Rotherham United: Tough task, but Jackett gives Millers hope

Kenny Jackett
Kenny Jackett
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Survival proceedings paused with Rotherham United bottom of the table, eight points from Championship safety and without a win in 12 games.

But no-one was blaming new boss Kenny Jackett, even though frustration at New York Stadium was high as the last fixture before the international break brought a disappointing 3-1 defeat against Preston North End.

Jackett, just three matches into the job, is the man everyone believes is the right fit for the Millers who were left at the foot of the division by the short-lived reign of previous manager Alan Stubbs.

Jackett and his men are back in action this Saturday at Derby County before ending their November campaign a week later at home to Leeds United.

What follows is a busy, six-game December including matches against Burton Albion, twice, QPR and Wigan Athletic - fixtures against bottom-half sides where Rotherham can realistically target points - and the small matter of a local derby at Sheffield Wednesday.

The Millers haven’t lost at Hillsborough since 1981.

Alan Stubbs

Alan Stubbs

Jackett’s aim is to reduce the gap to the teams just above Rotherham before going to work on improving the squad he inherited from Stubbs when the January transfer window opens.

The Preston loss was a step back, but there were signs of immediate and significant improvement in his first two matches in charge, an unlucky 1-0 home reverse against Reading and a 2-2 draw at Ipswich Town which ended a run of seven straight defeats and averted what would have been a club-record eighth successive loss in a single season.

The new man is under no illusions about the size of the task he faces. The Millers have won only once all season, have the worst defensive record in the Football League and too many of Stubbs’ summer recruits simply haven’t had the desired impact.

“Without the transfer window, it makes it difficult,” Jackett, who signed former Premier League forward Peter Odemwingie as a free agent within days of his appointment, acknowledged. “But we have to work away inside the club.”

Danny Ward

Danny Ward

Two things offer Rotherham a glimmer of hope of a second amazing escape act in two seasons, after the heroics under Neil Warnock last term.

The first is the presence of Jackett himself, brought in by Tony Stewart last month and no doubt the man the chairman would have turned to in June, after Warnock’s short-term reign, had he been available then.

Jackett, at that time, was still with Wolves, a team he had led from League One and with whom he had proved an assured, adept Championship operator, after pulling off a similar feat with Millwall.

The second is that there are still plenty of games left - time for damage limitation before a window from which the Millers will surely emerge as a tougher proposition following the boss’s wheeling and dealing.

Lee Frecklington

Lee Frecklington

Captain and all-round inspiration Lee Frecklington should be back in the fold this weekend after ankle trouble, fellow midfielder Tom Adeyemi could join him, and the availability of that duo would be a major boost.

The comeback of experienced centre-half Kirk Broadfoot, laid low by a back issue, then a foot problem and out of action since the opening day of the season, can’t happen soon enough.

Odemwingie, who has signed a deal until January impressed on his New York debut when he came off the bench against Preston and could be a major influence.

Warnock produced his miracle in 16 matches. Jackett’s mission is even tougher, but at least he has longer: eight games until the window opens, 22 after.

Low points:

Rotherham have conceded 38 goals in 16 league matches, making them the leakiest defence in the Football League. Nottingham Forest are the only other club to let in 30 or more.

Peter Odemwingie

Peter Odemwingie

The Millers opened their season with seven successive away defeats for the first time since 1921.

They lost Alan Stubbs’ last six matches and have now gone 12 games without a victory for the first time since the 2006/07 season. Their only win, and only clean sheet, came at home to Brentford, 1-0, on August 20.

Rotherham suffered seven straight defeats before a 2-2 draw at Ipswich Town on October 29. That sequence equalled the club’s worst ever run of consecutive losses in a single season.

Reasons to be cheerful:

Kenny Jackett is the best man Rotherham could have. After winning two promotions as a coach with Watford, he turned to management and has taken up all three of his teams - Swansea City, Millwall and Wolves. He consolidated Millwall in the Championship and took Wolves to within one goal of the second-tier play-offs in 2015.

Striker Danny Ward is in the best form of his life and is among the division’s top scorers with eight goals already this season. With him in the team, Rotherham carry a real goal threat.

Lee Frecklington has missed seven of Rotherham’s Championship fixtures this season but is hoping to be fit for Derby County on Saturday. Statistics show that the Millers pick up more points with him in the side.

Peter Odemwingie has done it in the Premier League with West Brom, Cardiff City and Stoke City and at World Cups with Nigeria. He’s at the veteran stage, but looks sharp and could be a key acquisition.

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