I would say so, yes - they are genuinely positive. They are looking at those games in hand as being key for them but they are, physically, on their knees right now because of the fixture load and because of the complications and the problems they have had. Mentally, they are up for the fight but, physically, they are not, so it will be fascinating to see how they get on from here. They are in pretty much every game that they play, possibly with the exception of Coventry at home where the best team won, and against Barnsley last Saturday where they really did miss some chances. They have a chance of staying up - and it’s not a bad chance – but it just seems like a long shot at this stage.
They faced a run of four games in nine days earlier this month and ended it with four points. How much of a toll did that take on them both physically and mentally?
I think quite a big one. They started ‘the week from death’, as Paul Warne described it, very well but missed chances cost them spectacularly against Huddersfield. It was a goalless draw but should have been a game they took three points from. Then against QPR they were excellent and got the deserved victory. Two days later, they were playing Coventry, who are a good team, which didn’t help, and it was similar against Birmingham, where it was a strongarm kind of match in which not a great deal happened. They created loads of chances but Birmingham were just more clinical. Since that time, they have had to play Middlesbrough but there were circumstances around that match where they were unfairly dealt with in terms of refereeing calls and the same against Barnsley the other day. They missed some absolute sitters but the goal shouldn’t have stood. It has all conspired against them at the worst possible time.
If they are to be relegated in the final fortnight, do you think there will there be a sense of what might have been, given that 17 of their 24 defeats so far have been by just a one-goal margin?
Every time Rotherham are in the Championship, it’s a question of will they or won’t they stay up. Paul Warne signs players who have fantastic characters and give everything for the shirt. There should be no quibbles or disagreements in that respect, it’s just about quality and quality costs money. Rotherham are an exceptionally well run club but they just can’t compete with some of the leading lights in the division. There have been an awful lot of games this season where it has been ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ because they have either missed chances or there has been a sloppy mistake at the back. They have not really been hammered by anybody in the calendar year, except maybe Watford, and they even ran Norwich close. It will be a massive shame if they do go down because they have given everything.
Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on this Tuesday?
There are two or three at Rotherham that I quite like. Depending on where he plays, Ben Wiles is a very good midfielder with a bright future ahead of him, while the player who will probably make life most difficult for Brentford is Michael Smith (above). He’s a big, physical, niggly centre forward - who is not slow in any way, shape or form - and has been a real lynchpin so far this season. Another I think has done well recently is Lewis Wing, who is a technically adept midfielder from Middlesbrough. I would like to add Freddie Ladapo to that list – and I should, really – as he has had a pretty good campaign but he has missed a lot of chances recently, too, and there have been some howlers.
How is Paul Warne likely to set up his side at the Brentford Community Stadium?
He made a lot of changes for the Barnsley game but the formation was similar. He, invariably, goes with three at the back and that has been a fair standard. Then there are wing-backs and four or three in midfield, effectively leaving one striker up front. It does, however, depend where people like Ladapo come into the equation, so it’s not quite set in stone, particularly after Matt Crooks was sent off at Oakwell. There are certain tactical quirks that are up in the air but I’d be surprised if it didn’t start with three at the back.
Brentford came away with a 2-0 win at the New York Stadium back in December. What’s your score prediction for this one?
I would love Rotherham to win this game, of course, but clearly Brentford are in a far better place than they are right now and got that excellent result against Bournemouth the other day. I don’t think there will be much in it and I’d be surprised if it is a resounding victory, but it might end something like 1-0 or 2-1 to Brentford.
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