Every season I toy with previews, every season they seem to dwindle out. Still, all the best intentions come at the start of the campaign, don’t they?
I know I usually do a preview on the podcast which you can listen to here, but for those who don’t listen, I thought I’d have a quick look at Rotherham’s last outing, to put some meat on the bones of our opposition.
You might know who they have playing for them, but I’m going to look at a few of the links they have and how they’re expected to attack us this weekend.
The first thing to do is look at some of the personnel. I commented on Freddie Ladapo this week on the pod; he’s one I’m not sure about. He’s been labelled a goalscorer, but he’s got one decent season behind him with Plymouth and little more. He’ll be a threat, but I suspect they’ve got other players we should be equally as worried about.
They’ll come at us with three up front, or at least that’s how they lined up last weekend as they brushed aside AFC Wimbledon. It was a similar setup in midweek against Manchester United Under 21s as well, a game they lost 2-0.
Michael Smith is likely to play through the centre, he scored eight in 45 Championship outings last season. That’s what we’re up against; a Championship side. They might have been relegated and they might have lost two of their best players in Vaulks and Ajayi, but they’re one of the best teams in this division.
They’ve got options in the squad as well. In the middle of the park last week they had Matt Crooks and Shaun McDonald, but new signing Jamie Lindsay could come in as well. Crooks is a lad I like, he played for Northampton on the opening day of last season and has real guile about him.
At the back, we know all about Michael Ihiekwe (that’ll kill Lincoln he said, before we won the National League and Tranmere didn’t). He might have had a bit to say back in 2016/17, but he’s a decent lad at this level and alongside him, Clark Robertson is a real powerhouse. We’ll need plenty of craft to make chances this weekend, with the interesting battle set to take place, in my opinion, between Dan Barlaser and Jack Payne.
Barlaser is on loan from Newcastle and played 45 times for Accrington on loan last season. He’s going to be prowling in front of the back four and that is the territory Jack Payne will want to be dominant in. Our two central midfielders could have their work cut out in a straight battle with their opposite numbers.
The centre of the park is going to be very crowded which could suit us; our best links come when the ball is played out to the left or right. That’ll test Joe Mattock and Matthew Olosunde, the latter heading the Rotherham from Manchester United over the summer. He’ll be tasked with containing Jorge Grant, a really interesting duel.
Last week Rotherham made 320 passes with 71.56% accuracy. As I touched upon in the pod, we made fewer than that, 275 with 74% accuracy. It’s not a bad thing to have fewer passes, we created 14 shots to the 15 they had in their game; we didn’t distribute the ball as often but were just as effective in getting at goal.
Joe Mattock was involved in the top three link-ups for Rotherham, playing and receiving balls from Robertson, Crooks and Smith. Keeping him occupied and under pressure won’t win us the game, but it’ll help stifle them playing out from the back. It certainly seems they prefer to come out from the left, our attacking right, or at least they did last week.
Paul Warne admitted it’s likely to be an open, passing game when he spoke to their official site yesterday.
“The way we play is in an attacking format and there’s no fun in watching a team sit behind the ball,” said the guy who once kicked a ball in my face.
“Lincoln won’t do that and they’ll try to hurt us with the belief that they can win here, but fingers crossed we’ll have enough on the day to score more than them.”
The other point to consider is the aerial duels. As expected, Smith had the most duels for them last week, but Robertson won 88% of his at the back, Ihiekwe 92%. That’s going to be something we have to take into account as Tyler Walker will be very well marshalled. The best route to goal is going to be the same as this week at home; finding the channels and looking to overload the box where we can.
If we do get pegged back I have a concern the out ball will be easily dealt with, but if we can have an equal hold of the midfield area we could see another entertaining game of football, much like the opening day of the campaign.
However, Rotherham will be far stronger than Accrington and we’ll have our work cut out if we’re going to bring back a point.
Did you enjoy this article? do let me know in the comments below if it’s worth my time and effort most weeks. Cheers.