Rotherham United hope to have two key men available for the Boxing Day clash with Bolton Wanderers.
Defender Stephen Kelly was taken off at half-time in the 2-0 win over Hull City on Saturday after feeling his calf injury while strike Leon Best missed out all together because of a groin problem.
But boss Neil Redfearn is optimistic both former Premier League players will be declared fit for the home match against the Trotters as his side seek the victory which could take them out of the Championship drop zone.
“Kells felt his calf tighten again so it was a precaution to leave him off,” said the Millers manager. “Stephen is important to us. We have just got him back fit. They are problems, calves.
“We have got a blank week so hopefully if he rests and gets the right treatment and rehab we might have him for the Bolton game.”
Kelly was starting his third match for Rotherham, while Best has yet to feature since being sent off on his debut at Leeds United a month ago.
“The good thing with Leon is that it’s a sportsman’s groin, so he can play,” said Redfearn, referring to a condition which commonly affects athletes.
“He’s had a jab to settle it down. But the jab was Thursday and it is a three-day thing so it took in Saturday. But, touch wood, he will be fit for next week.”
The Millers responded to Redfearn’s midweek criticism after the defeat at Huddersfield Town to beat fourth-placed Hull at AESSEAL New York Stadium with their best display of the season.
The boss spoke before the game as usual, but Joe Newell, who scored with a spectacular second-half strike against the Tigers to add to Lee Frecklington’s first-half penalty, said no words were required as the players knew they had let themselves down last Tuesday.
“To be fair, he could have said nothing,” the left midfielder said. “We already knew we needed a reaction. We’ve got good team spirit. We work hard for each other, and the first half at Huddersfield was just not like us.
“He didn’t need to say much. He reminded us of our responsibilities and what we’ve worked on on the training ground. He said to get out there and give the fans something to hold on to. I think we did that.
“He was right to have a go after Tuesday. We all knew we were out of line with the way we performed. He’s the manager, he has the right to do that. We’ve obviously responded in the right way. There’s no better way we can respond than with what we’ve done against Hull.
“I couldn’t even tell you what happened in the first half at Huddersfield. It was completely out of character and I don’t think you’ll see it again this season. I felt we lacked a bit of energy, a bit of oomph. We started well today, won the penalty and the crowd were behind us.”
Rotherham are only a point away from a survival place after Saturday’s triumph against a side who were in the top flight last season and pushing for promotion this year.
“It was an enjoyable game to play in. I thought defensively we were solid,” Newell added. “We were nice and compact and then on the counter-attack we looked dangerous.
“We managed the game really well towards the end. I felt we were comfortable.”
“The second goal came at a crucial time, definitely. At 1-0 up, a goal for either team swings the game. It gave us a bit of breathing space.”
Newell rifled in a shot with his ‘wrong’ foot in the 57th minute as the Millers, making three changes to their starting 11 and playing 4-2-3-1, moved up to 22nd place in the table.
“I think it’s the first time I’ve ever hit one like that with my right foot!” he said.
“We had a bit more composure on the ball today. That extra man in midfield, with Luke (Hyam) coming in with Frecks (Lee Frecklington) and Richie (Smallwood) helped, and I think we kept the ball well.
“I managed to get myself over to the right, we kept the ball and it’s fallen nicely for me. I took a shot and in it went.”