MILLERS boss Paul Warne was quick to hail his side’s never-say-die spirit, as they earned a vital point in their battle for Championship survival, against all the odds, following a heroic second-half comeback at Stoke City.
The Millers looked to be heading for defeat at the bet365 Stadium after goals from Sam Vokes and Sam Clucas put the hosts in charge at the interval.
However, Warne’s side turned the game on its head with a superb second half performance as Michael Smith’s header from Anthony Forde’s corner halved the deficit before Matt Crooks’ first goal for the club put them back on level terms – with a quarter an hour remaining.
In a late rally from the visitors, the Millers almost earned an unlikely victory when sub Joe Newell was denied by Jack Butland while Crooks had an effort cleared off the line by Ryan Shawcross before being denied by the England stopper.
Speaking to the assembled media afterwards, Warne was bursting with pride at his side’s second half-display, while being slightly disappointed that they were not duly rewarded by taking the three points back to South Yorkshire.
“I asked the players for a response at half-time and we were really good in the second half,” Warne enthused.
“The subs made a positive impact. We were unlucky that we did not win it and in fairness, their goalkeeper made three unbelievable saves.
“We got the second goal and there was still 20 minutes left and I really fancied us to win it. We were the stronger team for most of it.”
Despite the nature of their second half display, Warne was disappointed that his side had a mountain to climb at the interval by being two goals down after having the better of the early exchanges.
“I thought we started the game really well,” Warne added.
“In the first 25 minutes it was all us. They scored with their first attack. At two-nil, I saw the lads’ body language, and I think they thought they were not going to get anything out of it. We wanted to get to get them in at half-time at two-nil, so we could get into them, in a nice way and we did that.”
Warne was quick to praise the second-half impact of substitute Matt Crooks, who came off the bench to make a decisive impact, by firstly netting the equaliser before having a personal duel with the Stoke rearguard and Butland, as he looked to net the all-important winner, late on, but he was denied on countless occasions.
“He’s always had it,” Warne said of the former Northampton Town midfielder.
“It’s difficult for players who come in January. He’s jumped up two leagues and he’s had to get used to what we want out of him. I just had a good feeling about him today. He was a real positive for us today.”