Boss Neil Redfearn has called on improving Rotherham United to start the New Year in the same manner they ended 2015.
Four victories in their last eight outings have taken the Millers out of the Championship drop zone and their manager believes his squad now have the belief to impose themselves on the division.
Asked about his New Year’s resolution ahead of today’s first match of 2016 at Preston North End, he grinned: “To keep winning. It’s easy, innit? Keep winning.
“The results lately have been good and the performances have, by and large, been good. There’s been an upturn in everything as part of a gradual process for the last eight games.”
Reaching the transfer window, which opens today, in close contention with the teams above Rotherham in the table was Redfearn’s first target when he took over from Steve Evans in October.
That has been achieved and the 50-year-old expects to be active early in the window as he looks to move the Millers on to the next stage in their development.
“We had to make sure we were still in the race,” he said. “To get to this point, with the points we have got, now we’re in a position where we can go on and attack this second half of the season.”
That mission begins against North End, with 21st-placed Rotherham bidding to close the seven-point gap between them and the 17th-placed Lilywhites
“The lads have got confidence from what they have been doing in the last few games,” Redfearn said. “Our aim has to be to claw our way past the next three or four sides above us. If you don’t look too far ahead and keep concentrating on what’s in front of you, you’d be surprised how far you can get.”
The Millers, after two successive victories, were beaten 4-1 at Fulham last Tuesday despite having 22 attempts on goal, and the manager said: “The players’ disappointment the other night was really visible. They know they’ve got a level now, a level they can attain. They’re really getting the bit between their teeth.
“Some players have definitely stepped up more than I thought they would and that’s credit to them. When you introduce a new way of doing things, some players buy into it quickly and others take time. The lads have bought into what we’re doing and have stuck with it.
“Little Tony Andreu is a perfect example. He’s been out of the picture for a bit, his attitude has been absolutely first class and he’s come back into the side and looks a player.”
Today’s clash pits Redfearn against ex-Millers favourite Steve Thompson who was his right-hand man at Leeds United last season and is now coaching at Deepdale.
“Thommo is a good coach. He’s switched on and knows this division,” he said. “I know Preston’s manager, Simon Grayson, as well. He’s a good friend. I’m sure Thommo has gone in there and aided in how they’re organised and set up.
“They’re a really well-organised, disciplined side and they’ve done well in a tough division since they got promoted. They’re a big club with a big following so it will be a tough game for us. But it’s a match the lads are looking forward to. Simon’s had quite a bit of backing. He’s had some money and they’ve brought some players in.”
Defender Lewis Buxton has shown a good attitude while being kept out of the first-team frame by a contractual issue, Redfearn revealed.
“It’s something which is being sorted out between Lewis, his agent and the club,” he said. “Obviously, I can’t comment on what’s happening. Lewis has done well for us and he’s trained well while he’s been out of the picture. Hopefully, it will get resolved.”
If Buxton can’t play this afternoon, Rotherham could have a right-back dilemma as Frazer Richardson is out with concussion and Stephen Kelly is unlikely to be ready for action after a calf problem.
“It gives us an issue at right-back if Lewis is not available,” Redfearn conceded. “What it might do is give an opportunity to somebody who can step in and play that position. Obviously, it’s not an ideal scenario, but these things happen in football.”
Meanwhile, in addition to a acquiring a few more three-point hauls, the manager has other aims for 2016.
“To try to keep our players fit and to try to please out supporters,” he said.
“We had a fantastic following at Fulham. They stuck with us for the 90 minutes. The third and fourth goals went in and all you could hear was our lot singing.
“We want to please our people because we know full well that when we’re at it and we get the stadium rocking New York Stadium is a great place to be.”