Rotherham United head into tomorrow’s clash of the play-off contenders boosted by the presence of a player manager Paul Warne says would “have a fight over tiddlywinks”.
The fifth-placed Millers take on Scunthorpe United, one rung above them in the League one table, at Glanford Park and will be looking to stretch their unbeaten run to 11 matches.
A key factor in them not losing since December 2 has been central midfielder Will Vaulks who is in his best form since he moved to AESSEAL New York Stadium from Falkirk 18 months ago.
Fit-again Richie Towell and new boy Matt Palmer will contest one berth in the Rotherham engine room but the other place is certain to go to the combative Vaulks.
“Will is a leader on the pitch,” said Warne. “He’s like a member of staff on the pitch really. He grabs the lads by their shirts at times and pulls them through.
“He’s a similar character to Richie Towell. They’re just winners. They’re really competitive. He’d have a fight over tiddlywinks. “
Vaulks, who can also play at right-back or centre-half, has featured in 28 of the Millers’ 30 league encounters this season, scoring four goals. He has been an ever-present while they have racked up seven wins and three draws in their last 10 outings.
One of his goals was a long-range stunner when Rotherham beat Scunthorpe 2-0 at New York in October.
“His performances have been really good,” Warne said. “One of the things I like about him is that his ‘springs’ are a joke. Every time the ball is in midfield you just know he’s going to win the header. He’s pretty unique in that.
“He’s always trying to play the ball forward, he’s always trying to win games, he’s always trying to keep people going. He’s been excellent.”
Rotherham will be backed by a sold-out 2,100 away following against the Iron, and Warne said support on that scale can make a big difference.
“My wife and kids are behind the goal. I hope there’s not too much swearing!” he said. “We could have sold more tickets if we’d had them.
“It will give the lads a massive boost. When you come out and you’ve got 2,100 fans behind you, it does give you a lift. Sometimes, it can over-stimulate the players, so I’ve got to be a little bit careful that they don’t think it’s a cup final and go a bit too gung-ho.”
The boss admitted that loan goalkeeper Marek Rodak signing a new contract this week at parent club Fulham would make it more difficult for the Millers to broker a permanent deal in the summer, but he didn’t rule out a second temporary spell in South Yorkshire for the young Slovakian next season.
Centre-half Semi Ajayi missed out on the Sky Bet League One January Player of the Month award, with the judges opting for Northampton Town midfield man John-Joe O’Toole.