Rotherham United: Suspense for Millers fans over key duo

Alex Revell celebrates his goal at Preston
Alex Revell celebrates his goal at Preston
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Everyone knows about the suspense of the Play-offs.

But that usually applies to the action on the pitch. Rotherham United followers have been embroiled in real suspense off it in this week’s build-up to tonight’s game.

They wait, anxiously, for the outcome today of the final injury bulletin on two of their star players - top scorer Kieran Agard and Player of the Year Lee Frecklington.

Millers fans know that being without both those two would be a grievous blow to their chances of overcoming Preston North End in their League One Play-off semi-final which is locked at 1-1 after an enthralling first leg.

For those fans it has been the overriding issue of the past five days. “Will they play?” has been the persistent query.

Manager Steve Evans, mindful of wanting to keep on top of a sensitive issue and keep opponents guessing, issued the latest bulletin late yesterday afternoon.

“Both will be subject to late tests,” he said.

“Both have had intensive treatment and we will give them every opportunity. Of course, they would be big losses just like Nicky Adams and Miles Addison who are out.”

Definitely missing is right back Richard Brindley. He strained his hamstring after 20 minutes of the first leg and Evans ruled him out.

In the surprise absence of Agard last Saturday, a hamstring injury ending his record of appearing in every game, his place was filled by James Tavernier with Brindley coming in at right back.

However, if Agard is missing tonight there is no similar replacement. Tavernier will revert to right back and Adams, a natural wide player, is injured.

Last Saturday, Michael O’Connor played on the right side, not his natural position but he did a solid job.

However, the Millers do have a central midfield replacement should Frecklington not recover from the blow to the knee that forced him off with half-an-hour to go. Richie Smallwood is back from a three-match ban but he looks set to return in midfield regardless.

Earlier this week Evans flagged up the concerns over Agard and Frecklington and also said Ben Pringle was ‘doubtful’ after a ‘dead leg’ at Preston but it is expected he will shake it off and start.

Asked about his decision to do so when he has normally been reluctant to be so expansive on the the seriousness of plaher injuries, Evans suggested that keeping quiet wasn’t really an option adding: “Social media plays a bigger part in things these days. I think it was my responsibility to say it as it was.”

Preston have their own injury problem. Midfielder Neil Kilkenny missed the first leg after injuring his ankle in training four days earlier.

He has been under treatment and that will be a late decision as well.

Preston played two wide players, Lee Holmes on the right and Paul Gallagher on the left, who both move onto their stronger foot when coming inside. It provides a different trajectory of cross and Rotherham dealt well with it last week.

It may be that manager Simon Grayson will elect for the pacier Chris Humphrey wide on the right. He came on in the second half.

Grayson plumped for teenage midfielder Alan Browne last Saturday but the experienced Keith Keane made an impact when he replaced him and he is expected to start tonight.

Away goals don’t count double in the Play-offs. If level they go to extra-time and penalties if necessary.

“We’ve practised penalties all season, five or six of the lads have practised regularly so there has been no special practice for this game,” said Evans.