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First team

Media View: Expert insight on Rotherham

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to return to winning ways when they face in-form Championship rivals Rotherham United on Wednesday (8.15pm kick-off).

The Cherries battled out a 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest on Saturday following victories over Birmingham and Burnley under caretaker-manager Jonathan Woodgate.

Rotherham, promoted as runners-up to Coventry in League One last season, arrive at Vitality Stadium having enjoyed an upturn in fortunes since the turn of the year.

After drawing 2-2 with the Cherries at the AASSEAL New York Stadium at the end of November, the Millers lost five and won one of their next six games.

However, they are currently on their best run under Paul Warne in the Championship having won four and drawn one of their past seven games.

Warne’s team have also won three away games on the trot in the second tier for the first time since 2003 – at Derby (1-0), Middlesbrough (3-0) and Preston (2-1).

The improved form owes much to the partnership of giant frontmen Michael Smith and Matt Crooks, the Championship Player of the Month for January.

Rotherham have scored at least one goal in their past 11 games, including an effort from Matthew Olosunde in a 2-1 defeat at Everton in the FA Cup.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Paul Davis who covers the fortunes of the Millers for the Rotherham Advertiser.

ROTHERHAM UNITED IN PROFILE

Manager: Paul Warne (pictured above)

Club captain: Richard Wood

Last game: Rotherham United 1-2 Cardiff City (Championship)

Leading league goalscorer 2020/21: Matt Crooks and Michael Smith (seven)

League position: 21st

Past six league results: DWLWWL

afcb.co.uk: Before the teams met in November, you said anything outside of the bottom three would be a good finish for Rotherham – how confident are you of that happening?

PD: More confident now than I was then and, back then, I was quite confident.

Rotherham have changed to a 3-5-1-1 formation with two big lads up front.

Michael Smith and Matt Crooks have gelled and Rotherham look a threat going forward against any team now.

They get lots of balls into the box and the two big lads have been causing a lot of problems.

They are out of the bottom three going into the Bournemouth game and I’m not saying they won’t slip back in there because it’s very tight.

But at the end of the season I think there’s a very good chance they will be outside of the drop zone.

afcb.co.uk: Four wins and a draw in their past seven games – what’s their form been like?

PD: It’s their best run under Paul Warne in the Championship.

They won back-to-back games for the first time – beating Derby 3-0 at the New York Stadium and then winning 2-1 at Preston.

They have also won three away games on the bounce and that’s the first time they have done that at this level since 2003.

They set up well for away games. They have five in midfield and are a strong, hard-working group who press teams and get at them. When they get the ball, they break very quickly and are a real threat.

afcb.co.uk: Tell us a little about Matt Crooks (pictured above), who was named Championship Player of the Month for January?

PD: It was thoroughly deserved.

He’s a big unit at 6ft 5ins but he’s also really mobile. I think a lot of teams are surprised at just how much he can run and how quick he is.

Rotherham do a one-mile time trial in pre-season and he was the first player ever to break five minutes this season.

It was some achievement for a lad of his height. He did it in four minutes, 57 seconds and Michael Smith was only a few seconds behind him on 5.03.

He generally plays as a central midfielder but has been pushed in behind Smith and they have dovetailed very well.

Smith is a big target man who comes for the ball and gives a good pass. Crooks runs in behind and both of them have been among the goals.

Crooks got his January award for three goals in four games. But it’s not just the goals, it’s the quality of his all-round play as well. He is an excellent player for Rotherham.

afcb.co.uk: Who is Rotherham’s one to watch?

PD: Matt Crooks and Michael Smith are the obvious dangers.

Ryan Giles (pictured above) might only come on as a sub but he is lightning fast.

He’s 21 and is a left wing-back who Rotherham have signed on loan from Wolves.

He spent the first half of the season with Coventry City and did really well early on. I think he faded a little which is why Wolves recalled him.

He came to Rotherham and scored four minutes into his debut against Middlesbrough.

He scored again against Derby and if he gets the ball anywhere in the opposition’s half he will cause problems. He’s got some stardust in his feet and beats people for fun.

I think he needs to improve defensively for Paul Warne to be completely happy with him but going forward he’s a real threat. He’s added genuine Championship quality to Rotherham’s squad.

afcb.co.uk: Cherries fans have a lot of affection for Shaun MacDonald (pictured above) – how is he doing?

PD: He’s been really unfortunate with injuries during his time at Rotherham, as he has for most of his career.

He was fit at the start of the season and looking really good in a defensive-midfield role.

He mopped everything up, got hold of the ball, always made the right decision and always made the right pass. He was a key man.

But he went up for a header against Stoke at the end of October, landed badly and broke his leg.

He has got back in the past few weeks and because Rotherham have been going pretty well his chances have been limited.

He has had some game-time and started the 3-0 win at Middlesbrough, which was a great result.

He’s a great player to have on the bench because of his quality and is certainly going to play his part.

Rotherham have just lost Jamie Lindsay to injury for two months so I can see Shaun featuring a lot more in the next few games.

He’s a great lad to have around the camp and a lovely man. He’s a great professional who is loved by everybody at Rotherham.

Even when he’s not on the field, he still has a big influence on what’s going on.

afcb.co.uk: Are any first-choice players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?

PD: Jamie Lindsay is the big miss. He leads Rotherham’s press and the Millers' game is all about getting the ball back and trying to do something in the final third.

They still have a couple of long-term injuries. Chiedozie Ogbene, who was such a dangerous winger in the League One promotion campaign, is around three weeks away after knee surgery.

Joe Mattock, who has been a great servant to the club for several years, won’t be back until March.

Rotherham have been hit hard by injuries this season but the problems are starting to clear up. They are in pretty good shape on the whole.

afcb.co.uk: You went for a draw when the teams met in November and were correct – what’s your score prediction this time?

PD: I’m a supporter of the club as well as someone who chronicles what happens to them. I always try to be very objective.

Rotherham have done well against the teams in the top half this season and have a good record.

If both teams play to their best, Bournemouth would win ten times out of ten.

If Rotherham play to their best and Bournemouth are just a little off it, particularly with no fans in the ground, you don’t know what might happen.

I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that’s the case and go for a 1-1 draw with Crooks to score. 

You can follow Paul on Twitter – @paulm_davis

Officials: Keith Stroud (referee), Ian Cooper (assistant), Rob Smith (assistant), David Rock (fourth official).

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