After such a great start we now go into our last match (of six) in September still looking for our first league points this month. This run of form is atrocious and understandably Chris Wilder's position has been questioned as a result (see here and here for two interesting contributions to the debate). It is in this climate of unrest that we make our first ever trip to Rotherham's hilariously-named New York Stadium.
And, as has been the case with many clubs before them (with one striking exception...), Rotherham appear to have benefited immensely from moving into a shiny new home, winning three of their four home games this season, scoring ten times so far. In fact, Rotherham's transformation since last year has been so remarkable that it almost seems as if we will be facing a different club entirely. The Millers must have struck oil in the summer, with the club establishing themselves as pre-season title favourites after bringing in a raft of big-money signings and a manager who knows how to spend his way to promotion. That, of course, is the delightful Steve Evans of Boston and Crawley infamy, currently serving a six-match stadium ban for 'using abusive and insulting words and behaviour with a reference to gender'.
And the Millers do appear to have hit a slight blip since Evans received his ban. They lost their 100% home record to Rochdale (who, incidentally, were also the first side to beat us in a league game at the Kassam) and then drew with whipping boys Barnet last weekend. Currently sitting in twelfth, this expensively-assembled side have arguably under-performed so far this season and are certainly beatable.
As for team news, Rotherham are likely to hand a debut to new loan signing Bob Harris and striker Alex Revell is suspended after being sent off against Barnet. For ourselves it will presumably depend on whoever is fit. Jake Forster-Caskey will be a welcome return to the squad following his illness and his return will hopefully ease the pressure on Peter Leven, who has been rushed back into action in recent matches.
There are plenty of connections between the two sides, with two casualties of Steve Evans' revolution at Rotherham now plying their trade at the Kassam. The first of those is Michael Raynes, who made 33 appearances last season for the Millers. His recent form is patchy, so perhaps a chance to impress against his former employers will be just the boost he needs to get himself back on track. The other is Strength & Conditioning coach Alasdair Lane, who has been tasked by Ian Lenagan with improving fitness at Oxford, having previously worked in a similar role at Rotherham.
The final, and most notable, link is manager Chris Wilder. Wilder was a bit of a journeyman as a player, but the one club he can be most associated with – apart from Sheffield United – is Rotherham. Wilder spent four years at Millmoor in the early 90s, making over 100 appearances for the club. For all of us I hope this next return is a happy one.
FURTHER READING: As well as the aforementioned Chris Wilder articles, this from Paul Beasley at Rage Online seems a pretty accurate reflection of the mood amongst the fans at the moment. Compare and contrast that to this video about the current mood in Rotherham.
Also This Weekend
Also This Weekend
The youth team entertain Yeovil Town on Saturday in the Football League Youth Alliance South West. The young U's are currently in good form, coming off the back of three wins, while their opponents have struggled somewhat this season, suffering early losses to Torquay and Hereford.
On Sunday the ladies welcome Keynsham Development to Roman Way. They are currently second in the league, behind Keynsham Town, and in excellent form, having won their last five matches. They beat a strong Forest Green side in their last home outing to move them into second place, following it up on the road with a win over the University of Portsmouth. The ladies reserves currently lead the Southern Region Division One North with a perfect league record so far, but face a stern test this weekend with a trip to second-placed Stony Stratford.