Rotherham United manager Paul Warne rued his side’s fortune, as the Millers slipped to a narrow defeat to Cardiff City at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Despite creating the majority of the opportunities in the opening period, the home side fell behind just before the break, when Sheyi Ojo broke through on the counter to calmly slot the ball past Viktor Johansson.
Buoyed by their goal, the Bluebirds started the second half on the front foot, so it was ironic that Warne’s side equalised on the hour-mark, courtesy of Matt Crooks’ strike.
Both teams pushed for a crucial third goal in the final stages of the game and it was the visiting team who found it with just five minutes to play, when Joe Bennett met Josh Murphy’s excellent cross to head home the winning goal.
The Millers pushed for a share of the spoils and thought they’d found it late on when Lewis Wing picked up the ball deep into injury time, but he fired over with the last kick of the game and the chance went begging, something which Warne felt epitomised the night for the his side.
“I thought, second half, they (Cardiff) improved and caused us more problems,” Warne told www.themillers.co.uk.
“We conceded two goals – the first one Matt (Olosunde) was attracted to the ball where he should have probably stayed and they get clean through. Apart from that and the Kieffer chance, I don’t think Viktor’s made a save. In fairness to Viktor, he’s pulled off a brilliant save with his left hand that kept us in it at 1-0.
“The lads’ endeavour was nearly enough to get us a draw. I was disappointed with their second goal because up to then I could just see a Rotherham win.
“It was a runner as he hit the ball, he hit it sweet and their lad’s gambled. We were caught napping and it wasn’t offside. It was the best goal of the game but it’s never nice to lose it.
“I thought we played really well. I said to the lads after the game we shouldn’t fear any team. Take the badges out of it. We caused them problems and Smudge had a couple of great efforts in the first half. It just didn’t seem to drop for us. Whatever luck we had Saturday flipped tonight for us to have no luck.”
The Millers trailed at the break but found a way back into the match through a well-worked goal. Michael Smith delivered for Matt Crooks to tuck home his seventh of the season and Warne reserved special praise for the duo, who have been combining to devastating effect in recent weeks.
“Crooksy and Smudge, when they opened their legs and get around the back three they caused them problems,” Warne explained.
“They were quite happy for the ball to be out of play and everything was slow and methodical whereas we would have liked the game a bit quicker. That was hard to inject, especially when the snow came down.
“The one on Smudge, I don’t understand how that isn’t a penalty. I want to discuss how our lads played. If we keep playing like that, we will cause teams problems.
“We did that again tonight and I’m just disappointed because I believe we could have won tonight and been two points behind Cardiff with a game in hand, which is testament to how well our lads are doing.
“We’ll have to pick them up again as we have another test on Saturday. If we hit that performance level again, it should be another exciting game.
“We can only drive performance. We can’t guarantee results or legislate for every single thing that happens in a game. That’s why people love football because it’s so random.
“If we play at a level like we can and all the lads are at their best we can be a really competitive side, and a good side, in this league.”
The Millers took to the field without influential midfielder Jamie Lindsay, the Scot was substituted early on in the team’s victory over Preston North End on Saturday and Warne has confirmed it is bad news on the 24-year-old, who is set to miss up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury.
“It’s bad news on him, it’s a bad hamstring tear. On his scan it looks like six-to-eight weeks. It’s bad for him, first and foremost, because he’s had an amazing season. I honestly thought he might have an outside chance of making the Scotland squad, so that’s a big disappointment for him.”