Verdict: Play-off rivals will fear Rotherham United, says Wood

Rotherham United's Richard Wood (Picture: Chris Etchells)
Rotherham United's Richard Wood (Picture: Chris Etchells)
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ROTHERHAM captain Richard Wood has not even given it a second’s thought on where the Millers need to finish in the play-off positions.

He has been too busy establishing a place back in the side and ensuring the Millers stay in the top six.

But when asked if finishing third or fourth was important to secure home advantage in the second leg of the play-off semi-finals, he shrugged it aside as an irrelevance.

Rotherham’s match-winning centre-back, who scored for a second successive time since being recalled, said: “I have not even thought about if it is important 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 doesn’t matter where we finish. It doesn’t matter if we have home advantage in the second leg of the play-offs, not with the chances we create with the lads we have got.

“We create chances all the time and score goals so, no, it doesn’t matter where we play.”

I’m happy for him to score with his knee, his buttock, his head, his throat, anything. We worked on set-pieces this week.

Paul Warne

Wigan is where the Millers go next, a side who can go top of the table if they win their game in hand, and Wood is relishing the challenge.

After just their second win in seven games, which took them seven points clear of seventh, he said: “That is just what we need. We need to test ourselves against teams at the top and Wigan are a good side but, after that showing today, we have nothing to fear. We were dominant and caused them all sorts of problems. It should have been a comfortable 3-0 win.”

The fact that it was not 3-0 was due to poor defending of set pieces by the Millers, something which was out of character.

Fleetwood, unbeaten in seven games under new manager and Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United legend John Sheridan, struck within five minutes when Ashley Hunter curled in a corner and central defender Ashley Eastham forced the ball home after his initial downward header had been blocked by Marek Rodak.

Rotherham were level in the 12th minute when Joe Newell, outstanding throughout down the left, curled the ball behind the defence and was deflected in off the far post by Fleetwood captain Nathan Pond.

Newell’s volley five minutes after the break after former Millers player Toumani Diagouraga headed out a corner put the hosts in front.

But Fleetwood were soon level when Hunter’s free-kick was headed home by unchallenged central defender Cian Bolger.

Rotherham were not to be denied and a tumbling Wood became the fourth centre-back to score in the game when he bundled home from Newell’s curling free-kick from the right.

Wood had seen his partner, Semi Ajayi, hauled off by manager Paul Warne and seen Will Vaulks move alongside him into his third position in two games.

Vaulks started in midfield in the 3-1 defeat at Charlton but switched to right-back to accommodate the return of Richie Towell from injury – former Fleetwood striker David Ball getting the nod up front to partner Michael Smith.

Of his decisions, Warne, who played under Sheridan at Oldham, said: “Replacing Semi was tactical. Have I spoken to him? I’ve spoken to all the players. They all know what I expect. Semi has been a ‘ledg’ for me. I make substitutions not because people are playing bad but for the benefit of the team.

“Vaulks is a good man to have around. I told him he’d have to play right-back if I wanted to get all my best players on the pitch. He said he was happy to play in any position if it got us in the play-offs, which is good.

“He’s entitled to think he’s in the top two centre-mids, but then he’s also probably in the top two centre-halves and top three right-backs/left-backs. He’s a good campaigner for the club.”

Of his restored captain’s winning goal, Warne added: “I’ve just spoken to him and he said he’s scored off his knee, which is good because his feet are horrendous!

“I’m happy for him to score with his knee, his buttock, his head, his throat, anything. We worked on set-pieces this week. For us to score off a couple of set-pieces against a really big, strong team, is a bit of a joy really.

“Woody epitomises this club. He puts his heart on his sleeve and he gives his job-lot. I think the fans appreciate that.

“He’s the same as Smudge (Smith), the same as Vaulks. I could go through the team. Newelly’s not the same. He’s more of an artist. Woody is one of those lads – a bit like Chris Swailes, who I used to play with – who would break his nose if he thought he was going to score a goal for the team. That’s how you want your centre-halves to be. They’ve got to be brave and strong, and Woody is definitely that.”

Wood smiled at his manager’s assessment of his ability on the ball, saying: “I would agree with him. I don’t mind but if I stuck one in the top corner from 30 yards it still goes down as just a goal. I have just watched it back and it came off my hip. I would like to think I am a threat from set-pieces and the manager calls me a wrecking ball but I just get stuck in.”

More of the same will be needed from the entire team.

Rotherham United: Rodak; Vaulks, Ajayi (Emmanuel 64), Wood, Purrington; Newell, Palmer, Towell, Forde (Taylor 69); Ball (Lavery 78), Smith. Unused substitutes: Price, Ihiekwe, Yates, Wiliams.

Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Eastham, Pond, Bolger; Coyle, Dempsey, Diagouraga, Sowerby (Burns 78), Hunter; McAleny (Hiwula 65), Madden (Grant 65). Unused substitutes: Neal, Glendon, Jones, Biggins.

Referee: C Boyeson (East Yorks).