United are on the brink of a second relegation from the second tier in the space of three seasons following a 3-1 defeat to the Blues in a fixture that Warne labelled as ‘must-win’ ahead of the game.
The hosts, boosted by the news of relegation rivals Millwall’s defeat in the lunch-time Championship game at Aston Villa, had been afforded further positivity in a strong first-half that saw them lead thanks to Matt Crooks’s third goal in consecutive matches.
But the Blues produced an excellent second-half response, scoring three unanswered goals to run out comprehensive winners and clinch their own safety despite being deducted nine points by the English Football League for breaching profitability and sustainability rules last month.
Third-from-bottom Rotherham are three points adrift of Millwall, who have a game in hand on Warne’s side.
The Lions – who entertain Stoke City in the Saturday lunch-time kick-off ahead of the Millers’ game at West Brom – also have a vastly superior goal difference.
Warne said: “It (Birmingham) was must-win and we did not win it and it was hugely disappointing.
“But if someone had said to me at the start of the season that with two games left we would be three points and goal difference away from survival, who is to know.
“I am a pretty nice guy and deserve a little bit of luck in life. We might get a win and a draw and Millwall do not pick up anything. This league is so difficult and there is no easy game for any team in this league. We might have enough.
“At half-time life was looking half-full and now it is looking half-empty. It is my job to pick the lads up and tell them how much belief I have in them and hopefully we will have a performance more befitting of our great club.
“We will not give up. In this group I have tried to sign characters and leaders and there is a real togetherness. They are obviously hugely disappointed, but with two games left there is still a chance. While there is people can turn up for work with a smile on their face and think, ‘We have taken it virtually to the wire’.”
Despite praising his side’s attitude and effort Warne acknowledged that his side could not cope with Birmingham’s step up in class on the resumption as the Millers found themselves second-best on one of the rare occasions this season at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Warne, whose side surrendered an interval lead for the second successive home game following their loss to Aston Villa almost a fortnight ago, added: “Everyone works tirelessly to be as competitive as we can in games.
“It has not been in that many games where I have felt like we were struggling, but there was a 25-minute spell in the second half where I felt we were struggling. We did not play with any aplomb or take enough time on the ball and went a bit ugly.
“But over the course of most games the lads have been excellent and I cannot ask for much more. I am obviously biased, but I love those guys and they have been brilliant. If they could achieve survival it would make the story even sweeter.”
Wigan Athletic secured their second-tier status following a 2-0 home win over Preston.