Rotherham United: Mr Reliable in a season of change

Craig Morgan fires the ball forward on his debut for the Millers
Craig Morgan fires the ball forward on his debut for the Millers
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Ask any Rotherham United fan who they would regard as the most dependable performer of their promotion season and some might very well plump for someone who actually played less than half their 46 league games.

Even those who looked elsewhere would still concede that Craig Morgan was very much Mr Dependable in the 20 and a bit games he did play. He had a consistency of performance that had a major impact on the success.

In fact, there are those who reckon that had he not been out for four months, from November to March, with a leg fracture, then the Millers would have secured promotion a few games earlier and actually finished as champions.

So much for the merits of one man, but while consistency hallmarked Morgan’s game it wasn’t a word to be associated - other than loosely - with much of Steve Evans’s first season.

When one reflects on the numerous changes there were during the campaign, it’s quite obvious that Evans will not ‘get away’ at a higher level without more stability at the back and without partnerships having the opportunity to evolve and develop an understanding.

It seemed to be a campaign of ever-changing back fours. This wasn’t particularly through choice, but Evans, through what turned out to be both ill judgment and ill luck, found himself changing the back four not far off every other game.

In the 46 league games, there were no fewer than 23 different starting back fours.

If you chuck in cup games and the handful of times injury or a sending-off dictated mid-game change, it was pushing up towards 30.

Tot up the different number of centre-defence alliances in the league games and you get 11.

Fancy a left-back? Rotherham had nine different ones. The last of them, Joe Skarz - signed minutes from the close of the transfer deadline in March - was easily the best of the lot.

The right-back spot ended up being filled by a player (Johnny Mullins) more regarded as a central defender and was filled for much of the season by a player (Mark Bradley) who isn’t a ‘natural’ there and whose real position is in midfield. However, it must be said, Bradley never let anyone down. He took to it soundly and had the place on merit until a late-season injury.

There’s the effect, too, it can have on the goalkeeper and the understanding and trust that develops. Andy Warrington made 27 league appearances in all and 11 different back fours started in front of him during that time.

Even in the last half-dozen games, the starting back four differed five times out of the six, although it didn’t harm them a deal as they won their last five!

Evans will certainly need more stability at the back next time. League One will present sterner tests and, while no-one would bet against the Millers boss making whatever, and how many, changes he sees fit at any given time, Rotherham need more consistency of performance next time when they come up against better opposition.

Meanwhile, The Millers, in conjunction with the Millers Trust, will hold a fans forum at New York Stadium on Thursday, May 30 (7.30pm). Chairman Tony Stewart, Steve Evans and assistant manager Paul Raynor will be there.