Boss Paul Warne faced up to the prospect of relegation as Rotherham United’s injury-time defeat at Brentford saw the gap between the Millers and Championship survival grow ever wider.
The division’s bottom club conceded two goals in time added on to lose 4-2 at Griffin Park and slip 16 points off the pace with just 12 matches remaining.
“I’m not going to say we’re down until we’re down, but we’re all realists,” the caretaker manager said.
“I know the probability of it. But we’ve got a responsibility to our fans, to our sponsors, to our chairman, to our families to go out and perform every week.
“I think my lads did that today. If you came and watched my team today and you think they’ve given up, you were drinking heavily before you came here.
“My players really had a good go. At 2-2, we had them rattled.”
Rotherham are assessing the injury to Richard O’Donnell which forced the goalkeeper out of the Bees clash just minutes before kick-off.
Millers fans behind the 28-year-old’s goal said they heard him cry out in pain as he fielded the ball during the warm-up.
“He just caught his finger on a shot,” Warne said. “I don’t know yet if he’s broken it. It’s like we’ve run over a cat or something. We don’t seem to be getting any luck.”
O’Donnell was replaced by Lewis Price - back in the squad after more than a month out through injury and illness - who is now likely to stay in the side for next Saturday’s home match against Aston Villa.
“Pricey had to play. He’s had only two days’ training in five weeks,” Warne said. “It’s pretty impressive he came in like he did and I thought he performed really well.”
After being 1-0 down at the break, Rotherham were drawing 2-2 and close to bagging only their second away point of the season until Jota scored a penalty in time added on for Brentford and then completed his hat-trick with the final play of the game.
Warne revealed: “I said the lads at half-time: ‘Don’t crumble. You’ve got to show character. At least show character.’
“I thought they had a really good go in the second half and I really feel for them. They’ve played their hearts out.
“A 2-2 draw here wouldn’t have done anything to our season. It’s good to get a point and not to lose, don’t get me wrong, but we need to win football matches.
“It’s my job to be positive with the lads and pick them up next week for a good home performance against Villa.”
Anthony Forde came on in the 60th minute and set up Aimen Belaid to make it 1-1 before scoring a stunning long-range goal himself as Rotherham equalised for a second time with three minutes to go.
“A 4-2 defeat definitely wasn’t fair,” the winger said. “We got back into the game and it looked as though we were going to win it. The ref gave the penalty and that was it.
“We have to win games and us going for 3-2 to us ended up making it 4-2 to them. We went for the three points and it was nearly worth it, but obviously it didn’t pay off in the end.”