Rotherham United assistant manager Richie Barker believes that the 2-0 triumph over Bristol City at Ashton Gate will give the squad ‘a real lift’ as they move into a heavily congested Sky Bet Championship run-in after the international break.
Two outbreaks of Covid-19 within the Millers ranks in 2020/21 has meant that they will face an onslaught of fixtures following next weekend’s break, but the win over the Robins – which came courtesy of goals from Michael Smith and Richard Wood – means it is still all to play for, with the club’s fate very much in their own hands.
"I don't know how many away wins we've got in the Championship so far this year but to come away, win and keep a clean sheet I think is excellent,” Richie said after the game.
"I think to a certain extent we probably played a little bit better against Watford than we did today. The testing thing for that from a player's point of view is to think 'we're playing alright, but we're not getting anything'.
"It just shows that the game is very strange.
“Sometimes you do the right things and sometimes you get rewarded and sometimes you don't.
"It also shows the mentality of the group of players to accept that they didn't get anything on Tuesday night, but to come here and know how important this game was in terms of the season. They showed that they know it was important to sign off the international break with a win and how big a boost it is with such a big month coming up when we get back.
"It will give the lads a real lift for the training part over the next two weeks and means we can get some real hard work into them.
"When we come back there will be absolutely no training at all - it is literally just play-recover, play-recover.”
Michael Smith was one of a number of players in grey shirts on the day who turned in a colossal performance in the circumstances, helping himself to the opener on Saturday – his ninth goal of the season and his 100th career goal.
Barker, a former Millers striker himself, was full of praise for the forward, but in typical fashion of the management team, believes there is still more to come from him.
"We are very demanding of him. I'm pleased for him to get his 100th goal,” he explained.
“If I'm being honest, he knows that I think he should be on at least a dozen goals now. I don't think there's any reason he can't end up with 14 or 15 at the end of the season - as is the case with Freddie.
"He's not a million miles away but he's got to keep working hard. He's come a long way in a short period of time. To come here from Bury on a free transfer and become a recognised Championship striker - and hopefully get double figures - means that he really deserves it.”
Wood’s contribution to Rotherham United over the last few years needs absolutely no introduction and having somewhat cheekily laid claim to the Millers’ second against Bristol City, Barker admitted he was happy to go along with his shout as a result of his immense efforts as a leader.
"I have absolutely no idea what happened. He claims it, he wants it, I'll give it him if I have any option! I just saw loads of people jump up and the ball go into the back of the net,” he continued.
"One thing I would say is that if Woody wasn't on the pitch, I'm not sure the goal would have gone in. We talk all the time that you can't bottle what Richard Wood has - aggression and desire to go and score goals.
"He brings that to us and that is part of the reason he plays.
"They are a dying breed. He's vital to us, he's vital to the dressing room and he's vital to what we stand for. In fairness, I spoke to him before the game and the lads were saying how good a shape he is in - he's nearly 36.
"I remember when I first came here four years ago and saying to Warney, 'what are we going to do with Richard Wood?'
"I said to him in the warm-up that if I'd have told you when I first met you that four years later, he'd still be captain in the Championship, I might not have been believed!"