It’s a long shot that Procol Harum were, in 1967, talking about Rotherham United in their Whiter Shade of Pale days but the words of their best known hit can certainly be echoed by the current day Millers who are telling their own tale that a certain Mr Chaucer would be proud of. A week ago, United had not a care in the world barring an assault on the top three places of League Two that they’d fallen from in recent weeks.
Then came a seven day period that no-one could have written. Ronnie Moore was incredibly sacked following a 5-0 defeat at runaway leaders Chesterfield. Heavy as that was to take, it seemed harsh at the very least to dismiss an experienced hero of the club. Fast forward a week and the club were under the caretaker charge of Andy Liddell and faced a tricky trip to Lincoln in their first game post-Moore.
Again not even the most optimistic of Millers fans could predict what would happen that night. The astonishing thing wasn’t just the 6-0 away win against the Imps but the fact that Ian Thomas-Moore, the departed manager’s son, scored a hat-trick at Sincil Bank!
And so to the final game of a cycle that leaves Rotherham doing battle to regain the playoff place that was lost after Moore’s final game in charge. The surroundings of temporary base the Don Valley Stadium are the setting for a hugely important clash with fellow promotion hopefuls Shrewsbury this evening. Thankfully for Millers fans, the far from ideal venue will be their home for only one more season with the club set to move to a new 12,000 seat venue at the former Guest and Chrimes foundry site in Rotherham town centre in time for the 2012-13 kick off.
For now though, they’re working on bringing not just the club, but League One football, back into town. Standing in their way tonight is a Shrewsbury Town side that have been in or around the top three themselves for the majority of the campaign.
The Shrews have recovered from their own 5-0 defeat from a couple of weeks ago that saw their own player, on loan Jake Robinson, score twice against them for Torquay. But a subsequent draw with Wycombe and victory at Bradford have stabilised their position just outside the top three. Indeed a win tonight and Graham Turner’s men will be back in the automatic promotion places, albeit having played a game more than Bury.
Turner sold Hereford United last summer and left his position as chairman and manager to return to his old Shrewsbury roots. The campaign started with a five game unbeaten run and has never really stalled enough for them to drop out of contention for a place in the end of season shake up that’s looking closer and closer by the week if you discount Chesterfield and their runaway lead.
Tonight is their chance to put their mark on the league once again but a suddenly rejuvenated group of Millers may yet have their own new twist to an ever engaging tale.
Meanwhile, Port Vale are also on a mission tonight as they host the team beaten so heavily by Rotherham on Friday night, Lincoln City. Vale’s similar fall out of form as well as a bizarre incident on the coach to Aldershot a few weeks ago means that they’re also no strangers to controversy and incident this season. Manager Jim Gannon and Geoff Horsfield’s well publicised row saw both depart the team coach before hitting Aldershot and despite a brief period where differences were apparently set aside, Gannon was shown the door after just 74 days in charge.
Horsfield is now in joint caretaker charge of the club along with Mark Grew and Saturday’s home draw against high flying Bury is a sign that the old form is returning to the club just in time for the final furlong of the season.
Lincoln have their own, far from lofty, ambitions under Steve Tilson who could make one or two changes for tonight’s game following that mauling on Friday. Their supporters will be delighted just to be out of harm though and the fact that they now sit eleven points clear of the bottom two is testament to the slow but sure way Tilson has guided the club away from danger in the last few months.
Since joining the Imps back in October, his side have had gone to the very foot of the table, following a defeat by Wycombe on January 15th, up to 13th place just a month later and are now steadying the ship ahead of next season when they could well be dark horses for another go at the right end of the table should Tilson have a productive summer in the transfer market.
Ashley Grimes, the striker on loan from Millwall, returns for tonight’s game and will provide a massive boost after missing out against Rotherham with an ankle injury. Grimes has scored seventeen times this season and his value increases when you consider that all of his nearest rivals in Lincoln’s scoring charts have netted just four!
So plenty of action condensed into two games tonight with the league finally catching up on the wintery weather that halted the season in December.