NCM L2 Predictions - 4th
Feature by Jacob Daniel
Updated Wednesday, 5th August 2009
Rotherham UnitedWe're now just one place away from the automatic spots with our League Two predictions and today we have the side who started the summer as favourites, Rotherham United...
Over before it began really, with the Millers having been given a 17 point penalty for financial issues. They never looked quite good enough to overhaul that and reach the play-offs, but it was quickly apparent their side was more than adequate to mean a relegation battle was unlikely. Mark Robins once again led his side into a season where their financial hopelessness meant his side was badly handicapped, but he impressed with his consistent side and spotted some real gems in the transfer market. Leading scorer Reuben Reid was all set to quit football before Robins handed him a lifeline and he repaid him with an excellent season. Then defecting to West Brom for £220,000.
The Millers also managed to turn the Don Valley Stadium into something of a fortress, despite it being comfortably the worst place NCM has ever had to watch a football match. Whilst rarely picking up big wins against sides (their 3-0 stroll past Notts at Meadow Lane being the biggest), Robins' side were capable of consistently grinding out results, particularly at home. This summer the pressure has been cranked up a notch on Robins, with the acquisition of £150,000-in-installments-man Tom Pope and a host of other eye-catching signings meaning the Robins were the bookies' favourites before we pitched up with our billionaire owners and ex-England manager.
A former Manchester United, Leicester City and Norwich City player, Mark Robins enjoyed a successful career that also included over 100 games for Rotherham. He decided to have a shot at management when the Millers came calling in 2007 and has done an excellent job at Millmoor (and then the DVS). In his first season he had Rotherham in the play-offs and on the verge of the automatic slots when administration struck, as it often does at Rotherham, meaning another season for the Millers was ruined by their less than useful accountants.
Last year he knew that Rotherham's season was going to be seriously effected by a 17 point penalty before it even begun, but still managed to motivate his side to coast to safety and reach a points haul that would've seen them comfortably amongst the division's leading sides. This year the pressure is really on, however. Robins has been given permission to use the latest RUFC chequebook to good effect and has added some smart (and some not so smart) signings to his already useful looking side.
The Millers will once again be looking to experienced 'keeper Andy Warrington to help keep the ball out of the net, with young Jamie Annerson (who is now in his third spell at Rotherham but is yet to play a league game) as back up, with the promising Steve Cann surprisingly released. At the back, Dale Tonge is as steady as they came in this division, whilst the centre back partnership of Ian Sharps and former Notts man Nick Fenton was key to the Millers last term. Pablo Mills can also play at the back, but has been used in midfield more often than not by Robins. Jamie Green was first choice left back last term, but he could find his place usurped by Stephen Brogan, an extremely promising youngster who missed the whole of last season due to a horrific injury.
In midfield Robins has, interestingly, decided to spend his budget on two old heads on the right wing. Paul Warne, a former Millers favourite, and Andy Liddell have both signed, with NCM believing one clever but ageing winger-cum-striker being enough. Nicky Law, signed from Sheffield United, can also play on the right but impressed mainly in the middle on loan from Bradford last season. Club captain Pablo Mills is uncompromising and strong in the centre whilst former Port Vale man Mickey Cummins should really be one of the better players at this level, but it is yet to really happen for the Irishman at Darlington or Rotherham. Former Stockport County man Jason Taylor was key to the Hatters' promotion and provides a good engine in the centre whilst Danny Harrison will also be fighting for places. On the left, Robins has snapped up Chester City's Kevin Ellison on a free transfer. Upfront the main man will be Tom Pope, signed from Crewe Alexandra for an initial £60,000. When not brawling on the streets of Stoke, Pope can be a good asset for a side at this level. Liddell and Warne could both be deployed upfront, whilst Robins also has the use of Ryan Taylor, a product of the Millers' youth system who's never really cemented his place in the team. Drewe Broughton is probably only going to play against us when he will inevitably score a hat-trick.
Rotherham's place as one of the division's favourites is understandable and well deserved, but Robins could probably have spent his budget slightly better this season to ensure their place as title challengers. Pope is a good signings, but the wages used on Warne and Liddell would have been better spent on a pacy striker as a replacement for Reid, who has looked likely to leave all summer. Between Pope, Warne, Liddell, Taylor and Broughton there is a horrific lack of pace, which is such a key attribute in this division. None are proven goalscorers either, with even Pope being known as much for his hold up play as his finishing. His midfield looks talented but saturated with a few good players having to settle with a place on the bench by the looks of things, but the defence is certainly a match for anyone at this level.