It’s too early to say whether Neil Redfearn has what it takes to keep Rotherham in the Championship or fulfil his own target of achieving safety with plenty to spare, save to say his efforts under testing conditions at Leeds put him in credit and his first steps in his new role at the New York Stadium have been positive.
Direct, chaotic and only mildly effective towards the end of Steve Evans’ tenure, the Millers have switched to a more patient possession-based approach under the new man and already look vastly more cultured and capable. The players, according to Redfearn, have enjoyed having the ball at their feet, even if it does feel a little strange keeping hold of something they previously treated like a hot potato.
Defeat at Brentford last weekend is difficult to quantify given how the Bees hit the reset button a month ago and started from scratch under Lee Carsley. Prior to last weekend, the Londoners were bottom of the shot ratio table but victory at Wolves in midweek puts a rather different spin on their prospects. All in all, it’s not an exhibit on which to devote too much attention.
More insightful perhaps is the midweek draw with Reading. The Royals are the division’s clear shot-ratio frontrunners, yet the Millers switched to a midfield diamond and matched them over 90 minutes. Indeed, they were very much in the ascendancy after the break following a pep talk from Redfearn to lose their inhibitions and believe in themselves a bit more.
High praise was forthcoming from Steve Clarke afterwards, the Reading manager honest enough to admit his centre backs had been messed about and dragged out of their comfort zone more than in any game previously. Reading had conceded only 21 shots on target in their first 11 matches, so Rotherham’s tally of six was quite a break from the norm.
Therefore, the home side could represent a spot of value here. My 24-match ratings make the Millers quarter-ball favourites in any case, a verdict that remains consistent when refining the numbers to purely this season’s data. Even if you make allowances for Wednesday’s steady improvement under Carlos Carvalhal since the September break, going beyond parity in the 90-minute betting is a stretch.
The Owls have made positive strides in recent weeks but victories over Fulham, Brentford (pre-Carsley) and Preston were all achieved against opposition at a low ebb. However, this isn’t about trying to find fault with Wednesday, more a matter of buying into what Rotherham are doing and how the element of surprise can work in their favour.
If we assume that Redfearn sticks with the diamond and work to the notion that a team is less likely to concede goals when it enjoys large chunks of possession, then the 9/2 available on Rotherham to win to nil might also be a bet worth having. Based on my own calculations using this season’s data, the bet should be no bigger than 4/1.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.