Rotherham United: Why Joe Newell is being held back by the Millers until the play-offs
Rotherham United will rest key man Joe Newell this weekend in a bid to protect the winger for their impending play-off assault on League One promotion.
Newell, who has played a major role in the Millers securing a top-six spot, is nursing a minor groin problem.
Manager Paul Warne says the left-sided 25-year-old could have featured at home to in-form Blackpool in the final match of the regular season on Saturday if necessary.
But, with the start of the play-offs only nine days away, he will take no chances with the fitness of a player who can score goals and also create them.
“Joe is a little bit sore in the groin so I don’t think I’ll be risking him playing a part at the weekend,” Warne said. “He’s been excellent. He’s been a real attacking threat. He’s good on set-pieces and he can have the ball in tight areas.
“He’s been a revelation for us this year. He’s had the best season of his career. It’s a pity we’re missing him, but I’ve said all season that I’ve got four really good wingers, so it’s no big drama.”
One player who is expected to see action against the Seasiders, who have won four and drawn one of their last five fixtures, is left-back Joe Mattock.
The defender has been out for seven matches but is fit again after a hamstring injury and needs to sharpen up ahead of the shoot-out for a place in the Championship.
Ben Purrington has done well in Mattock’s absence, so Warne has a difficult decison to make over who starts at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
“Ideally, Joe will play some part on Saturday,” Warne said. “He needs to get back on the pitch. There was a reserve game today that I could have played him in, but I think he will have got more benefit from training with us. We trained on the pitch.
“I will look to get him some game-time on Saturday. But sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to.
“Last Saturday (at Plymouth Argyle), I spoke to the three central midfielders (Will Vaulks, Richie Towell and Matt Palmer) and said I would mix their time up and bring on Matty.
“Then (winger) Ryan Williams was a bit sore and had to come off, so Matty had to sit down and put his tracky back on. In an ideal world, I will get Joe on the pitch, but there are no guarantees.
“I will make a few changes. I want them all match-fit for the following weekend.”
Warne, whose team can guarantee fourth place with a point, is looking for a good display against Ian Bowyer’s side on a day when the Millers will discover whether Scunthorpe United or Charlton Athletic will be their play-off opponents.
“The result, ironically, isn’t as important as the performance,” the boss said. “If the lads are excellent on Saturday against a very good Blackpool team and don’t win, I’ve got no issue with that.
“But if the performance is cr*p and one or two of the lads look a bit over-cooked or under-cooked and we win, then I have more issues in my head.
“I want to finish fourth, but it’s more about the performance levels. If I can see the lads are playing at a tilt, then I’ll be happy, regardless of the score.”
Midfielder Darren Potter has missed training after injuring his ankle in training earlier this week and won’t be considered for the squad.