LIVE: The Sky Bet Football League Play-Offs 2014
By Tony Leighton
Rotherham United will be the underdogs, insists manager Steve Evans, when they face Leyton Orient in the Sky Bet League 1 Play-Off Final at Wembley on Sunday week.
Evans watched with dugout delight as the Millers came from behind to beat Preston North End 3-1 in the home leg of their Semi-Final on Thursday evening to complete a 4-2 aggregate victory.
Paul Gallagher's early strike for the Lilywhites was cancelled out by Wes Thomas before goals by Lee Frecklington and Kieran Agard took Rotherham through.
It was a deserved success for Evans' team, who are chasing a second successive promotion, but the manager warned that a difficult Final lies ahead against a team that impressed him highly during the course of the League 1 campaign.
Rotherham lost 1-0 away to the O's and then won the return 2-1 at the New York Stadium. Honours even? Not quite, reckons Evans.
He told football-league.co.uk: "It was 1-0 down there, but they gave us a bit of a turning over and it could have been seven. When they came here we were the better team, but we got a late winner and we were fortunate to get the points.
"Orient led the table for many months and I can remember watching one of their games with a couple of other League 1 managers and saying, 'these will take some pegging - I think they'll finish above Wolves.'
"They lost their way a little bit in January and February, but they were sparkling towards the end of the season to finish third in the table
"I watched both legs of their Play-Off Semi-Final against Peterborough and I thought they were comfortably the better side.
"So we know how tough it's going to be in the Final, but I've got a terrific group of players who never know when they're beaten.
"They'll chase lost causes to the last minute, as they've shown a number of times this season, so we won't be short of confidence at Wembley."
Evans will be up close and personal with his players in preparation for the big day with a management style that has proved highly successful in recent years.
Having led his previous club Crawley Town up from the Conference in 2011 and left them on the brink of achieving League 1 status before moving to Rotherham in March 2012, he could claim four straight promotions with a Play-Off triumph.
He said: "The success I've had is down to hard work. I get in the players' faces, I expect the highest standards, and when people don't reach those standards I see them coming and I move them out.
"What people don't see is the personal approach. I've got the biggest open door policy in the world. I get different players in each day, making sure they're okay in their personal lives and continuing to focus them and set them targets."
The target Evans will be setting his players on Sunday week is to win a game that can take Rotherham up to the Championship after a 10-season absence.
And if they meet their target, reckons the always confident manager, the Millers can re-establish themselves in the higher division. "We would have to make additions," he said, "but the squad wouldn't have to be ripped apart.
"If you go to the Championship you can always dream of reaching the Premier League, but one thing I do know if we go up - we won't come back down."
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