Millers will look to push on in Championship next season with more investment
21 February ~ Three years ago, Rotherham United were about to embark on a run of one victory in eight games that would end any aspirations of promotion from League Two and cost manager Andy Scott his job. Steve Evans was tempted away from Crawley Town to take charge at Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, and was certainly an unpopular appointment; his past misdemeanors with Boston and Crawley the main worry rather than any on-field concerns.
In contrast, Tuesday night’s 3-3 draw with Derby County at the New York Stadium attracted an almost capacity crowd, leaving Rotherham four points above the drop zone and in a solid position to achieve safety despite being the smallest club in the division. Evans’s antics on the sideline attract scorn from opposition fans and managers – Neil Lennon was furious with his counterpart’s constant harassment of the fourth official a couple of weeks ago.
Yet no one could argue with Evans’s record at Rotherham with back-to-back promotions achieved after recovering from 2-0 down to beat Leyton Orient on penalties in the League One play-off final last May. This term has been a more stressful experience, though recent form has improved after a bleak winter for Rotherham fans.
One criticism of Evans during the bad run was that he disassembled his promotion side too quickly. Since that Wembley win an implausible 26 players have been signed either permanently or on loan, with 39 different players being used over the season.
After overcoming Leeds in October, a run of one win in 14 league games gave wind to rumours of Evans’s job being under threat, though recent form has picked up to move Rotherham closer to safety. Matt Derbyshire, who only scored his first league goal in late January, is now the club’s top scorer with five goals, which includes three in his last three appearances.
Today the Millers visit Wolves – a ground where they lost 6-4 last season – knowing a win ahead of 22nd-place Millwall’s visit next Saturday could all but guarantee safety. Most Millers fans would have accepted that prospect at the beginning of the season, this being Rotherham’s first at the second level since 2004-05, though they are just five points from the top-half.
Chairman Tony Stewart has hinted at further investment next season and is open to expanding the New York Stadium should demand necessitate; an average of just over 10,000 is just 2,000 short of capacity, though it remains to be seen how many renew season tickets with prices expected to rise in 2015-16. Charles Ducksbury