Richard Wood column: The Rotherham United defender on staying up and sticking one away!

I can't believe I didn't score!
I can't believe I didn't score!

There are two things I want to happen before the football season draws to a close.

The first and most obvious is to confirm our Championship survival.

We are not over the line yet and we need to remain focused in the last three games.

It wasn’t a brilliant performance against Huddersfield, who are a good footballing side who move the ball well and have pace in attack, but the lads dug in and battled well to earn a draw, maintaining our nine-point advantage over MK Dons.

The second is to score for Rotherham United!

How I didn’t score against Nottingham Forest, I will never know. Five glaring opportunities missed. Header after header just kept coming my way and if I had played all day I don’t think I would have hit the back of the net. It was just one of those days, and the lads certainly let me know about it in the dressing room after the game! It was all light-hearted but I know I should be doing a lot better in set-piece situations.

A large number of football matches are won and lost at those set-piece routines. Anyone involved in football at any level will say they are of huge importance at both ends of the pitch, and teams work tirelessly in training on the right set-up, offensively and defensively.

The team have been excellent in recent weeks defensively and we haven’t conceded a goal from a set-play since the new management team took over. This has contributed greatly to our 10-match unbeaten run. We are designated players to mark every game and the lads have been great at staying touch-tight and not letting their man score.

The West Ham and Leicester players meanwhile, took the art of ‘staying with your man’ to the extreme last weekend.

‘Grappling’ was seen in both boxes and, I admit, it must be a nightmare for referees to officiate. As a player, I come up against this problem every match and believe it to be part of how football is played. Set-pieces create huge pressure on an individual player, as there can be no excuses to the manager after the game if your man scores. You just have to make sure it isn’t your player who gets away, and, remember, that football is a contact sport.

Clearly, though, there is a limit to how far you can go, and if it is a blatant foul then a penalty should definitely be awarded. What’s the solution to this? Referees seem to get a lot of criticism for inconsistent decisions but they have such a difficult job dealing with this issue and have only a split second to call it.

On a side note, I am a huge supporter of JDRF, the world’s leading type 1 diabetes research charity. It funds research to find a cure for type 1 diabetes and helps people with type 1 and their families. I know first hand how difficult it is dealing with type 1 every day and the charity is very close to my heart. I am in a privileged position where I can help to promote this great cause, so during the warm-up against Wolves on Saturday I’ll be wearing a JDRF T-shirt to show my support and to raise awareness about the incurable condition. For more information about the charity please visit www.JDRF.org.uk

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