Rotherham Utd v Bradford City: Millers’ screen test long time in coming, says Evans

Rotherham United manager Steve Evans.
Rotherham United manager Steve Evans.
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AFTER fluffing their lines in front of a wide South Yorkshire audience on Tuesday, take two for Rotherham United will see discerning eyes from across the nation judge them tonight.

It arrives just three days on from their supposed ‘must-see’ clash at derby rivals Sheffield United, which proved anything but on a big and ultimately deflating evening for the Millers.

Around 5,000 visiting fans made the short hop over the Tinsley Viaduct full of expectation of the Millers sealing a first double over their near-neighbours.

A dour spectacle left them feeling somewhat underwhelmed, not just because of the manner of the last-gasp defeat.

Home fans were probably entitled to wonder what all the local fuss was about regarding promotion-chasing Millers, who left with little critical acclaim.

You sense everyone connected with Rotherham is thankful of a quick chance at redemption on another grand stage tonight in the club’s first televised game at the New York Stadium.

Sporting folk in Rotherham will consider the visit from the Sky cameras as long overdue, with the broadcasters’ previous decisions to bypass the NYS on several marquee occasions rankling with many.

Tonight is the Millers’ belated moment – against a side in Bradford City who they take great delight in beating.

Which has been a lot in recent times.

Evans said: “Our own performance was hard to take on Tuesday.

“First and foremost, we let ourselves down and didn’t give anyone in the Sheffield area an opportunity to see the Rotherham United team our supporters have seen on many occasions.

“But now we move on and we have another big game on the TV; we all know the television cameras should have been here (before).

“They have been at some obscure places in the last 20 months and as Rotherham United people, from our chairman to our supporters and players, we have had to watch that.

“The fans will turn up in good numbers. We’ve a great stadium and our pitch, which should have got pitch of the year last year and hopefully it will get it this, will be made for the cameras.

“Bradford have largely got more league television exposure than we have. If they turned up and played the Red Lion a week on Saturday, they’d get television exposure, wouldn’t they?

“But if you are a Rotherham United fan you do look forward to Bradford coming, of course you do. But do you look forward more to Bradford coming or going to Wolves next week? Do me a favour.”

In the final analysis, a spiky fixture against City, and claiming some kudos in front of the cameras, are not Evans’s prime motivators tonight, with the Scot looking at the bigger picture.

With defeat at Bramall Lane ending their hopes of automatic promotion, Evans is now focusing on getting everyone in pristine condition for the sharp end of the season in the play-offs, a new frontier for him.

In the words of Evans, the arrival of City marks the beginning of potentially a new eight-game season, having consulted several managerial counterparts to canvass their views on the Millers’ situation.

Evans will not exactly rest players en masse, more manage their game time with a view to ensuring they are in peak condition physically and mentally at the culmination of the campaign.

Evans said: “I have taken time to speak to managers who have been successful in the play-offs on a couple of occasions and they have said to me to treat the next four or five games as a mini-season.

“Then add on top of that, the two semi-finals and perhaps a final.

“They say that if you need to get a player back fresh or if someone is maybe struggling with a knock to leave them out.

“It’s about making sure you go into the play-off campaign not only winning games and in good form, but with people ready to play.”

While the Millers’ fate will be decided in the end-of-season lottery in May, Evans is already hoping to avoid having to come face to face with another top-flight official in those season-defining encounters, with his sense of injustice after seeing Mike Dean award the Blades a late penalty on Tuesday not abating.

Evans was also mystified by what he perceived as disingenuous remarks suggesting the Blades’ line-up was made up of rookies and a number of youngsters.

He said: “We remain professional and wish them good luck on Sunday. But our players were talking about comments saying that their kids beat us. Have a look at the Championship and League One appearances in there.”

On the penalty fall-out from Tuesday, he added: “Mike Dean knows my views. But my views were made quite clear to the head of referees on Tuesday evening.

“Leave the Premier League referees in the Premier League and leave the bread-and-butter Football League referees to the Football League business.

“I am not questioning Mike Dean’s integrity. But it’s a different world where they are.”

Last six games: Rotherham DWWWWL, Bradford DLLWDL.

Last time: Rotherham 3 Bradford 0; November 9, 2013; FA Cup, 1st round.

Referee: D Webb (Co.Durham).