Rotherham United v West Bromwich Albion; New York Stadium, Friday 7th April 2023, 1pm
After a pair of frustrating draws, Albion are now into must-win territory if they are to keep their hopes of a play-off spot alive. Friday’s trip to Rotherham United kicks off a run of four games against teams in the bottom half of the table, albeit Stoke City may not be by the time that fixture comes around. The other three, against the Millers, QPR and Blackpool, are all matches that the Baggies need to win.
Victory at the New York Stadium would, of course, be a first win on the road since the middle of January when the Baggies came from 2-0 down to beat Luton Town – incidentally, Burnley are the only team to have beaten the Hatters since then. Corberán’s team really should have beaten Cardiff City before the international break but had to make do with a point. There can be no further mistakes and they need to be ruthless from now on.
I think that six wins from the remaining eight games will be enough – it could require fewer points if other teams continue to falter, but 74 should be more than enough. With difficult trips to Stoke City and Sheffield United to come, as well as the visits of Norwich City and Sunderland, the likes of Rotherham United need to be beaten.
The Millers had an impressive start to the season under Paul Warne and were fifth in the table in late August having won two and drawn three of their opening five Championship games. A 3-0 defeat at Sunderland was the only league defeat they had suffered when Derby County asked for permission to speak to Warne about their vacant head coach position and a few days later, his six-year tenure at Rotherham was brought to an end as he opted to make the switch to Pride Park.
After a 2-0 home defeat to Wigan Athletic under the caretaker control of former Albion full back, Lee Peltier, and Richard Wood, the Millers appointed Exeter City boss, Matt Taylor, as their new Head Coach. It’s been a tough first season in the Championship for Taylor winning just six of his twenty-eight games in charge. Rotherham are just above the relegation zone but only two points ahead of a resurgent Huddersfield Town who occupy the last of the bottom three positions, although their hopes have been boosted by the six-point deduction handed to Reading this week that has seen the Royals drop below the Millers. Taylor’s team have won just two of their last eleven games, home wins over Sunderland and QPR, and were beaten 2-1 by Preston North End in their last home game which was just before the international break.
Taylor’s team have produced the odd shock result such as the 4-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, the 0-0 draw with Sheffield United and the 2-1 win over Sunderland, but Albion will be expected to win this game and they cannot settle for anything less than all three points.
Based on the photos from the open training session from Tuesday, it had seemed that Okay Yokuşlu has recovered from the knock that forced him off against Millwall, but it transpires that he will miss the Rotherham game. That means that Corberán will need to shake up his midfield pairing will probably see Taylor Gardner-Hickman coming in, with Jake Livermore perhaps taking a spot on the bench. I’d be surprised to see too many other changes from the eleven that started last Saturday – Alex Palmer could be recalled if deemed fit enough, and he may well swap the starting striker between BTA and Dike for these two games in four days. Meanwhile, the Spaniard’s praise for Chalobah following what some felt was an indifferent performance last time out would suggest he’ll keep his place.
Albion should win this game, but at this stage of the season, they simply must. There are no second chances now.
Friday afternoon will see just the 15th meeting between Albion and Rotherham United and the 10th in the league. The Millers have beaten the Baggies just twice, both in the early part of this century. Their only home victory for United came at Millmoor in November 2001. Goals from Chris Swailes and Alan Lee gave Ronnie Moore’s team a 2-0 lead before Darren Moore reduced the arrears late on for Megson’s Albion, but they were unable to nick a point.
The only meeting between the sides so far at the New York Stadium saw Darren Moore’s team win 4-0 thanks to a Dwight Gayle hat trick and a goal from Harvey Barnes just before Christmas in 2018. Semi Ajayi’s performance for the Millers that day impressed the watching Albion scouts sufficiently to bring him to the Hawthorns the following summer. Friday’s match will be the Nigerian international’s first return to the home of his former club.
Another memorable trip to Rotherham for the Baggies was in May 1993. There was a party atmosphere in the away end at Millmoor that day for Albion’s final away game of the season – their place in the play-offs was already secured and two late goals from Paul Raven and Bob Taylor saw Ossie Ardlies’ team secure another three points with a 2-0 victory. Former Albion striker, Imre Varadi, was sent off for the hosts that day while current Watford boss, Chris Wilder, was playing at left back.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
17 Dec 2022 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 3 (Wallace, Diangana, Thomas-Asante)
Rotherham United 0
Last meeting at Rotherham United
22 Dec 2018 – League Championship
Rotherham United 0
West Bromwich Albion 4 (Gayle (3), Barnes)
Albion’s Record against Rotherham United
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