Rotherham United boss Warne now bids to carry his bat to Wembley

MATCH WINNER: Will Vaulks scored the only goal of the game against Blackpool ahead of manager Paul Warne preparing his side for the two-legged League One play-off semi-final against Scunthorpe United. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
MATCH WINNER: Will Vaulks scored the only goal of the game against Blackpool ahead of manager Paul Warne preparing his side for the two-legged League One play-off semi-final against Scunthorpe United. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Paul Warne slugged a bottle of beer after watching his Rotherham United beat in-form Blackpool at the New York Stadium.

But he will be hoping to replace that with Champagne in the League One play-off final later this month after securing a two-legged semi-final with Scunthorpe United.

Will Vaulks netted the only goal against Blackpool, to confirm a fourth-placed finish, while The Iron – held 1-1 at home by Bradford City – had to settle for fifth spot. The other semi-final sees Shrewsbury Town tackle Charlton Athletic.

Rotherham travel to Glanford Park on Saturday (12.30pm kick-off) in the first leg of their semi-final, before returning to the New York Stadium on Wednesday, May 16.

“It will be a tough game,” said Warne. “Scunthorpe are in pretty good form as well.

“I watched them in midweek and they’ve got all their key players back. It will be two different sorts of games. Their pitch is tight and narrow. Anyone who is in the top six is a good side.

“The lads, if they play to their best, should be able to compete with Scunny home and away. With Lady Luck and the soccer gods on our side, we might be able to get through.

“I’m well aware of the fact that Scunthorpe were in the play-offs last year. They’ve got experience of it and might be a bit more educated than our lads.

“No disrespect, I don’t think Scunny really want to play us home and away. I don’t want to play them home and away. If I could just get a free pass to Wembley, I would take it! But I don’t think any of them are available.”

Warne opted to make three changes against Blackpool – with the impending play-offs in mind – left-back Joe Mattock and midfield duo Jon Taylor and Matt Palmer recalled.

Rotherham United boss Paul Warne.' Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Rotherham United boss Paul Warne.' Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

With a top-six spot secure, the pressure was off Rotherham and they played some attractive football without finding that cutting edge.

Both full-backs had early chances to open the scoring, as the Millers showed a cavalier approach in their final home fixture of the regular season.

First, Josh Emmanuel raced clear, after the ball squirmed through to the back post, but he failed to find the target. Then Mattock – the former Sheffield Wednesday defender back in the side after hamstring trouble – saw his header drift over.

Nathan Delfouneso – the former England Under-21 star who was tipped for a great future in his Aston Villa days – caught the eye, and the boot of Millers defender Michael Ihiekwe, to earn Blackpool a free-kick in a dangerous position.

It would be nice when he scores with his left foot if he had a different celebration. It’s becoming a bit tiresome! People are bored of it.

Paul Warne

But Sean Longstaff’s set-piece was fired straight into the arms of goalkeeper Marek Rodak.

Australian Ryan Williams enjoyed plenty of space and one raid down the left should have tested goalkeeper Christoffer Mafoumbi but the former Barnsley midfielder blazed his chance wide.

Then captain Richard Wood stabbed the ball the wrong side of the post after being picked out by David Ball’s clever pass.

Rotherham deserved to be in front, and what proved to be the match-winner came from Vaulks.

The midfielder switched the ball to his weaker left foot, before firing the ball into the bottom corner.

It sparked a jubilant acrobatic celebration in front of the 9,512 Millers crowd.

“It would be nice when he scores with his left foot if he had a different celebration,” joked Warne. “It’s becoming a bit tiresome! People are bored of it. They need to see something else. A win is just a nice way to finish the season, obviously.”

With little to lose, Blackpool pushed for an equaliser, but somehow Delfouneso dragged his volley wide.

Substitute Mark Cullen blasted over – he was offside to spare his blushes – and Dan Agyei curled an effort beyond Rodak’s right-hand post, before Ollie Turton side-footed wide.

Mafoumbi went full stretch to keep out a long-range effort from Vaulks and on-loan Rodak preserved his side’s advantage by leaping to his right to keep out Kelvin Mellor’s header.

“I thought Marek was outstanding and, in fairness, he is paid to keep it out of the net,” said Warne.

“I thought he did really well and, on another day, they might have scored. They had a good 15-minute spell where their play probably deserved a goal.”

Warne – who spent his day off yesterday playing a father and sons cricket match – says Rotherham will train as normal this week, ahead of the play-offs.

Just like his approach to cricket, it will be a week of full-tempo training.

“If the ball is on line and full length, I’m out,” he smiled. “Nailed on, I am out, mate.

“But anything that is not on the wicket, I am slogging. I’m a good slogger. You can watch me one week and think: ‘He’s got a chance, that bald fella out there.’ I could hit 30 or 40 tomorrow in 10 deliveries and think I’ve got it.

“But anything on line and length, and the bat is under the arm and I’m walking back in.”

All Millers supporters will be hoping Warne carries his bat unbeaten all the way to Wembley.

Rotherham United: Rodak, Emmanuel, Mattock, Vaulks, Wood, Palmer, Ball (Towell 76), Taylor, Ihiekwe, Williams (Forde 71), Smith (Lavery 56). Unused substitutes: Price, Ajayi, Purrington, Yates.

Blackpool: Mafoumbi, Mellor, Robertson, Ryan (Cooke 46), Longstaff (Cullen 67), Tilt, Solomon-Otabor (Agyei 67), Turton, Daniel, Delfouneso, Spearing. Unused substitutes: Williams, Clayton, Anderton, Menga.

Referee: R Joyce (Teesside).