Throughout the second half of the 2018/19 season, millwallfc.co.uk will be analysing The Lions' opponents by taking a look back at their campaign so far. Ahead of Rotherham United’s visit to The Den in a crucial contest in the Sky Bet Championship, we take a look at the fortunes of The Millers on the pitch this campaign…
Following Rotherham United’s Play-Off success to elevate themselves back into The Championship, the clear task of preparing for consolidation in the second tier was Paul Warne’s immediate priority. With that came a busy and demanding pre-season schedule, with seven games being played across three weeks including a training camp in Austria. The Millers secured five wins during the summer, including against Premier League Cardiff City at the New York Stadium. With a restricted budget to compete with far more equipped League rivals, Warne looked to recruit smartly, and completed the free transfer of former top-flight defender Billy Jones from Sunderland as well as securing Kyle Vassell, Sean Raggett and goalkeeper Marek Rodak among others.
Rotherham’s return to The Championship began with a baptism of fire away at Brentford, going down by five goals to one at Griffin Park and beginning 2018/19 at the foot of the table. Three home League matches along with a trip to Leeds United remained in the opening month of the season, as well as a Carabao Cup First Round tie against Wigan Athletic. Warne’s fortunes turned the following week, as The Millers kept an encouraging clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Ipswich Town in their first home fixture. This was followed by a 3-1 dispatching of Wigan in the Cup, before a 2-0 defeat at Elland Road. After a thrilling spectacle against Hull saw Rotherham edged out 3-2 at the New York Stadium, Millwall made an early Sunday afternoon visit to South Yorkshire on 26th August. A sole winner from Norwich City loanee Raggett handed Rotherham all three points, before The Millers were beaten 3-1 at Everton in the Second Round of the Carabao Cup. Warne’s men went into September in a very respectable 15th position.
Another mixed bag ensued for Rotherham in September following the closure of the loan market, as Wigan Athletic came out on top in the month’s opener at the DW Stadium by a solitary strike. The odd goal was proving to already be crucial for The Millers one way or another, as they claimed their third 1-0 home win of the season against Frank Lampard’s Derby County after the international break. Quickfire away defeats to Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest within four days of one another gave Rotherham a possibly expected setback, before the 10th League game of the season saw Warne’s side collect their first draw in a home clash with Stoke City, The Potters recovering from two down to take a point and consign Rotherham to 18th place.
After their absence from a draw until the last game of September, Rotherham went on to draw another nine of their next 12 – four of those arriving in October. A stalemate at the New York against Bristol City opened the month, before the break in the record occurred in a 3-1 away defeat to Birmingham City. A 1-1 result at home to Bolton – arguably a frustrating game not to take three points from – preceded away draws at Middlesbrough and Preston North End, results which pleased Millers fans. Rotherham entered November in 21st, maintaining their place in staving off the drop.
Just four games loomed for The Millers in November, as Warne looked to turn drawn games into wins. Whilst the month remained unbeaten for Rotherham and the side hit seven goals, three draws followed. Two late penalties to come from behind and beat Swansea City 2-1 began the month in terrific circumstances, before taking a respectable draw – albeit following a late lead – at Blackburn Rovers. A point apiece in two entertaining encounters at the New York followed, against Sheffield United and QPR, with The Millers earning dramatic 2-2 draws. The side moved up two places in four weeks, moving towards December and the Christmas period.
A packed December was ahead for Championship clubs as the season picked up pace. Unfortunately for Rotherham, the side were unable to find a winning formula as they picked up just two points from a possible 18. After taking a half-time lead at Norwich, The Millers went down 3-1 at Carrow Road before a 2-2 draw at Hillsborough with local rivals Sheffield Wednesday. A late equaliser saved Warne’s men’s blushes at home to Reading, before 4-0 home humbling by free-scoring West Bromwich Albion. Narrow away defeats to Bristol City and Bolton dropped Rotherham into the relegation zone for the first time since the opening day as 2019 got underway.
With rivals around Rotherham strengthening their squads in January, Warne recruited holding midfielder Matt Crooks from Northampton Town and allowed two of his squad to go out on loan. Rotherham started the New Year on a positive note, returning to winning ways against Preston at the New York, but then lost their next four matches, including a 7-0 Emirates FA Cup defeat at Manchester City, as well as losses to Ipswich, Brentford and Leeds. With the New Year’s Day win enough to lift The Millers back above the drop zone, the side will look to improve and consolidate throughout February.