Marcus Braddock looks ahead to this evenings Carabao Cup tie with Rotherham United
Tonight, Shrewsbury Town take on Rotherham United in the Carabao Cup. When last we met, Shrewsbury and Rotherham played out the Play-Off final for a place in the Championship, with the Millers winning after extra time. Things didn't quite go according to plan in the Championship and they find themselves back as a bigger fish in the smaller pond of League One. Manager Paul Warne is still at the helm, which reflects an understanding of the difficulty of transitioning to the Championship.
Pre-season brought forth the usual raft of changes in personnel after relegation with midfielder Will Vaulks £2 million+ move to Cardiff and the £500,000 purchase of ex-Town loan striker Freddie Ladapo from Plymouth taking the pre-season headlines. Ladapo immediately repaid Rotherham's faith in him by scoring on his debut against Wimbledon. The Millers have also brought in another ex-Town loan Striker Carlton Morris but have seen ex-Town winger Jon Taylor leave at the end of his contract and sign for Doncaster.
So far it's been a mixed start to the season for the Millers. With a 2-1, opening day, away win at Wimbledon in League One followed by a 2-0 defeat in the Leasing.com Trophy (the new name for the Football League Trophy) to Manchester United. At the weekend, Rotherham's home fans had a difficult afternoon watching a 2-0 defeat by Lincoln at the New York Stadium, their 20th game in a row without a clean sheet.
Our form has been equally mixed with the win at home to Portsmouth followed by a heart-breaking defeat in injury time at Milton Keynes. I thought we'd done more than enough to deserve at least a point but fate decided otherwise. There were a fair few positives from the game though, having lost Ro-Shaun Williams, Omar Beckles slotted in and looked the part as we handled what MK tried to throw at us. I also thought that using Shaun Whalley in what looked like a withdrawn forward position worked really well, particularly in the first half when he made a huge difference using his pace and desire to put pressure on MK's defence. It meant they weren't able to think about what to do with the ball because they were too busy trying to keep it from Shaun Whalley.
Whether we adopt that particular tweak to the formation at home remains to be seen but it did answer the question about how to use a winger in a system that doesn't really need them. Romaine Vincelot had another good game in midfield, winning most of the 50/50 balls and denying space to the MK midfield. It's interesting to see the different parts of the team working toward the same goal, which appears to be to snuffing out developing moves before they happen and trying to force our own. Obviously more goals are needed, we can all see that and the transfer window is still open, so I think the area will be addressed but it's good to see that we're not rushing into deals we may regret, just to get a body in.
Head to Head
I've already covered our most recent meeting but we also have a defeat in the Football League trophy in the 1990's to forget. We've played Rotherham 63 times over the years and we've won 28 of them, with the Millers winning 20. In all that time, neither Rotherham nor Town have scored more than four goals against the other in the league and only one team has scored more than four in cup competitions with the Millers winning 5-2 at Gay Meadow in January 1966 in the League Cup.
Anthony Backhouse from Cumbria is in his third season as a Football League Referee and officiated in the Conference before that. He was in charge at Montgomery Waters Meadow when Charlton beat us 3-0 last seasons and also when we drew 0-0 at home against AFC Wimbledon. The season before saw him at the Meadow again, this time for the 2-2 draw against Doncaster.
The pre-match press has all the usual flattery with Paul Warne speaking of his admiration for Sam Ricketts being a “good, solid bloke” on the Millers official website. He's also mentioned wanting to replace the wingers that he lost in the closed season and change the formation, a red herring?
Sam Ricketts seems more focused on the game, with the usual sort of quotes about the benefits of progressing financially. He also mentioned that there were a couple of niggling injuries as well as Ro-Shaun Williams who came off injured at Milton Keynes.
So it's Rotherham, again! There was a season’s break from them but here we are again, this time in the league cup with at least two more games with them to come. I mean no disrespect to anyone connected with the club or the town but I'm tired of playing Rotherham, which is handy as I'm on holiday and will miss this one. They're probably equally tired of playing us too; Paul Warne even mentioned it in his pre-match comment comparing it to a league game given our frequent league meetings recently.
I like this competition; it's become an opportunity for clubs like us to get some national exposure and a little extra money earlier in the season. I think we can win tonight, Rotherham doesn’t look to have quite got used to League One again yet and it might be a good time to play them. Their lack of recent clean sheets is encouraging and hopefully, we can extend that run for them. However, they carry a potent threat that we know about in Freddie Ladapo and Carlton Morris and I'm reminded of how strikers often score against old clubs! Hopefully, our defence has enough know-how to keep them at bay and the rest of the team can push on and put us into the draw for the next round.