Rotherham United visit Carrow Road today on the back of a recent good away record. Prior to their 1-0 loss at AFC Bournemouth on Wednesday night, they had recorded victories at Preston North End, Middlesbrough and Derby County as well as taking Premier League Everton to extra-time in an Emirates FA Cup third round match at Goodison Park.
Canaries.co.uk spoke to Paul Davis, who covers the Millers for the Rotherham Advertiser, about Paul Warne’s side, their style of play and their chances of getting a result at Carrow Road.
Canaries.co.uk: Rotherham have picked up some good results on the road recently. How do you think they are performing at the moment?
PD: They are performing better now than at any point in the season. It is now four wins and a draw from the last eight games. That is certainly not relegation form and they have climbed out of the bottom three. They have certainly shown enough in the last five or six games to suggest that they will be able to get out of trouble by the end of the season.
Canaries.co.uk: When Norwich City played Rotherham earlier this season it was a close game, with a Jordan Hugill penalty winning it in the end, but what was surprising was how forward thinking and on the front foot Rotherham were. Is that something they have adopted this season in the Championship compared to the last time?
PD: No, not really. Under Paul Warne, who has been in charge now for just under four years, they genuinely go out to win every game. It is just like he was a player, and he likes his own teams to go out and attack. His four years have brought two League One promotions and two Championship relegations. In terms of budget, Rotherham are a very small club in the Championship, fighting impossible odds. However, when they are at their natural level, League One, these tactics have paid off and obviously it is a bit different in the Championship. However, they have got a bit more experience now, with some good recruitment behind them, and they are having a real go this season. One of the big changes in the last few weeks is that they have switched to a 3-5-1-1 formation. He has got two big lads in the 1-1 positions in Michael Smith and Matt Crooks. Matt Crooks sits just behind and is 6ft 5in and not only is he a big unit, he is a mobile unit. Those two have combined really, really well and both have seven goals this season, most of which have come in the last 10 or 12 games. While those two are together and playing well then Rotherham have got a real chance.
Canaries.co.uk: With that formation and plenty of players in midfield and height up front, is it having the ball in wide areas and getting crosses into the box that is key for Rotherham?
PD: Yes, the five in midfield is three central and two wingbacks who bomb up and down. Although Crooks and Smith are 6ft 5in and 6ft 4in respectively there is more to their game than just being big lads. Smith is a great target man and holds the ball up really well, he can come short collect the ball and then Crooks will run in behind. Smith will also happily go wide and put crosses in as well. However, it is a lot about balls into the box and Rotherham are very good at set-pieces now as well – I think only Cardiff have been better in the Championship at set pieces this season. They are a really together group, with a high press and they go full out for 90 minutes to make themselves very difficult to play against.
Canaries.co.uk: Paul Warne is from Norwich. What is his standing like with Rotherham United fans?
PD: He was a legend from his playing days when he was a really hard-working attacker. When he is doing well in League One they all like him. When we are doing badly in the Championship there is that minority that will criticise him, but generally his legendary status is very much up there. He has rescued the club from a dire time and everything is moving forward in the right direction in terms of the football side. He is a class act as well. He is a real good human being and because of that, because his public profile is so good, I think that helps the club as well. A lot of people who don’t support Rotherham want Rotherham to do well because they see Warney, now and again on TV, and think he is a great bloke.
Canaries.co.uk: Who out of the recent players the club has recruited have impressed you?
PD: We got Wes Harding from Birmingham who is now operating as a left wingback and doing really, really well. He will be a contender for player of the year. We have also signed Dan Barlaser from Newcastle United and he has got some Premier League class in his boots at times. He came on loan to us last year and played a huge part in the League One promotion and when we managed to get him on a permanent deal in the summer that was a big move.
Canaries.co.uk: Have you got any key players that are likely to miss the game through injury?
PD: Yes, Rotherham have been hit terribly with injuries this season at one time we had five out long term for three or four months. That is easing slightly now but they are still without winger Chedozie Ogbene, who just tore up League One last year. He only played four games for us this season and then he needed knee surgery. He is due back in three weeks, and he will be a big boost when he is back. The most recent one, which is a big blow, is Jamie Lindsay. He is a central midfielder, and he is the leader of the press. He is the kind of player that nobody wants to play against. He gets his foot in, gets in the face of the opposition and he can play a bit as well. However, he got injured against Preston North End, with a hamstring problem, and he is out for two months. I think he will be back quicker than that because he is a natural leader, but he will be certainly missing against Norwich City.