As the dust settled on a dispiriting defeat, Neil Redfearn did something that maybe some of his players could learn from: He didn’t hide.
A loss for Rotherham United against a Derby County team now in the play-off places might have been expected.
But the timid laying down of arms by the Millers in front of a 30,000-plus crowd at the iPro Stadium certainly wasn’t.
“That was not acceptable,” said the new manager, a controlled but quietly fuming figure at pitchside minutes after the final whistle had put his side out of their misery and left him still searching for his first victory.
“I accept the odd mistake now and again, but not the lack of workrate and wanting to win that was apparent today.”
He went on: “Once we let them get in their stride, we never laid a glove on them, and that is really disappointing.
Then, most damningly of all, he added: “We had one or two players who hid today. I can’t have that.”
The wail of air-raid sirens heralded the arrival of the teams on to the pitch at this magnificent football arena, and the home side sounded a more ominous alert after seven minutes when Andreas Wiemann swept in Craig Forsyth’s left-wing cross.
After that, it was a long, hard afternoon for Redfearn’s men who were clearly second best, and seemingly willing to accept it, against an in-form, slick-passing outfit looking dangerous every time they attacked.
Not quite a blitz. But not much Millers spirit either.
Redfearn delivered a warning of his own: “We have got to bring some players. That’s a fact.
“These players have got to feel that they have to fight for the shirt and I don’t think they did that today. I have got to see more from the players who have got the shirt. There’s got to be a desire and will to win.”
Rotherham had short spells at the start of both halves when they asked questions of Derby, but a second goal from the home side on the stroke of half-time, as Jacob Butterfield steered in a fine long-range effort, killed the game and the result was never in doubt.
With Matt Derbyshire out with an ankle injury, lone striker Jonson Clarke-Harris fizzed in a shot after 10 minutes which drew a fine save from Scott Carson only for the referee to award a goal-kick.
He then had an effort stopped at the near post after he had physically ‘monstered’ Richard Keogh to break away from the home centre-half and later struck a long-range free-kick true and hard but too close to Carson.
Danny Ward’s 52nd-minute shot just wide was the last effort Rotherham had on the Derby goal and it was no surprise as Keogh wrapped up proceedings in the 75th minute when the ball dropped to him in the penalty area from a set-piece.
“Players have got to take responsibility. You put a game-plan together and they go out there,” Redfearn said. “It’s up to the players to take the bull by the horns
“We just set ourselves up to play a certain way. We wanted to be difficult to play against and difficult to beat but as soon as they get their tails up obviously that plan goes out of the window and we are looking for some pride and respect.
“This is a tough division and what happens now is that the margins are becoming greater between the sides at the top and those who are fighting to stay in it.
“But what the Rotherham supporters can expect is more passion and desire to want to get a result. Derby were worthy 3-0 winners, to be honest, I won’t lie. We have got a lot of work to do.”
He made five changes, adopting a 4-2-3-1 formation and bringing in Danny Ward, Joe Newell, Joe Mattock, Kirk Broadfoot and Richard Smallwood, with Derbyshire (injured), Farrend Rawson (ineligible to play against his parent club), Tony Andreu - not even making the bench - Tom Thorpe and Paul Green dropping out.
Green came on at half-time in a switch to 4-4-2 and was comfortably the Millers’ best player.
After the third goal, the Rams were able to bring on Darren Bent, an England international striker who has scored goals at this level and above all through his career.
Redfearn, despite the Millers’ injury problems easing, simply doesn’t have that kind of game-changing impact available to him.
It’s a grim irony that, after taking over from a regime that made nearly 90 signings in three years, his need for new blood is urgent.
He requires time to make his mark and bring in his own players, just like Paul Clement did with the Rams at the start of the season.
A third reverse in Redfearn’s four games means the Millers have dropped to the foot of the Championship.
He has had a cruel run of fixtures to mark his appointment last month - away to a Brentford side who have won every match since, a home clash with Reading who were second in the table at the time, a derby against Sheffield Wednesday now unbeaten in 10 games and a trip to the Rams who have seven wins and two draws from their last nine outings.
Next up, fourth-placed Middlesbrough tomorrow at the Riverside Stadium.
In this league, there is nowhere to hide.
Derby County (4-1-2-3): Carson 6; Christie 9, Keogh 7, Shackell 7, Forsyth 7; Thorne 7(Hendrick 62, 6); Butterfield 7 (Bryson 77), Johnson 7; Russell 7, Martin 7 (Bent 75), Weimann 8. Subs not used: Grant, Baird, Shotton, Warnock.
Rotherham United (4-2-3-1): Camp 6; Buxton 5, Broadfoot 5, Collins 6, Mattock 5; Smallwood 6, Newell 5 (Green H-T, 7); D Ward 5, G Ward 5, Toffolo 5 (White 62, 5); Clarke-Harris 6. Subs not used: Collin, Richardson, Thorpe, Maguire, Bowery.
Goals: Wiemann 7, Butterfield 45, Keogh 75.
Referee: Scott Duncan (Northumberland).