THERE would be little room for argument should it be suggested that Daniel Nardiello is Rotherham United’s most gifted player.
Certainly he is a mercurial figure and, as he has proved on more than one occasion this season, a matchwinner.
Very few sides can afford to be stripped of their leading scorer. Millers followers know their side wouldn’t be where they are now without his 13 goals - a figure no one else in the side is even remotely near.
But for Nardiello - signed from Exeter in the summer and the very first of his many captures by manager Steve Evans - it has not been a season of unbridled success but one of ups and downs. Or rather ins and outs.
He began the season as a first choice striker. He has not, however, pinned down a place every week. And his place looks like one of those in doubt for this Saturday’s home game against Barnet.
Nardiello, who scored the first ever league goal at the New York Stadium in the opening game, was expected to be a regular but has started only 18 of the 31 league and cup matches played already. In 14 of the 18 he has been substituted for one reason or another.
He has been a matchwinner (Morecambe certainly a case in point with two goals after being 1-0 down) but he has also cut a frustrating figure at times, and can be a peripheral one away from home (although he did get both goals in the 2-1 win at Accrington).
Players of his style and nature aren’t a natural fit for an all-guns-blazing style. Boss Evans showed early impatience by leaving him out amidst denials of rumours the pair hadn’t seen eye-to-eye!
But the one-time Barnsley striker has just had a regular run of nine starts in the side. He was then dropped and when restored as a sub in the following game, it proved a matchwinning change with two goals in the 4-1 win over Accrington.
But his place looks under threat again. Nardiello, having run hard in the first place, never challenged his opponent who set up Aldershot’s first goal on Saturday. Evans expressed his displeasure; Nardiello was replaced at half-time and, along with one or two others, his place looks in jeopardy again.