Rotherham United’s players have been granted time off to recharge their batteries after sealing their place in the League One play-offs.
With two games of the regular season still to play, the Millers mathematically confirmed their berth in the top six by beating Bristol Rovers 2-0 at AESSEAL New York Stadium at the weekend..
Manager Paul Warne rewarded his squad, who are next in action at Plymouth Argyle this Saturday, by telling them not to report for training until Thursday after their 23rd victory of an arduous campaign.
“I’m giving the lads a few days off now just to give them a bit of down time,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll press the ‘refresh’ button and be football-lively when they come back.
The boss is targeting good results at Argyle and in the final fixture, at home to Blackpool the following week, to maintain momentum before his side head into the end-of-season showdown.
“It feels good that we’ve qualified,” he said. “I’m really pleased. It takes the pressure off the lads a little bit.
“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to try to perform to our max in the last two games, but it does allow me to possibly rest a couple of players. I can just jig it up a little bit.
“I’ll definitely still try to win the next two matches because if you go into the play-offs in good form, great.
Rotherham, after three victories and a draw in their last four outings, are virtually certain to finish in the fourth spot they already occupy. Only a freak set of results could see either Scunthorpe United or Plymouth Argyle overhaul them. Argyle must win at Rochdale tomorrow night to retain any hope.
Warne may protect key men but has pledged not to tinker too much with his line-up.
“It might let me not play Smithy (Michael Smith), for example,” he said. “He takes a battering every week. I took Bally (David Ball) out because I thought he was looking a little jaded. He’s had a couple of games off so he might be able to come back in.
“It might let me look at different things. I don’t mean I’m going to disrespect the league and make eight changes; I wouldn’t do that. But it does allow me to tweak a little.
“I don’t have to go to sleep the next couple of Fridays knowing it’s a ‘do or die’ game the following day.”
Warne’s players all came through the Rovers contest without injury concerns, but the boss, who opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation rather than the 4-4-2 he usually deploys at New York, thought his side looked jaded after their midweek triumph at Gillingham.
“The three in the middle, Richie (Towell), Matty (Palmer) and Will (Vaulks), worked hard but just looked a yard short for them,” he said. “It’s not a criticism. It’s just the way it was.
“I’m just pleased to get the win, and a second clean sheet in two games is really good. Sometimes, you have to win when you’re not playing well. Saturday was that game. The travelling does take its toll.
“As everyone knows, I like to play 4-4-2 at home, but the performances of the three in the middle in the last two away games have been excellent and it just didn’t seem right to pull one of them out.”
Warne substituted Towell and winger Jon Taylor to save their legs in the second half and brought off Palmer when the 23-year-old took a blow to the face.
“Matty got kiboshed so he’s got a right shiner. But that’s fine. He can still see out of it,” the manager said.
“I took Tayls off because I thought he blew up. They do, them little pocket rockets, don’t they?”