Boss Alan Stubbs believes the fear of the axe will help his players push Rotherham United further up the Championship table.
The Millers head into tomorrow’s showdown at bottom club Blackburn after their best performance of the season in the 2-2 midweek draw against Nottingham Forest saw them climb to 20th place.
The display was in stark contrast to the 4-0 derby defeat at Barnsley three weeks ago, and the manager says increased competition for places means he can now be tougher on anyone not following orders.
“At Barnsey, they didn’t do what I wanted them to do,” he said. “If they don’t do what I want them to do, they won’t be in the team. It’s very simple.
“But you can get that only when you’ve got a full and fit squad. You can’t be threatening to drop people when you’ve got a squad of only 15/16 fit players. When you’ve got a fit squad of 21/22, then you’ve got options.”
Since the Oakwell clash, several players have returned to fitness, and Stubbs faces tough selection decisions ahead of the Ewood Park encounter, with midfielders Joe Newell and Jake Forster-Caskey adding to his numbers after missing out last Wednesday through injury and captain Lee Frecklington, who made his comeback off the bench against Forest after a calf problem, desperate for a first start since opening day.
Stubbs is encouraged by his squad’s progress but wants to see an improvement in the ‘goals against’ column as the Millers have managed only one shut-out in seven league fixtures.
“There are elements of an Alan Stubbs team now,” the former Hibernian boss said. “We’re by no means the finished article in terms of what I want us to do. I want us to play more. I want us to keep the ball better. Most importantly, I want us to keep clean sheets.
“My team, in my short time in management, has been a team that has played football but has also been hard to beat and not given an awful lot away. In terms of that, we haven’t got that balance right yet.”
Rotherham are looking for their first point away point of the season at Blackburn who have lost five and drawn two of their games and are the only side in the second tier without a win.
Joe Mattock is likely to keep his place after being recalled against Forest after a spell among the substitutes.
“Joe responded in the way I wanted him to,” Stubbs said. “His overall game was much better the other night. I still want more.
“I think he should have done better for the cross when he was picking up Matt Mills (scorer of Forest’s headed first goal).
“Overall, I was pleased with his performance. He defended much better, he stopped crosses much better, and if he does that more often he’ll find himself in the team more.”
Scans have shown no undue problems with Newell’s injured toe and no significant damage to Forster-Caskey’s sore knee.