Smith and Ball driving Rotherham towards promotion

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WHEN it comes to League One form, Rotherham United are positively motoring.

An express run of five straight wins, buttressing a fine 12-match unbeaten streak, has seen the Millers jump up to fourth spot in the table, with the contributions of frontmen and car-sharers Michael Smith and David Ball already proving integral.

Michael Smith.

Michael Smith.

Smith helped himself to his third goal in four matches in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Oxford United, while Ball’s renaissance has been a major catalyst in the Millers’ eye-catching upturn.

Just as the personal touch of manager Paul Warne has been getting the best out of Smith, whose confidence was fragile following a tough time at old club Bury, so the growing relationship on and off the pitch between Smith and Ball – who share a car to training – is reaping rewards.

Smith said: “We share a car for about four hours every day and spend a lot of time together and are getting to know each other.

“Even if he does sleep in the morning, so I do not really get to speak with him! But you get to know each other personally.”

On the Warne factor, he continued: “The gaffer believes in all of his players and has had multiple chats with me. Things like that for a striker – with an arm around your shoulder, telling you that you are good – really helps.

“Even on Sunday and Wednesdays on your days off, he is always texting you and that is massive.”

Warne may be displaying a velvet glove to get the best out of his players, but his message regarding the need for those currently in possession of starting jerseys is delivered with an iron fist.

The Millers chief has kept changes to a minimum of late during the club’s recent purple patch, but says he will not hesitate to change things if standards are not maintained.

Warne, whose in-form side visit leaders Shrewsbury Town on Saturday, said: “The team is virtually the same every week at the moment. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing. There are just partnerships all over the field. I am pleased with that. But the biggest enjoyment I get is the fact that I can take anyone of that 11 out and replace them with someone of similar ability.

“They know the levels of performance have been really high recently and that if one of that 11 dip, it sticks out like a sore thumb and they know they will get the ‘shepherd’s hook.’

“We are pretty brutal on that as we want to win.”