Michael Smith talks to www.themillers.co.uk...
MATCHWINNER Michael Smith is confident that his side’s nail-biting New Year’s Day victory over Preston North End will help the Millers banish the January blues- following an indifferent sequence of results, before and during the festive period.
Paul Warne’s side bounced back to winning ways in dramatic fashion, despite being beset by a number of suspensions and injuries ahead of the Roses clash.
In front of a healthy AESSEAL New York Stadium crowd, Will Vaulks spectacularly put the Millers ahead with a long-range free kick before Smith’s fifth league goal of the season gave Warne’s side, a two-goal cushion going into the latter stages of the game. However, Lukas Nmecha gave the Lancastrians hope almost immediately, before the Millers withstood a late rally from the visitors to earn their first victory since early November.
Speaking exclusively to www.themillers.co.uk, Smith believes that the manner of the Millers victory was testament to the squad’s strength of character.
“The first-half was nowhere near the standards we have set. The gaffer made that clear at half-time but in the second half as a unit, we were much better. We went forward a lot more and we were pleased with the result,” Smith stated.
“The gaffer said one of the positives is we cannot be that bad again in the second-half and we went in 1-0 up. Due to the second-half performance, we thoroughly deserved the three points.”
The decisive moment of the clash came when sub Joe Newell showed Preston skipper Tom Clarke, a clean pair of heels to race down the left touchline before delivering a sublime centre which was inch-perfect for the run of Smith, who kept his nerve to nod home from close range.
Speaking afterwards, Smith was quick to praise the pinpoint delivery of Newell, whose second-half introduction alongside Anthony Forde was pivotal in turning the tide of the encounter, after Alex Neil’s side dominated large spells of the first period.
“I would have been devastated if I had missed that,” Smith admitted.
“It was an unbelievable ball from Joe, who has got the wand of a left foot so I just tried to keep it between the sticks and fortunately I managed to do that.”
The Millers take a break from Championship action this weekend as they face the might of Premier League champions Manchester City, in a mouth-watering FA Cup third round clash at the Eithad Stadium. With Warne’s side free from the pressures of Championship survival and a healthy travelling contingent expected to make their way over the Pennines, Smith is excited at the prospect of going toe-to-toe with some of the country’s top performers on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s what you want to do as a footballer,” Smith enthused.
“The pinnacle was obviously playing at Wembley but to play at Manchester City, against the champions, is great and it doesn’t get much better than that. The lads are chomping at the bit to get one of the eleven shirts and to get a game.”