Rotherham United: Why Millers boss Paul Warne isn't criticising Semi Ajayi
Manager Paul Warne has refused to make defender Semi Ajayi a scapegoat for his promotion-chasing side's 2-0 defeat against Southend United.
Ajayi put in a jittery performance in a poor all-round Rotherham United display and was at fault for the Shrimpers’ game-clinching goal in the second half at Roots Hall.
Warne accepted the centre-half had been well below his best as the Millers, after a 14-match unbeaten run, lost for the third time in their last four League One outings.
But he preferred to focus on Ajayi’s huge contribution during the three-month spell without a defeat which took the Millers into fourth spot and cemented their place in the play-off frame.
“The lads are going to have off-days,” said the boss after his side had fallen to a seventh-minute opener from Stephen McLaughlin and a 79th-minute strike from Simon Cox.
“We’ve lost three in 18 games and Semi’s been a massive part in how well we’ve done.”
Ajayi is one of the most talented defenders in the division but prone to indecision from time to time. He was an ever-present in Rotherham’s unbeaten sequence and the 6ft 4in 24-year-old scored four goals during that period.
At Southend, on a terrible pitch, he was targeted by home supporters and allowed Cox to beat him too easily as the Shrimpers man wrapped up three points.
“Semi did have a shaky start. Then he played his way into it,” Warne said. “I’m not going to stand here and criticise him, because he’s been brilliant for me.
“Unfortunately, Southend probably wasn’t his best game. Then again, you could say that about a few of them.”
Rochdale ended the Millers’ proud run on March 10. Since then, Warne’s men have lost at Milton Keynes, taken Northampton Town apart in a 3-0 win at Sixfields and been beaten by Chris Powell’s midtable team.
Rotherham will be looking to regain momentum on Good Friday, when former manager Steve Evans brings play-off contenders Peterborough United to AESSEAL New York Stadium.
“I don’t really see consistency as a massive issue,” Warne said. “We were excellent last week at Northampton. “It was a different game at Southend and we just didn’t manage it as well as I would have liked.
“There are no dramas going on. We’ll just pick the lads up and send them out confident for the Peterborough game.”
Midfielder Darren Potter should be in reserve-team action soon as he steps up his comeback from an achilles injury.