ROTHERHAM United’s improving form and their attempt to stay in touch with the League Two play-off places faces a stiff test from an unlikely quarter tonight.
Unlikely because very few indeed expected Cheltenham Town - the side the Millers visit - to be the surprise package that League Two seems to throw up every season.
There was nothing in the second half of last season to suggest something was brewing down in the Cotswolds. On the contrary.
They fell away from the play-off places on a long run of poor results, finishing 17th.
However, manager Mark Yates - a former playing hero who helped them into the Football League in 1999 - acted in the summer and he has changed half the side, introducing fresh blood in a bid to re-energise the squad.
It has worked far better than he could have imagined and they take on Andy Scott’s side having moved into second place, three points behind leaders Crawley Town (who also play tonight at home to Barnet).
Whaddon Road saw its best crowd of the season on Monday, 5,004, for the goalless clash with fellow promotion rivals Shrewsbury Town - and this for a club who struggle to top 3,000.
Yates, an industrious midfielder, has a hard-working side and says he was “chuffed” with the attitude and effort his players put in on Monday.
“They’re a good group who work their socks off,” he added. It will come as no surprise to the Millers as to what to expect then.
Rotherham boss Scott is under no illusions about the task tonight and says they have players who know the league, know their jobs and do them right.
“They have a good spine to the side and I had Alan Bennett at Brentford at the back when we got promotion there and he and Steve Elliott know this division,” said Scott.
“Mark Yates had added some good signings, the lad [Russell] Penn for one. They have Luke Summerfield in midfield and have got pace up front in the boy [Kaid] Mohammed as well as [Darryl] Duffy who once went for decent money. They have goalscorers in there. They weren’t fancied and people have expected them to fade away but they haven’t done so and they are going strong.
“They have been settled at the back and we know to our cost what happens when you have to keep making changes in defence. It will be a tough game and we’ll have to be on the ball the whole time.”
Scott expects to have defender Johnny Mullins available after he came off at Macclesfield with a head injury.
He reported no further problems this week... “he has been feeling fine but we’ll wait until he has a full training session and gets heading the ball and then ensure there’s no reaction from that,” said Scott.
“We still don’t know what happened.
“It could even have been from heading a ball, maybe just caught it wrong but it was very unusual, a bit of a mystery.
“Thankfully there’s been no sign of it since.”
Missing from the squad will be winger Marcus Marshall.
A sub in recent matches, he injured his ankle this week in training and is set to be out for a couple of weeks.