Rotherham United boss Paul Warne explains why he is keen to avoid Sunderland if play-offs are only available path to League One promotion

ROTHERHAM UNITED manager Paul Warne admits he would like to avoid midweek opponents Sunderland if the Millers do end up in the League One play-offs.

The formbook would suggest that the Wearsiders, who have comprehensively been second best in two league games against Millers – may be a decent side to play on paper in the end-of-the-season lottery, not that Rotherham are wishing to contemplate their season extending to three more games after Saturday.

Rotherham hammered Sunderland 5-1 at home and drew 1-1 on Wearside in midweek, but the nature of Tuesday’s draw may have just left a psychological scar.

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The Millers were effectively a few minutes away from automatic promotion, only for Sunderland to level in fortuitous fashion, courtesy of an own goal from Michael Ihiekwe, who had earlier put the visitors ahead.

Michael Ihiekwe heads into his own goal for Sunderland's equaliser on Tuesday night. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Rotherham’s fate now goes to the final day at Gillingham after a shattering denouement at the Stadium of Light, with Sunderland being a potential play-off opponent if the Millers are pipped to second spot by MK Dons.

Warne, who said his players were ‘absolutely devastated’ by late events at Sunderland, where Rotherham are without a win since 1959, said: “We knew when we came here that Sunderland and Wycombe are probably the two in-form teams.

“I obviously don’t want to drop into the play-offs and play Sunderland home and away either. I knew they’d make changes and thought they respectfully made changes because they knew the energy and pace that we had.

“We defended really well as I don’t think they deserved that.”

Rotherham United boss Paul Warne Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Rotherham head into their final game at relegation-threatened Gillingham needing to win to seal a top-two place. A draw will be enough as long as nearest rivals MK Dons don’t win, while a defeat could send them up, dependent on events at Home Park, where Plymouth welcome MK.

Warne added: “The problem is the elephant in the room – which isn’t really an elephant but more of a herd – because eight weeks ago, we were in an unbelievable position.

“I have said on numerous occasions we’d won (earlier) games we didn’t deserve to win and weren’t amazing, but just went through a spell of having a lot of luck.

“Here (at Sunderland) we have used our luck up.”