32-year-old Kelly on the pitch and his availability would be a timely one this weekend with Redfearn’s side producing a lamentable defensive performance in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at Fulham.

Redfearn said: “Kelly is somebody who will hopefully come into consideration for Saturday.

“He is a player who has done well and been part of clean sheets when we have kept them and we have missed him.

“We haven’t had much luck with injuries recently and if you haven’t got a big squad, it starts to tell.”

With the January transfer window soon open, the Millers are being strongly linked with a move for Tunisian international Aymen Belaid, who is set to leave Bulgarian side Levski Sofia.

But they may have to make do without Leon Best for a significant spell, with the frontman – contracted at the club for the rest of the season – suffering from a deep-seated groin problem.

The much-travelled striker is due to see a specialist who will decide whether he needs surgery, which could see him miss much of the remainder of the campaign.

While future incoming transfer business in the New Year is occupying plenty of Redfearn’s attention, the Millers chief is also anxious that his side can produce a rewind to some defensively diligent performances prior to the four-goal humbling at Fulham, which he hopes will prove to be nothing more than a rare aberration.

On the importance of getting back to basics for the Millers – who had kept four clean sheets in their previous seven games, while conceding just five goals – he added: “We have tightened things up and for us to lose like that as a team at Fulham is disappointing as, by and large, we have defended well in recent weeks.

“We have got to get back to that blueprint.

“It’s important that we protect our goal difference and we have started eating into that and Fulham doesn’t help.”