Rotherham United: No points but players are back on board with Warne ... Brentford 4 Millers 2

Paul Warne
Paul Warne
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He had been so angry last week that he couldn’t even bear to be on the same coach as his players.

This week, the feeling was very different for caretaker manager Paul Warne.

Rotherham United had lost away from home again, their 17th defeat in 18 Championship matches on the road this season, to remain bottom of the table and now 16 points adrift of safety.

But this was nothing like the 5-0 surrender at Cardiff City eight days ago.

There was shame and embarrassment at Cardiff City Stadium. At Griffin Park, just disappointment and pride after two Bees goals in time added on had deprived the Millers of only their second away point in their 2016/17 campaign.

“At Cardiff, I didn’t come back on the team bus because I was afraid that if someone was laughing or joking I’d lose my head and want to throw them off it,” Warne said.

Semi Ajayi

Semi Ajayi

“Today, I’ve said to the lads: ‘Have your shower, enjoy your food. Enjoy the trip home. Watch the rugby (Six Nations rugby union). They deserve that. They gave me everything they’ve got.

“I don’t think 4-2 was fair. I didn’t think 2-2 flattered us. I thought we were really good in the second half. We had the best chances. On another day, Wardy (Danny Ward) would have got at least a brace. I was proud of the lads.”

Rotherham will be relegated. The points gap is too great, the difference in quality to other sides insurmountable. But if Brentford rather than Cardiff is their yardstick, at least they will go down fighting.

THE GAME

The Millers were 1-0 down at the break, to Jota’s 13th-minute screwed shot, and suffering a slow death by a 1,000 Brentford passes.

But Warne’s team, with only a 38th-minute Ward effort just wide to show for their first-half endeavours, reappeared with much more attacking intent and a home side which had been so slick and nimble were suddenly rattled by the pressure they were under.

After Ward had been denied one on one by Bees goalkeeper Daniel Bentley, Aimen Belaid rose to head home substitute Anthony Forde’s cross in the 68th minute, then Taylor wasted a glorious chance to put the Millers in front.

Nico Yannaris restored Brentford’s lead in the 78th minute, converting Ryan Woods’ cross from close range before Forde’s low, rasping 25-yarder thudded into the back of the net with only three minutes to go.

Jota’s penalty two minutes into time added on, after an unintentional handball by Semi Ajayi, was cruel and heartbreaking, his hat-trick goal, with virtually the last kick of the match following a Bees breakaway, merely cosmetic.

“I wouldn’t have anyone criticise my team,” Warne said. “All the ‘Rothers’ fans who came down today, I think they’ll have been pleased with the effort the players put in.

“Away from home, that was a good performance. I’d love to be talking now about a 3-2 win or a 2-2 draw, which was the least we deserved.”

Rotherham’s goals saw them avoid an unwanted record of failing to score in seven successive away matches for the first time in their history.

THAT MISS

Taylor held his head in his hands. He knew what he’d just done. Or not done.

With the score at 1-1 in the 75th minute he found himself all alone at the back post with an empty net in front of him as Bentley slipped in his attempt to come for Will Vaulks’ probing cross.

The little winger, one of the brighter sparks in the Millers’ recent miserable run, headed down. And over.

Asked about the miss of the match, Warne talked about anything but.

“We had a few chances. I thought at all the corners and set-pieces we were a real threat,” he said. “I’ve told the lads they have to take pride from how well they played in the second half.

“You’ve got to enjoy playing. I’ve told them, in the 12 games we have left now, they have to perform to that level, score goals, try to win games.”

Yet Taylor’s reaction said it all.

SEMI SHINES

He gave away the crucial spot-kick but, five second-tier matches into his career, he looks a real find.

Ajayi, on loan from Cardiff, is a player Rotherham will try to keep next season.

The 23-year-old centre-half has the height and pace to cause trouble and get out of trouble, and it was his perfectly-weighted, second-half through-ball which sent Ward bearing down on Bentley’s goal.

Warne doesn’t like to single out his men for criticism. He doesn’t mind, however, singling them out for praise.

“Semi was brilliant again today,” he said. “I think it was handball, but it was ridiculously unlucky. He’s come to defend, the player has flicked up the ball and he can’t get his arm out of the way.”

Ajayi was the pick of the 11 starters as the Millers ‘manned up’ in West London in the second half after being accused by Warne of failing to do just that in South Wales.

After Cardiff, the interim boss had damned his players by refusing to acknowledge any of them at the final whistle.

Here, he waited by the tunnel to shake every one of them by the hand.

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