Richie Barker post-Preston North End...
Rotherham United assistant boss Richie Barker praised his patched-up Millers as they got off to a winning start in 2019 after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Preston North End at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
With several first-team players injured and suspended, Rotherham still put in a tremendous second-half display to secure all three points thanks to goals from Will Vaulks and Michael Smith.
“Well, it’s a vital three points,” said Barker. “It’s important for us. It lifts us out of the bottom three and, the longer it goes on, people start talking about bad runs of form.
“It wasn’t the best game – certainly not the best performance but, second-half, far better. We changed a few things at half-time and made a couple of substitutions. It definitely got better and fair play to the players off the back of a really tough seven to 10 days, they’ve come up with the points.
“The winning feeling’s important. The league table, which we’ve now got to spend two weeks looking at, looks a lot better than it did three hours ago. But just to give the players a lift and that belief that we can get the three points.
“We’ll keep making this place a difficult place to come and we’ll keep the players motivated and as organised as we can and we’ll see where we get.”
The Millers went in at the break a goal to the good after an absolute thunderbolt from Will Vaulks despite an out-of-character first-half display.
“It wasn’t one of our greatest 45 minutes,” he continued. “Teams will always create chances against you. You could argue if Preston had been more ruthless, we would have found it more difficult to come back into the game. They’re a very resilient group and we talk to them all the time about staying in the game and, fortunately, Will managed to put that free-kick in. It just meant that we had a bit of breathing space and we could change things.
“It’s a really tough time for the players who have had one day off in two weeks which, over Christmas, is difficult. There’s a few players running on empty and a few who haven’t played for a while.
“We knew we had to change things at half-time and that was irrelevant whether Will had scored the free-kick or not.”
A super second from Michael Smith sealed the victory which takes the Millers out of the bottom three and Barker stressed the importance of the entire squad with 20 games to go in the league.
“We’ve just said to them in there that every player is going to be vital, whether you’re starting or coming on as a sub,” he added.
“We’re going to have to have a couple of days now where, we’ve got illness all over the place, we’re really struggling with injures, and we need to keep them away from each other because the illness is spreading quite quickly.”