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05:55:00

The Neil Warnock effect is in full swing at Rotherham - But what is it?

When Tony Stewart decided to gamble after back-to-back defeats to Charlton and Bolton he turned to the only man who could realistically save Rotherham's season.

Neil Warnock's track record for saving team's from relegation was just too good for Stewart to turn down and the Millers chairman turned his back on a long-term plan under Neil Redfearn in order of short-term success.


The 67-year-old took a while to get going at the Millers, but 10 points from the last four game - their most profitable run at this level since 2003 - has thrown them right back into the mix for safety with nine games to go.

Here's a look at what has changed since Warnock came to the club.


A meaner defence

Apart from a 10-minute period against Derby last Saturday, the Millers have been far more defensively sound at the back than they have been at any other point in the season. Settling on a back four when possible of Frazer Richardson, Kirk Broadfoot, Richard Wood and Joe Mattock has seen their goals against tally tick over far less regularly. The five games that quartet have started together has seen them concede just two goals, with three clean sheets. Goalkeeper Lee Camp has been a massive contributor to those shutouts and if Warnock is to be believed, the outstanding form of Camp is down to his decision to bring Paddy Kenny. Whatever, the reasons behind it, with a reliable back five, the Millers are now no longer looking likely of shipping the amount of goals they did earlier on in the campaign.

A toughening up of the soft underbelly

You'd expect nothing less of a Warnock side than one that fights until the death and the Millers are certainly doing that. And in addition to that sterner defence, it is having an impact on results. The Millers are putting their bodies on the line and performing last-ditch moments of brilliance on a regular basis to keep the ball out. Think of Frazer Richardson's logic-defying block to protect the lead against Brentford, the masterful rearguard for most of the second half at Hillsborough and what about the way they defended those final few minutes with 10 men against Boro? Until Warnock came to the club, the prospect of the Millers holding out in circumstances like those was simply non-existent.

Finding a way to play

When it came off, and there were times that it did, Redfearn's style of play was a delight to watch. The games against Hull, Bolton and Brighton in particularly saw a fast, counter-attacking brand of football that blew their opponents away. But unfortunately they were all-too rare and when they weren't at that marauding best, the Millers found it difficult to get anything out of games. Warnock immediately reverted to type, going to a 4-4-2, with a bit of modern-day refinement in recent weeks, and getting the ball and bodies forward quickly. No one knows the Championship better than the 67-year-old and his style of play - while not the easiest on the eye - means that the Millers have been in every game while he has been here. That ability to stay in games has helped the points tally keep ticking over.

Getting the best out of Greg Halford

Much has been made of the re-birth of Greg Halford and it already has to be one of the unlikeliest turnarounds in football. For a number of reasons, Halford found himself out of the reckoning at the Millers, and in hindsight, was probably harshly treated by both of his former managers this season, though it has to be said that he did not help himself. He was jettisoned out of the side after some poor performances under Steve Evans, who also stripped him of the captaincy, while Redfearn chose to back assistant Eric Black after the pair has a training ground bust-up before his arrival and froze him out completely. But Warnock, with the help of previous ally Kevin Blackwell, has given Halford a new lease of lofe and the 31-year-old is finally showing his worth to the Millers. He has played an important role in the games against Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough and such has been his impact under Warnock that his absence against Derby was firmly felt. Warnock has always excelled at the man-management aspect of the game and he has worked his magic with Halford.


Harvesting a spirit in the camp


There is no one pretending that Warnock was brought to the club because of his tactical genius and modern-day approach (though ironically there have been a couple of strategic masterstrokes in games that have helped achieve wins). Warnock was hired by the Millers to motivate, man-manage and inspire Rotherham's players into a revival and he has already delivered on that. After a flat opening three games, the Millers are a different side now and their undoubted spirit and belief has helped them pull off three massive results. A side's spirit is always highlighted by late goals, comebacks, upsetting the odds and bouncing back from setbacks and the Millers have ticked all those over the last few weeks. The players spoke about Warnock's positivity from an early stage and it's clear to see that all of them are enjoying playing for the veteran manager, who has instilled a belief in them. Sure, they were given a helping hand by Derby on Saturday, but would a comeback like that have been possible at any other stage this season? We're saying no.

Fortune favours the brave

Having a bit of luck never harmed any manager and Warnock is not going to turn his nose up at some well overdue fortune for the Millers. While his predecessor Redfearn was beset by injuries, the new boss has been able to get key players on the pitch. Midfielder Lee Frecklington, available for only nine of Redfearn's 21 matches in charge, has returned to the fray and made a massive difference while striker Leon Best is also back in action and heading towards full throttle. Stephen Kelly, another long-term absentee, is another back to fitness and in the team.

The luck has made its way on to the pitch too. While Warnock could contest refereeing decisions in the games against Reading and Brentford, the Millers were lucky to see a potential equaliser for Sheffield Wednesday incorrectly ruled out. That came at a crucial time just before half-time and allowed the Millers to stage that staunch defensive performance at Hillsborough. The manner of Middlesbrough's profligacy has to be considered as fortunate as well, particularly with the way that Gaston Ramirez's free-kick hit the inside of the post and rolled to safety. This rub of the green has been a long time coming for the Millers and long may it continue.


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