Rotherham United are targeting their first South Yorkshire derby of the season for the return of injured captain Lee Frecklington.
The skipper is sidelined with back problem and misses tomorrow’s League One home clash with Gillingham.
The Millers plan to rest him for the following week’s FA Cup first-round tie at Crewe Alexandra as they look to have him fighting fit for the November 11 visit to local rivals Doncaster Rovers.
“I won’t rush him back,” said manager Paul Warne. “There’s a chance he could be ready before the Crewe game, but it is more likely to be after the FA Cup when he plays for us again.”
The midfielder limped out of the 1-0 win at Rochdale earlier this month. He was set to play at Oxford United last Saturday but didn’t feel right and has been withdrawn from training while he receives more treatment.
One man who will feature against the Gills tomorrow is Joe Newell who is set to be handed a starting role in the centre of the park after scoring in his last two outings.
Newell hasn’t always made the first 11 because of inconsistency and injury, with Warne often opting to use the 24-year-old’s undoubted talent off the bench
“I’ve always been a massive fan of Joe. I tell everyone what a good footballer he is,” the boss said. “I keep getting him in my office telling him he has to have an impact from the first minute to the last.
“He’s been coming on as a sub and having an amazing impact, especially when the game is stretched. He’s got the bit between his teeth. As long as he plays like he did at Oxford, he’ll keep his place.”
Newell, who usually plays on the left, started as a central midfielder in place of Frecklington at the Kassam Stadium. He scored the Millers’ first goal and then played a major part as they turned a 3-1 deficit into a 3-3 draw.
“He’s maybe not as physical as our other midfielders, but he’s probably the best footballer,” Warne said. “He goes past people for fun. It’s a high standard in our midfield and it’s tough to get into the five.”
Rotherham, after six wins in seven home league matches, head into tomorrow’s clash in fifth place, and Newell sees no reason why they can’t remain in the top six.
“I think we can definitely stay in the play-off places,” he said. “If you go to top-eight teams like Oxford and get points, you’re going to do well.
“We’re one of the best attacking teams in the league, so if we can shore it up at the back we should be okay.”
Meanwhile, left-back Ben Purrington is still more than a month away from returning after suffering hamstring damage.
“He’s starting to do all his strength and conditioning stuff,” Warne said. “He’s not in any pain. He’s due back probably at the end of November.”