Joe Newell believes Rotherham United’s spirited second-half display at Championship front-runners Huddersfield Town proves how much the players are behind manager Alan Stubbs.
The Millers lost 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium, but rattled their opponents after the break and should have scored a late equaliser only to see Tom Adeyemi miss with a glancing header.
Stubbs is under pressure, with the Millers winning just one of his 10 league matches in charge and dropping into bottom spot after Tuesday’s defeat.
But Newell, who played a killer cross-field pass to help set up a stunning Rotherham goal scored by Danny Ward, reckons the character displayed by him and his teammates is a show of support for their new boss.
“I think the second half speaks volumes about that, to be honest,” the left midfielder said.
“We struggled first half. It was tough coming here. But in the second half, the way we dug in and fought for each other - the lads who started and the lads who came on - shows there’s no problem with team spirit whatsoever.
“We all want to get out of this rut we’re in. I’d say that was our best performance away from home and we were up against a top team. There were good signs.”
Stubbs says a summer of wheeling and dealing has made it difficult for the Millers, who have a sell-out home clash with Newcastle United on Saturday, to hit the ground running.
“We’ve had a huge turnaround of players and that’s had an affect on how we’ve started the season,” he said after the final whistle in West Yorkshire. “But I don’t want to stand here and make excuses. I was pleased with certain elements of our performance
“Football is all about challenges. As a player, there are challenges. In management, there are challenges. If it was as easy as having £50 or £60 million budgets and going out and buying whoever who you want, the best players, we’d all be wanting to go into management.
“You have to do the best with what we’ve got. We will try to do that, but we know we have to improve. I’m a realist. My glass is half-full, it’s never half-empty.
“I think you’ve seen an improvement tonight. If we build on that improvement then results won’t be too long in coming.”
Rotherham were 1-0 down inside two minutes against Huddersfield and trailed 2-1 at the end of the first half. After the interval, they rallied, and Adeyemi was a disconsolate figure in the dressing room after his spurned opportunity.
“We said to each other at half-time to stay in the game,” Newell revealed. “2-1 at 80 minutes wouldn’t be a bad scoreline.
“It nearly happened for us, but unfortunately it didn’t. Tom was close to an equaliser. I’ve just spoken to him and he’s obviously gutted. On another day, Tom would put that in.”
Stubbs blasted the performance of referee Stuart Attwell, saying he could understand why the Warwickshire official had been demoted from the Premier League, and Newell agreed with his manager that there had been Town infringements in the build-up to the second Huddersfield goal, put away by Nahki Wells.
Struggling to pick the right words, the 23-year-old said: “The referee, I don’t like to say anything, but ... I won’t say anything. The second goal, I think the ball’s rolled to me and I’ve just stood expecting a free-kick for either of two offences. I’ll stop there ...”