Rotherham v Ipswich: Five pre-match talking points

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne applauds the fans following the Sky Bet League One match at Frat

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne applauds the fans following his side's 3-0 defeat at Portsmouth on Tuesday night. - Credit: PA

Ipswich Town take on Rotherham United in South Yorkshire this lunchtime (12.30pm, Sky Sports). STUART WATSON previews the action.

Noel Hunt celebrates on the final whistle after scoring Ipswich's injury time winner at Charlton

Noel Hunt (left) celebrates after his last-gasp winner at Charlton in 2014. Ipswich have played 34 times on the TV since and won just three of them. - Credit: Pagepix

BLUES ON THE BOX

The reason Ipswich aren't playing on the traditional days of Good Friday and Easter Monday is because today's game was selected for broadcast by Sky Sports.

That decision was made little more than three weeks ago, unfairly disrupting supporters' plans for this weekend at short notice.  

Not only does it mean a very early start for any Blues fans heading up to South Yorkshire from Suffolk this morning (kick-off is at 12.30pm), but it also means that the crowd for Tuesday night's visit of Wigan is going to be lower than it would have been on a bank holiday.

Ipswich, of course, have an abysmal record on TV.

Since Noel Hunt's memorable late winner at Charlton back in November 2014, the Blues have played 34 games in front of the cameras and won just three of them (D10 L21).

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Ben Wiles (8) celebrates giving Rotherham a 1-0 lead.

Ben Wiles (middle) celebrates giving Rotherham the lead at Portman Road last November. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

ROTHERHAM ARE ROCKING

Rotherham schooled Ipswich twice on their way to promotion in 2019/20, winning 2-0 at Portman Road and 1-0 at the New York Stadium. And after their valiant attempts to stay in Championship fell just short, they one again out-fought and out-thought Town at Portman Road when that League One duel resumed back in November.

Under long-serving manager Paul Warne, the direct and physical Millers had their tried and trusted formula for third-tier success. Nine points clear at the top come the end of March, they looked dead certs for a third promotion in five years.

But then, at the worst possible time, the wheels started to come off.

Tuesday night's 3-0 defeat at Portsmouth made it three straight losses. They've won just one of the last seven in the league. In amongst that, the South Yorkshire side won the Papa John's Trophy after failing to beat two League Two sides in 90 minutes (Hartlepool beaten on penalties in the semis and Sutton defeated in extra-time at Wembley).

Suddenly, they find themselves three points behind MK Dons in third (with a game in hand). And their run-in (Ipswich at home, Burton away, Oxford at home, Sunderland away and Gillingham away) looks tricky too.

Will Rotherham look tired and confidence-shot in front of an edgy crowd today? Is it Town's time to be the derailers rather than the derailed in this fixture?  

Or will (as has so often felt the case in recent times) an out of form team rediscover their mojo against the Blues? 

MCKENNA'S WARNING

Kieran McKenna is certainly not reading too much into Rotherham's recent slide.

“I went to the Portsmouth game on Tuesday night and I didn’t think there was much in the game," said the Blues boss.

"They had a decent start, it was a competitive and pretty even game. It ends up 3-0 but the scoreline could very easily have tilted the other way. 

“Sometimes margins go against you, results don’t go your way and confidence can go a little bit. I still see them as a very strong team, a team who have a really clear way of playing and a way that has been really successful in this division. 

“It’s normal for every team in every league to have a bad spell at some point or other and this is their spell. We have to do everything we can to continue that for them on Saturday, but also recognise that they are going to be fighting tooth and nail for the points as well." 

Elkan Baggott pictured in the warm up. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Could Elkan Baggott make his league debut for Ipswich Town today? - Credit: Archant

A LEAGUE DEBUT?

With George Edmundson still out injured and Cameron Burgess now serving a one-game ban for his daft dismissal at Shrewsbury last weekend, the Blues are down to just two fit senior centre-backs in Luke Woolfenden and Janoi Donacien.

So who comes in to play on the left side of that back three?

Dominic Thompson, a left-back by trade, stepped off the bench to play that role in the latter stages last weekend.

Another option is to hand academy graduate Elkan Baggott his senior debut. His height (6ft 4in) could be deemed useful to combat Rotherham target man Michael Smith.

The 19-year-old's one senior appearance for Ipswich so far came in the EFL Trophy against Gillingham early last season. Since then he's been out on loan to King's Lynn Town, played a key role for the club's table-topping U23s and made his full debut for Indonesia.

Sky Sports will certainly be hoping the Bangkok-born youngster features given his one million followers in Instagram. A few more might be tuning in from Asia than usual.

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne during the Sky Bet League One match at the AESSEAL New York Stad

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne has seen his side slip out of the automatic promotion spots following three straight defeats. - Credit: PA

STICKING TO PRINCIPLES

At Rotherham's end of season dinner on Thursday night, manager Paul Warne quipped: "I will drink one thimble of water as I don't want to go to the toilet and have someone beside me at the urinal asking me why I'm not playing the same system as Atletico Madrid."

It doesn't take much delving into social media to see that many Millers fans are calling for their manager to move away from his regular 3-5-2 system.

"I have looked at tweaking things - I could play 4-5-1," he admitted in the wake of defeat at Fratton Park.

It's left McKenna unsure exactly what to prepare for heading into this match.

“Rotherham are generally a very front foot team and aggressive. They like to press man-to-man all over the pitch and impose themselves physically. That’s their normal way of playing," he said.

“But they’re not on their best run of results, so there’s a possibility they try something a little bit different. We’ve watched their games in the Championship as well and in general they went about things a little bit different at that level. Their principles were a little bit different. They went a bit more compact. 

“I know what our intent will be though. We will try and press high up the pitch, we will try and defend on the front foot, in a really aggressive and brave way, try and win the ball back high and we will try and dominate the ball and create as many chances as we can in the opposition’s half."