Rotherham United assistant manager Richie Barker praised the effort levels of the players following tonight’s 4-1 defeat to Watford at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
The Millers were in action for the first time in just under two weeks and trained for the first team in 10 days yesterday, following a Covid-19 outbreak in the squad.
With manager Paul Warne, first team coach Matt Hamshaw and a number of players still self-isolating, the Millers gave a good account of themselves against their Premier League-chasing opponents but were ultimately undone, by some clinical finishing from the visitors.
Whilst Barker admitted he was disappointed in the way some the goals were conceded, he stressed he could not fault the players following a difficult period for everyone at Roundwood.
“I don’t think anyone can question the character, the desire or the mentality of these players," Barker told www.themillers.co.uk.
"It is a group of players that every Rotherham United fan should be proud of. Their desire has got us to where we are so that cannot be questioned, but we are going to literally need everybody. It is going to be a punishing schedule but hopefully rewarding at the end of it.
“It was a very difficult night, I’m disappointed with the goals and how they were scored. Against a very good team with ex-Premier League players, to concede from the second phase of set plays is disappointing.
“In terms of the difficulty of the last two weeks, the fact we’ve even got the game ahead, played it and the players have given everything they’ve got is a big plus. The players gave everything that they’ve got, I’m not trying to say we deserved anything out of the game, but we could have got something.
“We knew the way Watford were going to play and there was part of me that thought I’d rather them carve us open than concede the way we did. Having said that, we spoke to the players and they said that it all felt a little alien to them tonight.
“Woody has not played for a month, the rest of the lads haven’t trained for two weeks, it is something that comes back very quickly but it is a long period of time without the lads doing anything.”
After finding themselves three down at the break, the Millers made a gallant effort in the second half to get back into the game, with Michael Smith missing a penalty and Crooks heading over from close-range either side of Freddie Ladapo’s stunning strike on 68 minutes.
And Barker believes it could have been a different night, had the team capitalised on their opportunities.
“We could have made the game tricky for them in the end. Smudge misses a penalty and Crooksy misses his header from a yard out, the next thing you know we’re making It a really difficult night for them.
“In the end the game sort of fizzled out, but sometimes you just don’t know. Just getting the game completed and getting some minutes into people was good for us and we need to move on pretty quickly.
“It was a great finish and it is a real positive for Freddie who has now scored two in two and it is something that we can take from the game.”
Ben Wiles was substituted 10 minutes into the second half with a tight hamstring and Barker admitted that the staff had one eye on injury prevention tonight, as they made the full complement of substitutions.
“We were a little worried in the end about picking up injuries, a lot of our subs were about injury prevention and in the end we could have done with maybe three more subs because we had some players on their last legs on the end. They’ll come back fitter after this, but it won’t happen over night.
“Wilesy was feeling a little tight in his hamstring. We’re going to need everyone we’ve got over the next few weeks, the last thing we need is someone being unavailable so it was best to get them off as quickly as we can.
“It is nobody’s fault and is just the case of the world we’re living in, some lads have been laid out with covid and obviously not been out the house or even doing so, so to come back from that I was a little worried about a few of them to be honest.
“Hopefully, we’ve got through it without and major injuries and we’ll be better for it in a few days’ time.”