Rotherham v Brentford: right choice for Smith?

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Dean Smith – www.getwestlondon.co.uk

10 months ago, Dean Smith attended a press conference that previewed his Walsall side’s top-of-the-table clash with Burton Albion. That week, Rotherham had made an approach for him, which was turned down by the board. Smith responded to queries about his position, not with a firm pledge to stay at Walsall, but more non-committal words. He said the board had made their decision and that it wasn’t something for him to think about. That might not have been the full truth, but what else could he have said?

Rotherham instead appointed Neil Redfearn, and more latterly namesake Warnock, who kept them up thanks to a spectacular turnaround in form. The Millers, now managed by Alan Stubbs, could require similar escapology this term, if recent results continue. They have shipped 13 goals in their first four games in all competitions, two in an opening day draw with Wolves, in which they played 38 minutes with a man advantage. The injury to Kirk Broadfoot, instrumental to their seven clean sheets under Warnock, has not helped the team’s cause.

There is an opportunity for goals therefore, for a Brentford side that have scored 52 goals in Smith’s 31 league matches in charge. A continuation of that trend will see the Bees net 76 this year, more than any team in the Championship managed last season.

Back-to-back clean sheets also indicate that Smith has found a balance. Against Nottingham Forest, they shifted the ball quickly, but they were also solid. When they gave the ball away in the latter stages, a lot of players tracked back to keep their opponents out. Last season, the team might have been criticized for being too open when out of possession but we can see steady improvements in that regard.

They are helped by the work rate of Ryan Woods and the progress of Nico Yennaris in midfield. Yennaris is a right-back by trade but he is gradually improving in his midfield role and seems to have filled the ‘midfield enforcer’ void, that has been open since Toumani Diagouraga’s January exit.

The man to do that job for Rotherham in recent seasons has been Richard Smallwood, but he has started the season surprisingly poorly. The arrival of Tom Adeyemi has called Smallwood’s position at the club into question. Adeyemi was one of Birmingham’s better players in their 2013/14 campaign and will add physical qualities, though his career has stagnated a touch since he left St Andrews in controversial circumstances two years ago.

He must protect a Millers defence that is shipping goals at an alarming rate, whereas Brentford appear to have steadied the flow at the back. Come full-time on Saturday, a certain ‘Ginger Mourinho’ may be thankful that he stayed at Walsall that little while longer.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 0-2

Other Championship Predictions
Sheff Wed v Leeds Owls strong at home, Leeds awful thus far. 3-1
Huddersfield v Barnsley A la final day 12/13, mutual chants of ‘Yorkshire’ if it’s a draw? 2-2
Blackburn v Burton Brewers creating a lot of chances, Dyer impressive. 1-2
Bristol City v Newcastle Robins must gain promotion contenders tag, Toon must earn it. 1-1
Fulham v Cardiff Similar organization but Cottagers have more attacking drive. 2-0
Birmingham v Wolves Maghoma to star in a narrow Blues win. 2-1
Nottm Forest v Wigan Wildschut and Grigg have started well. 1-2
QPR v Preston North End have been dreadful so far. 2-0
Reading v Brighton Seagulls the league’s most complete team? 0-2
Derby v Aston Villa Villa giving away too many soft goals. 2-1
Ipswich v Norwich Canaries to edge the East Anglian derby. 0-1
Last week: 7 correct results/12. 1 exact scoreline – Cardiff 2-1 Blackburn