Meet the opposition: Summer overhaul, mixed start and a boss with ‘whole of Norfolk behind me’
PUBLISHED: 11:43 23 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:43 23 October 2019
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Ipswich Town host Rotherham United in a League One match at Portman Road tonight. STUART WATSON takes a look at the Millers’ squad and form.
ALWAYS IN A FIGHT
Rotherham completed successive promotions from League Two to the Championship in 2014. After two successful relegation battles, both times finishing 21st, they finished rock-bottom to return to the third-tier.
The response was instant. Paul Warne's men finished fourth before eventually beating Paul Hurst's over-achieving Shrewsbury side in the Play-Off Final at Wembley.
Last season, the Millers took their Championship fight all the way to the penultimate game, finishing nine points ahead of Ipswich but four short of safety.
The revolving doors moved quickly at The New York Stadium this summer - 17 out and 12 in altogether.
Defender Semi Ajayi and midfielder Will Vaulks were sold to Championship duo West Brom and Cardiff respectively for seven figure fees, while wing trio Ryan Williams (Portsmouth), Joe Newell (Hibernian) and Anthony Forde (Oxford United) turned down new deals to exit on Bosmans.
Key loan players Marek Rodak (Fulham keeper), Sean Raggett (Norwich defender) and Zak Vyner (Bristol City defender) all saw their loan deals expire too.
A club-record £500k fee was paid to sign striker Freddie Ladapo from Plymouth, defender Adam Thompson was picked up from the Bury wreckage, while experienced Welsh midfielder Shaun MacDonald arrived on a free from Wigan.
Young American right-back Matthew Olosunde was signed after his release by Manchester United, Scottish midfielder Jamie Lindsay was recruited from Ross County, while winger Chiedozie Ogbene arrived from Brentford.
The new crop of loanees are keeper Daniel Iversen (Leicester), midfielder Dan Barlaser (Newcastle), winger Jake Hastie (Rangers) and striker Carlton Morris (back again from Norwich).
It's been an up and down start for the new-look Millers.
There have been thumping victories against Bolton (6-1 away) and Coventry (4-0 at home), narrow away wins against AFC Wimbledon (2-1), Burton (1-0) and Blackpool (2-1), plus a spirited comeback draw at Sunderland (1-1).
There have also been disappointments: Failure to beat Lincoln (0-2), Tranmere (1-1) and Shrewsbury (0-0) at home, a limp 1-0 loss at Bristol Rovers and, most recently, losing 2-1 to in-form Oxford United at The New York Stadium.
"I thought it was a contest between two very good teams," said Warne. "The first half was quite equal and I honestly thought in the second half we would go out and win, but they kept their attacks going better than we did. I just didn't feel like we were fluent with the ball."
SYSTEM AND STYLE
An early season experiment with a 4-3-3 system that incorporated three centre-forwards has been abandoned. Warne is now operating with a 4-4-1-1 set-up.
Defensively they have been solid. Only Ipswich have conceded fewer than their 12 goals leaked in 12 games. Danish keeper Iversen is looking good at this level, right-back Olosunde has been hailed as a real find, while veteran centre-back Richard Wood keeps earning recalls.
The departures of Vaulks and Newell means the set-piece and long throw threat is not so strong, but big striker Michael Smith, as Town have found in the past, remains a real handful.
The recent returns to fitness of Julien Lamy, Trevor Clarke and Ogbene has boosted Warne's previously limited offensive options, while Ladapo also comes back into contention after missing the last two games (hamstring).
NORWICH FAN AT THE HELM
Paul Warne was born in Norwich, raised in North Walsham and grew up a huge Canaries fan.
Speaking last year, he said: "The funny thing is when we play Ipswich I always get texts off all my mates back home wishing me good luck, so when we take on Ipswich I always feel like I've got the whole of Norfolk behind me."
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