Goal hero Joe Newell is heading into the festive fixtures full of belief that Rotherham United can win their battle for Championship survival.
The Millers face three matches in a week over Christmas and the New Year, starting with a home clash against bottom club Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day when a win could see them leave the drop zone.
Newell, who fired in a superb second-half strike as Rotherham stunned promotion-chasing Hull City 2-0 last weekend, said: “We’re confident. We know we should be in this division. We know we can stay up.
“Hull are a top side. They’re a Premier League team. They’ve got some very good players, and they’ve come here and we’ve beaten them 2-0 with a solid performance all round.
Last Saturday’s triumph came against a team who were in the top flight last season, and Newell and his teammates have shown with victories against the Tigers, Cardiff City and Birmingham City that they can compete with some of the second tier’s best sides.
The 22-year-old says the Millers, who yesterday saw loan midfielder Luke Hyam recalled by Ipswich Town, must produce displays like that more regularly while also making themselves harder to beat if things aren’t aren’t going their way.
“Getting the consistency is a key thing,” he said. “Another one is that if we don’t win, we need to not lose. We’ve got as many wins as the teams around us in the table, but they’re drawing more. We need to stay in games longer. If we aren’t winning, we need to make sure we at least get a point.”
Bolton, hit by off-field financial troubles and allegations about manager Neil Lennon’s personal life, are four points behind Rotherham and have won only once in the league, but they have drawn six of their last 10 matches and are tough to break down.
Rotherham have won five times and Newell is targeting a sixth victory on December 26 at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
“We’re looking to win that one,” he said. “Everyone knows how hectic the Christmas period is, so to get the home win leading up to Boxing Day is really good. We can go into the Boxing Day game full of confidence.”
The left midfielder, who has scored three times in his last six matches, enjoyed his best game under new boss Neil Redfearn against Hull as the Millers put their poor showing in the Yorkshire derby at Huddersfield Town firmly behind them.
“The Huddersfield game was completely out of character and I don’t think you’ll see it again this season,” he said. “I felt we lacked a bit of energy, a bit of oomph.
“Against Hull, we started well, won a penalty and the crowd were behind us. The home form is going to be key for us this season, so to keep building on it is a good thing.”
The Millers were full of running against Steve Bruce’s side, and their effort was epitomised by skipper and spot-kick scorer Lee Frecklington who won the ball back to set up the second goal after Newell’s initial shot had been blocked.
“I know it’s a little thing, but we work on pressing high up the pitch,” Newell said. “We’ve got a lot of energy and Frecks has probably got more energy than most.”
Hyam made three substitute appearances and two starts for Rotherham and was excellent in the win over Hull.
“Mick (Ipswich manager McCarthy) has injuries and it is coming to a time when he needs his players back,” Redfearn said.
“There is a recall clause available to Ipswich so we have to respect their option to take Luke back.
“I would like to thank Mick and Ipswich for allowing us to bring Luke here. I would also like to thank Luke for his service to us. He did a great job for the club.
“I thought he was outstanding in the victory over Hull City last Saturday and we wish him all the best for the future.”