Tonight’s trip to Luton Town could be crucial to their hopes of staying in the second tier, and even more so Sheffield Wednesday’s.
Victory at Kenilworth Road will lift the Millers out of the relegation zone, leaving their fate in their own hands on the final day of the season. It would also leave the Owls travelling to Derby County, the side Rotherham hope to leapfrog, requiring a goal difference swing of at least six to stay in the division. One of the South Yorkshire sides will be playing in League One next season, possibly both.
Defeat would not relegate Rotherham, but would leave their fans in the uncomfortable position of having to cheer the Owls on this Saturday whilst needing their own team to win at Cardiff City.
Either way, they need to be more clinical this week than over the course of this season as a whole if they are to end a dizzying five seasons bouncing between English football’s second and third tiers. The script is written for the son of Hillsborough legend David Hirst to make a decisive contribution.
Although Rotherham’s 43 Championship goals this season are 10 more than Derby and three more than 12th-placed Luton, they have still not scored enough, says Warne.
“We have been really good box to box, but have not turned half-chances into goals, which is probably the nicest way to put it,” he reflected. “If you are going to have a successful season at this level, you need to. I think there’s 10 games this season where we have had more attempts on goal than the opposition and lost. That is 10 wasted opportunities.
“I am frustrated for the team. I just think we are better than our position and unfortunately, we are in the situation we are in. With the way we play, we try full press and full energy and it has been a long season.”
Rotherham ended their five-match losing streak with a point at home to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, even if Warne felt they were somewhat fortunate to get it when not at their best.
Nevertheless, it leaves him with a conundrum in the latest in a draining series of matches – should he change a team that pulled off what felt like a win? With Matt Crooks back after a three-match suspension it seems likely he will, but is more needed? Centre-forward George Hirst is yet to score his first goal for the club since joining on loan from Leicester City in September, but injected real energy when he came on alongside Dan Barlaser with his side 1-0 down at the weekend.
“It is great we have taken it to the last week and it shows how a bit of Lady Luck can help,” reflected Warne. “In recent weeks, we have played a lot better and come away with nothing. But we have had loads of chances where the door has been left open by other teams around us and never really walked through.
“I have 23 fit professionals. Do you stick with the lads where you know what you get or do you freshen it up?
“George was really lively (against Blackburn) and his attitude has been immaculate. If he was my son, I’d be really proud of the way he conducts himself. Dan has not been in the team for the last couple of weeks and Crooksy is back. He has been training like the last day at school for the last week-and-a-half, training like a lunatic. He has been like a caged animal, so whether we throw him into the pit we’ll see.”
Last six games: Luton Town DWDWWL; Rotherham United DLLLLL
Referee: D Whitestone (Northampton)
Last time: Luton Town 3 Rotherham 0, December 8, 2009, FA Cup 2nd round replay.
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