Rotherham United: Why Saturday will feel like a play-off semi-final to Warne
The sell-out South Yorkshire derby between Rotherham United and Doncaster Rovers will generate the atmosphere of an end-of-season play-off game, predicts Millers manager Paul Warne.
High-flying Rotherham, who have left-back Joe Mattock available after a hamstring injury. go into the match at AESSEAL New York Stadium looking to extend their unbeaten run to 14 matches.
Rovers supporters have snapped up their entire allocation and New York will at its capacity of around 11,600 for the first time in this League One campaign.
“It should help the lads,” Warne said. “Donny are bringing a good crowd. It will give our fans something to sing against. I’m expecting it to feel like a play-off game, like a second leg of a play-off.”
The teams drew 1-1 at the Keepmoat Stadium in November in a contest which was far from a classic, but the Millers are much improved since then and Warne is expecting a better spectacle on Saturday.
“It’s our job, as a staff, to focus the lads on the game not the occasion,” he said. “I think, at their place, the occasion got the better of all the players. It was a poor game. Neither team really played that well. I’m hopeful it will be a good game of football on Saturday, a good advert for League One.”
Mattock is fit again after missing last week’s win at then-leaders Shrewsbury Town, and fourth-placed Rotherham also have right winger Anthony Forde and central midfielders Will Vaulks and Richie Towell ready to start against a Rovers side in 14th spot.
The trio have overcome back, ankle and knee niggles respectively and trained today.
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Mattock could return in place of Michael Ihiekwe, who stood in admirably against the Shrews, while January signings midfielder Matt Palmer and striker Caolan Lavery are again likely to have to settle for places on a Rotherham bench brimming with game-changing options.
“Matty has been excellent in training again this week,” Warne said. “He’s disappointed he’s not in the team but he won’t be alone in that. I think everyone on the bench will be disappointed they’re not starting.
“Lavs and Matty haven’t knocked on my door and moaned. If they did, I don’t think it would be the longest conversation we’ve ever had. They both get why they’re not starting.
“Any other time, they would be in the team. But the team is doing so well, they have to be patient.
“I’m blessed on the bench. I often end up apologising to the lads for not getting them on.”
Darren Potter is on the comeback trail after three months out with an achilles problem and the midfield man is scheduled to rejoin the first-team squad for training after next’s week’s match at Gillingham.