Rotherham United: Loan star hopes for first-team return

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Richie Smallwood is itching to help Rotherham United reach the League One play-off final at Wembley Stadium after a frustrating spell on the sidelines, according to Millers manager Steve Evans.

The midfielder, on loan from Middlesbrough, is pushing for a first team recall, having served a three-match suspension following his red card against Port Vale on April 21. Smallwood sat out the entertaining draw at home to MK Dons, the 2-1 triumph at Swindon Town on the final day of the regular season and the pulsating 1-1 draw at Preston North End in the first leg of the play-off semi-final meeting last weekend.

In his pre-match press briefing at the New York Stadium yesterday, Evans branded Smallwood’s sending off a “ridiculous decision”, insisting his challenge merited just a caution.

Nonetheless, Evans is delighted to have the 23-year-old at his disposal again.

He said: “Richie is a young man who has played a number of games in the Championship this season and has been absolutely fantastic since joining us.

“I was very disappointed to be deprived of him for three matches for something that was nothing other than a yellow card. He is fresh, hungry and ready to play.”

When Smallwood linked up with Rotherham back in January, that coincided with Evans’ charges going on a 14-match unbeaten run which cemented their place in the top six. Smallwood, who has made 18 appearances in Millers colours, could replace Rob Milsom in the midfield engine room should Lee Frecklington be passed fit to start. If Frecklington is ruled out, Smallwood may partner Milsom in the centre.

“Richie is a terrific professional and I’m sure from a personal point of view that he’s hoping Lee [Frecklington] isn’t fit because he is probably the one who plays,” said Evans. “He is desperate to play, as they all are.”