ROTHERHAM UNITED assistant-manager Richie Barker has praised the exemplary attitude of left-back Ben Purrington – who is set to be afforded another rare piece of the spotlight this afternoon.
It has been a fraught season for the defender, signed for £300,000 from Plymouth Argyle in the winter transfer window of 2017, with the 21-year-old having to play second fiddle to first-choice left-back Joe Mattock.
Last month, Millers chief Paul Warne admitted that Purrington was left ‘hugely disappointed’ at being on the periphery during the club’s golden Christmas and New Year run.
But Barker believes that the Devonian’s character and application has shone through during difficult times in which his team-mates have taken centre stage.
A hamstring injury to Mattock means that Purrington is likely to deputise again today for a third successive match, with Barker pleased that the full-back has been getting his belated rewards.
He said: “I have been impressed by Ben. He has got a fantastic attitude. He has never moaned and never complained.
“Arguably, Joe Mattock has been one of the most consistent performers this season. Then we went on a 14-match unbeaten run, so there were not many players not in the team who could really suggest that they should be in the team.
“We kept seeing people talking about Ben and wondering about his future. I never saw any issue. He has been honest and hard-working. He has got on with it and he is now getting the rewards for it. In training, he is excellent every day. He likes to do extras and he asks questions.
“It is no surprise to me that he is now doing what he is doing.”
Despite the Milllers still having some work to do to book their top-six berth, Warne’s fourth-placed side, who have a seven-point buffer over seventh-placed Portsmouth, look increasingly strong candidates to feature in the end-of-season lottery.
Supporters are already busy assessing various potential permutations, but veteran defender Richard Wood believes that United should have nothing to fear, whoever that are pitted against, home or away.
The Millers’ consistent form since early December is likely to have emboldened Wood’s confidence following a run of just four defeats in 21 matches and just one home reverse since late November.
As it stands, only Blackburn Rovers have taken more points on home soil than the Millers, who have also shown their mettle on the road by winning against the likes of Shrewsbury Town, Scunthorpe United and Portsmouth
Wood added: “I have not even thought about where we finish, to be fair. I just want to be in those play-offs.
“I think other sides will fear us and, to me, it does not matter where we finish in the play-off zone. It does not matter for us if we have home advantage in the second leg of the play-offs or not, not with the lads we have got.
“We create chances all the time and score goals so, no, it does not matter.”