New boy Michael Smith is getting goals and grief in equal measure after joining Rotherham United’s promotion push.
Smith has been a revelation since his January switch from Bury, hitting the net three times in four starts and helping the Millers climb to fourth in League One.
The 26-year-old has been on target in wins over Bradford City, AFC Wimbledon and Oxford United, but he’s already used to an ear-bashing from demanding boss Paul Warne and coaches Richie Barker and Matt Hamshaw.
“He’s a really hard-working striker, although we’re constantly shouting at him to work even harder!” grinned Warne who takes his side to leaders Shrewsbury Town tomorrow.
After playing for 11 other clubs, Smith appears to have found a natural home at AESSEAL New York Stadium where his touch, mobility and attitude have impressed supporters.
“I think certain players suit certain clubs at certain times,” said Warne. “He definitely suits us. I think he’s enjoying it here.
“We’re always giving him feedback on his performances. We’re always encouraging him and trying to get the best out of him.
“He’s scoring and having chances. He obviously enjoys that. Then, when he turns up on Saturday, he thinks: ‘Right, I’m going to score again.’ That’s a great feeling when you’re a striker.”
The Millers, who are unbeaten in their last 12 outings, have scored in every one of their last 25 games and Smith, who has been a prolific scorer only at Swindon Town in the past, is benefiting from their attacking approach.
“There is no point being 6ft 4in tall and playing in a team that never crosses the ball,” Warne said. “Strikers score only if you get the ball in the box. We definitely get loads of balls into the box.
“We’ve always told him that, once the ball goes out wide, he has to expect it coming into the box. We’re not one of those teams that goes wide, then to the side, then back.
“We’re always trying to get balls into the box. When it’s wide, we went him between the posts.”
Smith drives to training with his fellow striker, eight-goal David Ball, and the pair have struck up a good understanding on and off the pitch.
Warne believes his targetman can be effective with any forward at the club.
“Him and Bally are a really good partnership,” the manager said.
“When Lavs (Caolan Lavery) came on the other day against Oxford, he did a quick one-two with Smudge and you can see there’s a rapport between those two as well. Jerry (Yates) could play well with Smudge too. Smudge is a good foil.”