Rotherham United v Blackburn Rovers: 'It's huge,' says Millers boss Paul Warne

Paul WarnePaul Warne
Paul Warne

BOSS Paul Warne is hammering home the importance of tomorrow's clash with Blackburn Rovers as Rotherham United battle for their Championship survival.

The Millers, after five successive draws, head into the showdown at AESSEAL New York Stadium third from bottom in the table and the manager is underlining to his squad the pressing need for three points.

"This is a huge game and I will be building it up to the lads," he said. "We won't play anything down."

Warne, stung by an accusation last week after the 1-1 result at Reading that his team are too "direct", believes his men are capable of beating a Rovers side who were in play-off contention only a few weeks ago as long as they hit top form.

"If we're absolutely at our best, we'll be competitive and will have a right chance to win a football match," he said. "The lads are desperate to get the win that their performances deserve.

"We don't just lump it. I think we're good to watch, especially at home. We never set up to draw. We always try to create chances."

With 12 games to go, Rotherham are looking to leapfrog Reading side who are above them only on goal difference.

Nearly a week on from the comments of Royals boss Jose Gomes, Warne is unrepentant about the way he defended his team after the contest at the Madejski Stadium.

"I stand by what I said," he declared. "It wasn't a rant, as I've seen it written elsewhere. The stats showed that we had 400 passes and they had 450 or something. We had 45 per cent possession and our overall play was really good.

"It's pretty offensive to say we're a direct team. There are times to play and times not to. It's too easy to label us with this 'long ball' thing. It's not fair.

"It wasn't a big deal when I said it. You know what I'm like: I get asked a question and I give an honest answer. I didn't realise it would cause such a hoo-ha.

"I'm happy to back the lads because we are a better team and have better individuals than some people might think. The fact that we are where we are when we were everyone's favourites to be down by Christmas shows how good the lads are.

"Criticism hadn't been festering inside me for a weeks or anything like that. It's just that people say this and they say that. I wouldn't comment negatively on another club. I just think that's a derogatory thing to do. I'm just defending my group."

Meanwhile, midfielder Darren Potter, out since December 2017 because of achilles issues, has returned to full training and could be in the first-team frame by the middle of March.

"He trained on Monday, which was his first full day, and then on Tuesday he got absolutely blitzed with the first-team lads," Warne revealed. "He's a bit rusty, obviously, but he looked all right, to be fair. He's well pleased with himself.

"We'll earmark him for the next reserve game. He has to get through at least one ressie game, preferably a couple, before he's ready to compete for a first-team place.

"There is a lot of competition in the middle of the park so he has a lot to get through, but he's had bigger challenges than that. He'll back himself.

"I reckon he's two or three weeks away before we seriously consider him."

Winger Jon Taylor and centre-half Michael Ihiekwe returned to training yesterday after picking up knocks at the Madejski and should be fit for the weekend.

Blackburn have lost four and drawn one of their last five outings and arrive at New York in 14th spot.

"They haven't been on their best run recently but they have a couple of players coming back," Warne said

"People might think that, on paper, this is one of the easier fixtures we have left, as opposed to Sheffield United away or Norwich City at home, but it doesn't always work out like that.

"If we don't get a win on Saturday I will be disappointed but if we draw and no-one around us in the table wins then it's a point gained.

"We're really going after the three points because we could pull a couple of teams back towards us a little bit."