Last Saturday saw the first game of Kenny Jackett’s tenure as Rotherham United manager. It ended in another defeat, but in the aftermath, there was a newfound sense of optimism amongst the Rotherham faithful in anticipation of what is to come under the new regime.
The only goal of the game came in the 86th minute. Roy Beeren’s shot was kept out by Lee Camp, but the ball fell perfectly for Paul McShane who finished well to earn his side the victory. This result leaves Rotherham cut adrift by eight points in the relegation zone after their seventh consecutive league defeat.
It was Rotherham though who were creating the better chances for the first hour in spite of them not having as much possession as Reading; who had to rely on their ‘keeper, Ali Al-Habsi, to keep them in the game by making multiple outstanding saves.
Even though Rotherham did fall short this time out, the improvements on the pitch were clear to see. Jackett only lead one training session with his players on the morning of his appointment on Friday, but there was a profound difference in their defensive solidarity on Saturday compared to previous weeks.
A big factor in determining this was the decision to recall Richard Wood back into the starting eleven. The 31-year-old centre back did not make one appearance during Alan Stubbs’ time as manager, but was immediately moved back into his usual central defensive slot alongside youngster Dael Fry in Jackett’s first game.
He was a massive influence in last years’ unlikely resurgence to save the Yorkshire outfit from relegation and his no nonsense style, strength and experience shown during his his man of the match performance made it apparent that he had been severely missed so far this season.
A further welcoming sight in Rotherham’s armoury on Saturday is the newfound grit, desire and level of effort which has been missing from their performances under Alan Stubbs.
Stubbs always preferred a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Jackett decided to alternate that to a structured 4-4-2. This had the effect of firming up their defence, which meant that Reading were short of chances for most of the game despite having most of the possession.
The Reading manager, Jaap Stam, himself admitted that his side had been in a tough game at the New York Stadium on Saturday:
— Paul Davis (@paulm_davis) October 22, 2016
Rotherham have had an awful start to the season, picking up just six points in their 14 league games. But going off of this showing against a very capable and talented Reading side, it seems like good times are ahead.
All Rotherham fans can ask for is that their team give it their all each week and if they do that and are still defeated, they can’t have many complaints. They will never be able to compete with the extreme level of spending power which is now considered the norm in this division.
But what they lack in funds, must be made up with effort and work rate, which was shown with the highly successful tenures of Neil Warnock and Steve Evans in recent seasons.
Rotherham United are a team that have been overachieving in recent times and their fans have been treated to an extraordinary amount of success since their move to the New York Stadium. All of this would not have been thought to be feasible looking back to the times when the club was in administration and struggling to keep afloat.
It is not in Rotherham’s nature to go down without a fight and expect them to mount a comeback and an arduous battle for the rest of the season in an attempt to avoid the drop.
But if they do go down, they have the right manager to bring them back up to the second tier. Kenny Jackett is a man who’s already got Wolves and Millwall promoted to the second tier after a period of struggle.
Add to this the vast number of talented young players now at the club in Jon Taylor, Darnelle Fisher and Dominic Ball to just name a few and they look to have an enthusiastic and talented side which is capable of mounting a promotion charge should they find themselves in League One next year.
Although, if Rotherham manage to continue on with this level of commitment and desire that was on show on Saturday, they could always pull off another unthinkable escape from relegation like that of last season.