His manager didn’t quite compare him to a Barcelona superstar, but new boy Matt Palmer looks to have ended his two-month wait for a regular Rotherham United starting role.
The midfielder, who joined the Millers’ League One promotion push in January, had to settle for a place on the bench during a run of 14 games without a defeat.
However, two successive losses saw him thrust into the side for last Saturday’s clash at Northampton Town and the 23-year-old staked his claim with an impressive display in the 3-0 demolition of the Cobblers.
“He couldn’t get in because the team were winning every week,” said boss Paul Warne. “I could have signed Lionel Messi and he would have struggled to get in because the team were excellent.”
Palmer, who arrived at AESSEAL New York Stadium in a £200,000-plus switch from Championship Burton Albion, is almost certain to keep his place for Saturday’s trip to Southend United.
He started the 2-0 win over AFC Wimbledon in early February when Richie Towell was injured but had then been restricted to four substitute appearances before being one of five changes for the Sixfields showdown.
“His performance at Northampton was good,” Warne said. “He’s calm on the ball. He gives the lads a bit of confidence. He tries to play forward all the time. He moves, he’s got a bit of commonsense, football sense. He brought a bit of sugar to our performance.”
Even when he wasn’t in the team, Palmer’s talent was never in doubt, and he played a full part in one of fourth-placed Rotherham’s best showings of the season. Will Vaulks moved from the middle of the park to centre-half to make way for the former Burton man.
Goals from Michael Smith, David Ball and Richie Towell, who finished off a sublime, seven-man, length-of-the field move, left Warne a happy man.
“Straight down the middle of the pitch, (Marek) Rodak was good, Will was great, Matty and Rich in the middle were great and Smudge (Smith) up front was virtually unplayable,” the boss said.
Old boy Richard O’Donnell was in the Northampton goal and Ball revealed he and his former teammate, who was nicknamed ‘Rod’ at the Millers, had shared a light-hearted moment after the striker’s 61st-minute strike.
“It was a cross from Fordey (Anthony Forde). It’s gone out to Willo (Ryan Williams) who’s put it back in,” Ball said.
“I’ve worked with Rod in training so I knew what was needed. I took it early, took him by surprise and it’s gone in. I want to score against him, he wants to save it.
“We had a little joke after it at one of the corners; we have a little laugh. It was good to see him. He’s a great lad.”
The reserves’ Central League fixture against Morecambe at Roundwood this afternoon was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.