Neil Warnock predicts today’s South Yorkshire derby could be like “Wacky Races” as his Rotherham United side look to overcome opponents he believes may be playing in the Premier League next season.
The Millers head to Hillsborough to take on Sheffield Wednesday and manager Warnock will have his team fired up, knowing only their best form will give them any prospect of upsetting the odds against Carlos Carvalhal’s promotion contenders.
“We have to be on the top of our game, make no mistake,” he said,“On paper, we haven’t got a chance. But derbies aren’t like that. Derbies are on the day. Anything can happen. My lads, I’m sure, will be looking forward to it. Derbies are intense. They’re usually like Wacky Races. This one will be no different, I’m sure.”
Third-bottom Rotherham are fighting for their Championship safety and this afternoon’s clash pits the club with the second worst defensive record in the second tier against the second top scorers who are in sixth place with 12 games of the season left.
“We’ve conceded one of the most in the division, so it’s a good battle, isn’t it, against almost the top scorers,” Warnock said.
The Millers go into the game lifted by the first win of Warnock’s four-game tenure, a 2-1 victory over Brentford last weekend, but the 67-year-old accepts that, to most observers, a second successive triumph is about as likely as him receiving a warm welcome from the Owls fans.
“Wednesday have got the best side they’ve had for many, many years,” he said. “They’ve got probably the best owners because they’ve put their money where their mouth is, They seem to be right behind the club.
“And I think they’ve got the best manager they’ve had for many, many years. It’s a good recipe. When I look at the teams likely to be in the play-offs, I think they have as good a chance of going up as anybody.”
Rotherham are likely to pick from pretty much the same squad which saw off the Bees at AESSEAL New York Stadium eight days ago. Defender Lloyd Doyley is back training but not available yet after picking up an injury on his debut at Burnley last month.
Centre-half Richard Wood is expected to be in the Rotherham line-up to face his old team, along with another former Owl, left-back Joe Mattock
“The longer it stays at 0-0, the more edgy Wednesday will get,” Wood said. Their fans will expect to beat Rotherham but last week we showed what we’re about.”
Warnock warned: “I think Wednesday have ingredients in their team that are very strong and physical. They’ve got super players like Barry Bannan who, on his day, is as good as anyone, but if you have a look at their back four and strikers, they can look after themselves,”
Yet, matching a trait the Millers have famously possessed in recent years, his renowned fighting spirit is never far from the surface.
“This is what challenges are all about,” he said. “It’s why you have to roll your sleeves up and have a game-plan.
“At this stage in my career, I’m enjoying it, The only pressure I feel under is personal pressure, trying to do the best I can to get us out of the cart.
“The Championship is all about on the day, who’s up for it, who’s going to take their chances. There is no expectation on us. I have to hope that on the day my better players come through.”