Rotherham United: No sleeping easy for Millers boss Steve Evans

Matt Derbyshire scores against Brighton
Matt Derbyshire scores against Brighton

The fight for Championship survival keeps manager Steve Evans awake in the early hours ... and there could be more sleepless nights ahead even though his Rotherham United side are close to safety.

The Millers travel to Middlesbrough tomorrow with many pundits predicting they need only one more win to safeguard their status in the second tier.

But Evans refuses to accept that’s the case, warning: “We are far from safe. We can’t think for one minute that we are safe until we have enough points to say somebody cannot catch us.

“It’s pretty normal for Steve Evans to be walking around a kitchen at three in the morning, but it’s normally fighting for promotion and making sure that’s right.

“This is a different fight. Winning this fight would be the biggest achievement given the resources we work with versus the average in this league.”

After the crucial Easter-Monday win over Brighton, 21st-placed Rotherham are now seven points clear of the drop zone, with Millwall, at home to Watford tomorrow, in 22nd and Wigan, at Fulham tonight, in 23rd. Blackpool are already relegated.

“Obviously Blackpool can’t catch us, so we need to have enough points that Millwall or Wigan or Fulham or Brighton, whoever it is, can’t catch us,” Evans said.

“That’s the only time we will be able to say we will be part of what is a wonderful competition next season.

The Millers face a Boro side wounded by recent defeast to Bournemouth and Watford but with the meanest defence in the division and still only one point away from the two automatic promotion spots.

“Middlesbrough are one of the best teams in the league. I said that earlier in the season,” Evans said.

“They’ve got a very gifted manager in Aitor Karanka. It will be difficult for us on Saturday. We can’t go there and think it will be any different.”

But Boro are missing one of their most influential players, midfielder and skipper Grant Leadbitter, and the Millers boss believes the weight of expectation they’re under could help his side.

“We’ve been at the top end of leagues fighting for pomotion and I know what it’s like - the longer you don’t go in front, or if you’re only one in front, it’s a problem because the opposition can go and grab a goal,” he said.

“When we’ve got players like Matt Derbyshire and Jordan Bowery and have Danny Ward back available to us, we’re always capable of scoring a goal. We’ll set up to not only frustrate them but to also play with a purpose and try to force them back a bit.

“They’ve got a good player in every position and a good second player for every position. We’ve got some good players and we feel if we play at our best we’re capable of going there and making it a game. We know we’ve got pressure. But the pressure on them will be incredible.

“Leadbitter is obviously a loss for them. He’s a top player, he’s played in the Premier League many, many times. They have good players like Adam Forshaw and Dean Whitehead to come in, but you can’t always replace someone like him.”

Evans spoke to former Wigan boss Malky Mackay this week to commiserate with his old friend on his sacking and also to get the lowdown on Boro against whom the Latics lost 1-0 on Good Friday.

With Derbyshire in goalscoring form and Ward fit after toe and knee injuries, Evans has attacking options at his disposal, and could increase them further after the weekend by recalling Jonson Clarke-Harris from his loan at Doncaster Rovers.

Centre-half Richard Wood has already been brought back from his loan at Crawley Town as the Millers seek to bloster their numbers for the final safety push.

Evans revealed: “The chairman said ‘I would rather have too many golf clubs in my bag than not enough’.”

Derbyshire, who failed to score in his first 14 Championship matches for the Millers, now has seven goals in his last 15.

Evans predicted: “Matt’s got a few more goals in him between now and the end of the season. I have a little thing that if he gets into double figures, considering how many games he didn’t score in at the start of the season, it will be wondeful run he’s been on.”

Right-back Frazer Richardson (calf pull) is unlikely to play again this season.