Manager Paul Warne is refusing to give up on Jonson Clarke-Harris despite the Rotherham United striker’s disappointing return to first-team favour.
Clarke-Harris made his first league start of the season in last Saturday’s 2-1 away win at Blackpool as the Millers ended a run of seven League One matches without a victory and climbed to ninth in the table.
The 23-year-old, standing in for banned top scorer Kieffer Moore, failed to grasp his opportunity and it was only after he’d been hauled off at half-time that the visitors came from a goal behind to take all three points.
But, when asked if the centre-forward - Rotherham’s record signing when he was signed from Oldham Athletic in the summer of 2014 - was playing his way out of the club, the manager replied: “That’s a bit harsh.”
He went on: “Jonno was really excited to get his chance to start, and he deserved his chance because he’d been excellent in training.
“I just didn’t think it was working for him against Blackpool. I didn’t think he had the impact I wanted. When you’re losing and looking to score goals, the obvious thing is to change your strikers - go for something different and give defenders something different to play against.”
Clarke-Harris, who is out of contract in the summer, made no impression on the Seasiders’ backline before Warne brought him off along with centre-half Michael Ihiekwe at the break. With substitutes Jerry Yates and Anthony Forde helping to change the game, the Millers went on to triumph in thrilling style through two goals by David Ball.
In his three-plus years at the club, Clarke-Harris has made 66 league appearances, scoring nine goals. He hadn’t scored in eight league matches this term as a sub before Saturday, and his last goal in open play came in a 4-0 win over Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day in 2015.
Rotherham recorded their first league win since October 14 despite being without five first-team regulars: suspended Moore, ill Lee Frecklington and injured Darren Potter, Joe Newell and Jon Taylor. In addition, Jamie Proctor, who would also be a likely starter, is out for the season after a cruciate operation.
“No disrespect, it was half my ressies out there,” said Warne. “I thought they performed really well. The change at half-time when we brought on Jerry - and this isn’t insulting Jonno - saw the team play better.”
Frecklington pulled out sick on the eve of the match, while Newell wasn’t risked because of a toe problem. Potter and Taylor have achilles and knee complaints respectively.
“Frecks is just not well,” the boss said. “He wasn’t well enough to be even on the bench.
“Newell had a sore toe from last week. We thought he had broken it, but the scan shows he hasn’t. If he had played, it would have just been an ongoing issue. He wouldn’t have been able to train.
“I had to take the regrettable decision that he couldn’t keep going and that I had to rest him.”
Joe Mattock will be assessed this week after going off late on with a tight hamstring.