Sunderland AFC Match Preview – Milling Over a Trip to Rotherham

Jon Lambert expects a return to winning ways for Sunderland in tonight's trip to Rotherham United.

The games are coming thick and fast now, with the Lads back on the road tonight for a trip to the New York Stadium to face last season’s League One runners-up, Rotherham United.

The Millers are once again proving that the Championship is very much for Christmas and not for life, as they find themselves in an all too familiar relegation battle. It now all makes sense what Rotherham super-fans the Chuckle Brothers were on about for all those years with that “To me, to you” patter (RIP Barry).

After their defeat on Saturday at the hands of Coventry City, and with fellow relegation rivals picking up wins, Millers boss Matthew Taylor will be under big pressure to get a result against us promotion hopefuls.

Or is he? Getting relegated every other season is kind of what Rotherham do. Their record on their own turf has actually been fairly encouraging, picking up 20 points from 15 games, and a win tonight would put their home form identical to our own – the big difference being we’ve picked up points away from home consistently. The Millers have only one win since the start of November, a scenario which has QPR vibes about it, so the Lads will be hoping to dish out similar treatment to last week.

Rotherham remain without influential midfielder Ben Wiles after he suffered a serious ankle injury against Alex Neil’s Stoke CityTM on Boxing Day, and defender Sean Morrison is out for the season. Striker Tom Eaves, who Lads fans will know from our League One days, has struggled to make any impact, and is very much an afterthought on the bench these days.

Northern Irishman Connor Washington has also struggled with just five goals to his name this term, so the hope will be on January signing Jordan Hugill from Norwich City. The former Seaham Red Star man has seen more clubs than Tiger Woods, and has failed to find a home during his rise from non-league football, which included a spell in the Glenn Hoddle Academy to rehabilitate his career. Although he hasn’t scored yet, he is building up minutes, much like our loanee Joe Gelhardt, after spending the first half of the season surplus to Canary requirements.

In Monday’s press conference Tony Mowbray was his usual candid and cryptic self all at the same time, hinting at a couple of knocks from weekend, but not disclosing whom. Niall Huggins is busy training, but is still being managed back to the first team squad. Jewison Bennette got kicked in the calf at QPR, which kept him out of Saturday’s game; the gaffer is confident he will feature Tuesday night in some capacity. And Lynden Gooch “has his boots” on, which I can only assume is the stage just before being “back on grass,” which is another positive as Trai Hume continues without a back up.

The ‘Gaffer Cake’ has also hinted that this time around “There will be changes in the defence,” as he manages the effect of five games in 15 days on his squad. From that I’d expect Dennis Cirkin to come in for Aji Alese, and possibly a breather for Hume if utility man Luke O’Nien slots in at right-back. That said, I’d imagine Hume will be desperate to play after conceding Saturday’s penalty, which may give the head coach something to think about. He may need to a (chocolate) coin toss to decide. Jack Clarke, scorer of great goals only, is closing in on Ross Stewart’s top scorer mark, but much like O’Nien is also closing in on 10 bookings, so both will need to hold their discipline (not horses, Luke).

As confident as we are going into this game, we are tired, we are wounded, and we did get absolutely bodied at their place last season. A lot has changed since then: we are a side less concerned about who we are facing and more concerned about how good we can be from game to game.

With the Millers massively struggling for goals, scoring just two in their last five, the plan will be to press high and dominate this temporary Championship club clinging onto their visitors’ pass. With all the respect in the world, and regardless of whether it is a squad effort Tuesday, a win and a clean sheet is all I can see in this fixture.

Ha’way the Lads.