LOCAL neighbours Rotherham and Sheffield United do battle this weekend EFL lover Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) shares his best bet.
Rotherham v Sheffield United | Saturday 24th November 2018, 12:30 | Sky Sports
Saturday’s EFL action kicks-off with a tasty South Yorkshire Derby.
Although Rotherham and Sheffield United have occupied the same two divisions over the previous five seasons, they have not actually met in a league match since April 2014.
To many Millers, especially those who were around to see then-legend Paul Stancliffe controversially leave for Bramall Lane in 1983, this will be a significant game: a chance to prove they are now dining at the top table in South Yorkshire football.
The Blades have bigger fish to fry in their own city, although spending three seasons one division below the S60 club will increase their desire to reaffirm the status quo.
No trouble at the new mill
Rotherham’s home form this season has been very strong.
Paul Warne’s troops have accrued 15 points from eight games on familiar soil, the same number as Leeds and Aston Villa.
The key has been their impressive defensive record, with seven goals conceded in eight: only Middlesbrough, Brentford and Leeds have shipped fewer on their own turf.
Collectively, Rotherham understand their limitations and thus, they always show defiant discipline and a determination to defend with real courage.
Clark Robertson’s return from injury has boosted the Millers, who concede on average just 0.75 goals per-game when he starts; the former Blackpool centre-back is partnered ably by the magic-hatted Richard Wood, who offers excellent leadership qualities.
Goalkeeper Marek Rodak, who has developed hugely since his impressive half-a-season at Accrington in 2017, is back on top form as well.
The Fulham loanee’s efforts were crucial in their last home match; a 2-1 win over Swansea came thanks to two late Ryan Manning penalties.
Rotherham are unlikely to create much in open play, having mustered only 13 shots on target in their last five games.
The fact they avoided defeat in each of them however, encapsulates their desire to hold strong when under the cosh.
Sheffield United’s possession play
Sheffield United’s 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday last time out did, in some ways, highlight their superiority over their Steel City foes.
They dictated play throughout the night, they created the better chances, two of which Billy Sharp could not quite put away and were the team that showed intent to win the game.
Chris Wilder’s side always want to produce passages of play involving as many players as possible – we see even the wide centre-backs, Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell, acting like wingers at times – which has so often been a strength.
And yet, the match also highlighted United’s limitations: they have difficulties changing the speed and direction of play quickly against deep defensive blocks.
The downside to waiting for those overloads every time Oliver Norwood or John Fleck tries a cross-field ball is that it gives the opposing team more time to shuffle across and position themselves accordingly.
The next step for the Blades is to add one or two quick players capable of exploiting space instantaneously but, until then, they could have difficulties breaking teams down.
The betting angle
It would be unwise to predict patterns of play in the second-half, when a combination of fatigue, substitutions, tactical changes, pressure and of course scoreline means the standard game plan both teams employ can change.
In the first-half though, it is a safe bet that the script of the game will be the visitors gently probing and the hosts defending with discipline.
Five of Sheffield United’s last seven games have been goalless at the break, as have eight of Rotherham’s last 12.
There is potentially outstanding value, therefore, on Bet365’s 2/1 on the game to be 0-0 at half-time.
Rotherham v Sheffield United – 0-0 half-time correct score (2/1 Bet365)