Rotherham v Preston: Evans calls on Millers’ support to play key role

STEVE EVANS has revealed that several family members have temporarily switched their footballing loyalties to Rotherham United – as he bids to book a Wembley berth with the Millers this evening.

Rotherham United's manager Steve Evans.

A sell-out New York Stadium crowd of 12,000 will greet the Millers and Preston for the second leg of their League One play-off semi-final, with the tie intriguingly poised at 1-1.

The victors will meet Leyton Orient in the final at Wembley on Sunday week, with a number of Evans’s Peterborough-supporting family firmly rooting for the Millers to go all the way into the Championship after Posh’s exit in east London on Tuesday night.

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Evans, whose family home is still in Peterborough, said: “There were three or four in the away end at Brisbane Road and I spoke to one or two as they drove home. They were gutted and disappointed.

Rotherham United's manager Steve Evans.

“Even though their side didn’t win, they want to see a Steve Evans team at Wembley as with family, blood is thicker than water.

“The only team that they would have wanted to win other than Rotherham is the club they have followed all of their lives, so I would think they might now be closet Rotherham fans for the next two games!”

Evans admits he is desperate to clinch a first in his managerial career, leading a side out at Wembley – not just for himself, but also his go-ahead chairman Tony Stewart and the club’s supporters.

That may potentially be just 90 minutes away, but he is under no illusions about the extent of the task tonight – insisting that the tie remains ‘finely balanced’ after the draw at Deepdale.

That was the third successive stalemate between the Roses combatants this season and Evans has scoffed at talk the Millers hold a psychological advantage heading into the pivotal second leg on home soil.

The Millers chief, who will leave it as late as possible to run checks on the key duo of player-of-the-year Lee Frecklington (knee) and top-scorer Kieran Agard (hamstring), said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity and I am sure Preston will be thinking the same. It gives you the opportunity to play 90 minutes or whatever it takes at the home of English football.

“But we know how tough it’s going to be and don’t live in a land that says it’s any easier because we have gone to Deepdale and brought them back here level.

“Like ourselves, they have a fantastic away record and some incredibly talented players and huge resources.

“It’s finely balanced. We have played them three times without a goal to spare.”

On what booking a place at Wembley would mean, he added: “You don’t get many opportunities to play there. And I have only ever been to Wembley, paying in to watch games. Everyone dreams of taking a team to Wembley and every player must have an aspiration of playing there.

“More importantly, it would be absolutely fantastic for our chairman, who deserves to be there and our supporters, who have had some rum times here with a couple of administrations and various things they have gone through.

“Then over the mountain came ‘Sir’ Tony Stewart, who made all this possible.

“Our chairman deserves to be in the Championship yesterday, never mind today. For what he has given the club and the town.

“But I think the difficult task is, first and foremost, earning the right to be at Wembley.”

In a tie where the margins between both sides is self-evidently tight, Evans has made contingencies for the tie going all the way to penalties with all his players having practiced for the past few days.

And after lauding vociferous Preston’s faithful for turning Deepdale into a wall of noise on Saturday, he wants the home crowd, bedecked in red, to pump up the volume tonight, mindful the Millers will require every bit of help they can muster.

Evans, who welcomes back midfield anchorman Richie Smallwood from suspension, added: “I can’t play Preston supporters a bigger compliment than that they were absolutely stunning at Deepdale and played a part.

“The cauldron of noise was incredible. We have to make sure our supporters are up at that decibel levels. There’s been some incredible atmospheres here and I am asking them to take it to a higher level. We are going to need every inch of help we can get.

“Our players will play on the front foot and embrace the occasion.

“We can only play one way, a style that says they we try and entertain, attack and score goals.”

On being potentially prepared for the nerve-shredding scenario of penalties, he added: “We have six or seven lads who would always step up for a penalty and have practiced for most of the season anyway and we have added the rest of the group to that.

“It’s going to be fine margins all the way. I know there’s a lot of respect between both playing squads and management teams so from that point of view, it’s capable of going all the way.”

Last six: Rotherham DLWDWD; Preston WLWWLD.

Last time: Rotherham 0 Preston 0; Saturday, August 10, League One.

Referee: K Stroud (Hants).