Of all the possible draws, it had to be this one, didn’t it? Drawn away to the team with the manager we love to hate, the pantomime villain that is Steve Evans.
It’s fair to say that I am not Evans’ biggest fan. I’ll just draw to your attention some of the incidents he has been involved in. Where do we start? Well, there was his 20 month ban from the FA whilst in charge of Boston United, for “contract irregularities” (including false salary payments) in 2003. Or perhaps his one year suspended prison sentence in 2006, for tax evasion. Or maybe his ten match ban during the 2008-09 season, for being repeatedly being sent to the stand and for abusing match officials. Did I mention he was suspended for six games for using “abusive language and behaviour towards a club official”, after the infamous Crawley “brawl” game, in 2012?
I find it appalling how someone of his character, with his background, is still able to forge a career in football. His comments about Bradford and Phil Parkinson last April (“they will end the season with nothing, and Parkinson will not be at Valley Parade by August 2013”) were fortunately proved wrong, and such comments will give the City players, and Phil Parkinson, extra motivation to go out there on Saturday and perform.
The side that Parkinson puts out on Saturday is anyone’s guess, but a strong side looks likely, given that the players have an eight day rest after this fixture until the Coventry game. Connor Ripley may get only his second start in goal for City, should Parkinson elect to rest Jon McLaughlin. As for the defence, Stephen Darby will continue at right-back, with any two from Rory McArdle, Matthew Bates, Luke Oliver, Matt Taylor and Carl McHugh occupying the two centre back berths. Matt Taylor, impressive whilst out on loan at Colchester, may be given a start in this game, and it looks likely that James Meredith will continue at left-back. In midfield, Kyel Reid, who has been in very impressive form of late, will start on the left-wing, with either Garry Thompson or Raffaele De Vita occupying the right flank. In the centre of midfield, with no Ricky Ravenhill, following his loan move to Northampton, Parkinson has to pick two from Gary Jones, Jason Kennedy, and Nathan Doyle. In attack, the Hanson-Wells combination looks set to continue, although new signing Caleb Folan or even youngster Oliver McBurnie may replace one of the striking duo.
Parkinson, on the club’s official website, has commented on the increasing involvement of youngster Oliver McBurnie in the upcoming fixtures. McBurnie, who has been in sensational form for the youth team, (17 goals in 10 games, with 4 hat-tricks) could possibly feature in this game in some capacity, most likely from the bench. With strikers Alan Connell and Andy Gray being told that they are both free to go out on loan, it appears that Parkinson is attempting to integrate McBurnie into the squad.
As for City’s opposition on Saturday, they have been struggling for form too lately. With just two points from their last five games, including an embarrassing 4-0 defeat at home to Swindon, Rotherham’s early good form has stopped, and The Millers find themselves tenth in the League One table. Their last game was a 2-2 draw at home to Colchester, in which the U’s scored in the 95th minute to rescue a point.
Should Rotherham continue with the same line-up that drew with Colchester, then goalkeeper Adam Collin will continue in net. In defence, the back four will most likely be Mark Bradley at left-back and ex-Huddersfield player Joe Skarz at left-back, with vice-captain Karl Arnason and Pablo Mills in the centre of defence. On a side note, Mills was one of the Crawley players sent off in the infamous brawl at Valley Parade, with the other Crawley player to be sent off, Claude Davis, is also now at Rotherham. Evans may play either a 3-man or a 4-man midfield, depending on the positioning of Kieran Agard. Agard has expressed his desire to play upfront, but started last weekend’s game on the right-wing. Should Evans go for a three-man midfield, then Michael O’Connor, Lee Frecklington and the versatile Ben Pringle, who can play left midfield and centre midfield, will start. Should Evans choose to go for a 4-4-2 formation, then Agard will slot into the right hand side of midfield, with Pringle pushing out to the left-wing. Upfront, Bournemouth loanee Matt Tubbs has been out of form recently, so Daniel Nardiello may be preferred upfront. Alongside him could be Alex Revell, who suits Rotherham’s somewhat direct style of play, with his 6ft 3in stature a perfect foil for the pace and dribbling ability of Kieran Agard, and the crossing ability of both Lee Frecklington and Ben Pringle.
City do not have a very good track record against Evans, however. In the four games City have faced Evans, we have lost all four. Saturday, therefore, would be the perfect opportunity to set this record straight. It will be a tough game, but it is by no means an impossible task.