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Rotherham expecting tough Orient test

Orient's Robbie Simpson gets a boot in the face from Rotherham's Claude Davis (pic: Simon O'Connor) Orient's Robbie Simpson gets a boot in the face from Rotherham's Claude Davis (pic: Simon O'Connor)

Robin Cottle
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
12:05 PM

Local reporter reveals thoughts from Millers camp

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Orient aren’t the only team in this season’s League One play-off final who have surpassed expectations to stand on the brink of glory.

Promoted from League Two last season, Rotherham United would have settled for a season of mid-table consolidation according to local reporter Les Payne – who retires after 45 years on the Millers’ beat for the Sheffield Star after the Wembley showpiece.

Rotherham were arguably the form team in the second half of the season but they are under no illusions about the size of the task facing them.

“It’s too close to call,” said Payne. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s settled by a single goal or if it goes to extra time or even penalties.

“Rotherham know it’s going to be a tough game.

“I think it helped Orient that automatic promotion didn’t go down to the last day of the season. It helped galvanise them and pick up form in the last few games of the regular season.”

Both home teams won this season’s fixtures by a single goal and they were separated by just one point in the final League One table.

For their part Rotherham are looking to tread the same path they took from 1999 to 2001 when the Millers jumped straight from the fourth tier to the second and stayed there for four seasons.

That was largely down to the sterling work of then-manager Ronnie Moore and Payne puts this recent success down to the work of current boss Steve Evans – along with the move to the impressive New York Stadium in 2012.

He said: “Steve Evans isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s done a brilliant job.

“He’s got a winning record, you can see from his time at Crawley, but it’s amazing to think this is his first season in League One.

“And the stadium move helped galvanise the club. I might be biased, but I think it’s one of the best small grounds in the country.”

Payne also reserved praise for O’s boss Russell Slade, who he thinks has done a similar job to Evans.

He added: “Russ is good at getting the best out of unfancied teams. He’s done a brilliant job.”

And he lifted the lid on who he expects to be Rotherham’s threat at Wembley on Sunday.

It’s no surprise that he plumped for Ben Pringle, who turned the play-off tie against Preston around with his wand of a left foot.

“Pringle’s got one of the best left foots in the league and he’ll go onto great things,” added Payne.

“And Kieran Agard is always a threat, whether he plays in the centre or out wide.”

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