Rotherham United v Cambridge United: Avoidance of successive defeats key for Paul Warne’s men

AS someone with vast experience of League One as a player and an enlightening individual who is approaching his fifth anniversary in charge at Rotherham United, Paul Warne’s views are always worth listening to.

More especially given the fact that he has won two promotions as a player, two as a coach and a further two as manager from the lower divisions.

Few would be surprised if Warne’s Millers side make it a hat-trick of instant returns to the Championship under his watch this season.

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A 13-match unbeaten run in all competitions has added much weight to that argument.

Michael Smith: Rotherham’s top goalscorer is suspended for today’s game with Cambridge. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Warne himself knows that there are many hills to climb in a promotion race which looks like having the potential to be the tightest in years at this level.

The Millers chief is also pragmatic enough to realise that his side’s imperious form will not last forever, with the trick being how they minimise any bad results which inevitably transpire.

It’s something that Rotherham did successfully back in 2019-20, a campaign when they lost back-to-back league games just once en route to a return to the second-tier – almost exactly two years ago when they sampled defeat in consecutive fixtures to Portsmouth and Rochdale.

Two seasons on and the Millers are yet to lose successive League One matches thus far in 2021-22, which smacks of the right sort of consistency.

Paul Warne, manager of Rotherham United (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Warne, whose side still find themselves outside of the top two despite a fine recent points return, said: “If you get into a habit of winning, you can get into one of losing, that’s for sure.

“We always bang on about the fact we are going to lose games. It’s no massive drama; although it is on social media if you lose a game.

“It is losing back-to-back which is a problem and then all of a sudden, whatever good work you have done tends to ebb away. And that is a problem.

“All the top six to eight teams are going to pick up wins. Picking up back-to-back wins is not easy, but picking up back-to-back defeats is what you have got to avoid.

“If you are in the top six, you must have two bad results to come out of it for us.”

Never one to miss much, Warne will also be conscious of the fact that while many expect his side to see off mid-table Cambridge today, it is not the foregone conclusion that it seems.

Striking talisman and top-scorer Michael Smith is suspended for United, who have also dropped five points on home soil to two sides in the bottom four already this season in Fleetwood and Crewe.

It probably explains why Warne is treating every game on its merits, despite a forthcoming fixture list up to Christmas which, aside from next week’s trips to Ipswich and Oxford, does not look too intimidating.

Warne added: “Our last run was a tricky one and on paper, the run we are on now with Cambridge, Ipswich, Oxford, Gillingham, Burton and Cambridge, you think: ‘Oh wow, we can get a lot of points out of that.’

“But football is never like that. I am wise enough to know that.”