ROTHERHAM UNITED manager Paul Warne insists that his team’s disappointment at not pulling off a famous win over Championship form side Aston Villa is a barometer of their progress this season.
The Millers, still in with a fair chance of survival despite being the overwhelming relegation favourites last summer, produced an outstanding first-half display to lead the promotion-chasers 1-0 at the interval on Wednesday night, inspiring hopes of a first home victory over the Midlands club since October 1961.
Ten-man Villa promptly displayed their promotion credentials to cast aside the dismissal of Tyrone Mings and end up 2-1 victors, leaving Warne with a bittersweet feeling at the final whistle.
Warne, whose third-from-bottom side now face back-to-back trips to Stoke and Swansea, said: “I told the players how proud I was of their performance.
“The first-half performance was excellent.
“Like I said to Woody (Richard Wood), if we had lost 2-1 at home to Aston Villa two years ago I might have left the stadium thinking, ‘well, the lads have given a good account of themselves and everyone is quite pleased’.
It leaves us with five cup finals and this one was one of the hardest and it was so close, yet so far.Paul Warne
“Whereas two years on in the Championship we lose 2-1 and it feels like it is a missed opportunity. The lads are disappointed and that is how far we have come.”
The second half may have been a tough development for the hosts, but Warne is urging his side to focus on replicating their first-half showing in what he sees as five forthcoming ‘cup finals’.
He added: “It leaves us with five cup finals and this one was one of the hardest and it was so close, yet so far. But the lads can take a lot of credit from that.
“But it is very bitter-sweet for me.
“I was really pleased with the first-half performance and a point would have been a really good one with the way the other results went.”