Rotherham United: Why Warne was in such a rage despite Ajayi’s apology... Peterborough United 2 Millers 1

A let-off for Rotherham as Jack Marriott hits the bar. Pictures: Joe Dent/theposh.com
A let-off for Rotherham as Jack Marriott hits the bar. Pictures: Joe Dent/theposh.com

He left the pitch with his head bowed.

Semi Ajayi knew what he had done, how costly his mistake had been, how angry his manager would be.

It was 1-1 with 15 minutes to go and Rotherham United were going toe to toe with a team now second in League One with a 100 per cent record.

If anything, the Millers looked the team most likely to win the match, a victory which would have put them in a play-off spot in these very early stages of the season.

Then, in the 75th minute, came the incident which left boss Paul Warne “incandescent with rage”.

The Millers attacked and home captain Jack Baldwin helped out his Peterborough United side with a pressure-relieving 70-yard punt upfield.

Joe Mattock up against Marcus Maddison

Joe Mattock up against Marcus Maddison

Centre-half Ajayi had time to deal with it but, as the ball dropped from the sky, he had his head in the clouds, allowing the ball to bounce and Jack Marriott to brush past him and lob onrushing goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell for his second goal of the afternoon.

O’Donnell might have been wiser to stay on his line. Warne certainly pointed the finger at him for the first Posh goal when Marriott’s cross-goal shot lacked power but still found its way past the Rotherham man.

“It’s not as if they ripped us apart for either of the goals,” Warne said. “With the second one especially, I’m incandescent with rage.”

“A couple of individual errors cost us two goals. The second goal has really cost us.

Tension on the touchline

Tension on the touchline

“I haven’t ever claimed to be Barcelona’s manager where I want my centre-half to control it on his heel and flick it around the corner.

“All I’m asking is for my defenders to defend and clear the danger. It was a great finish as well. My keeper came running out, so it was just like an absolute calamity.”

Ajayi apologised afterwards. In a tight game like this, ‘sorry’ wasn’t enough.

HOW GOOD ARE ROTHERHAM?

The Millers fall 1-0 behind

The Millers fall 1-0 behind

The Millers can score. They’re also making it too easy for opposing teams to score against them.

Warne’s men are brimming with offensive power and intent and will trouble every side in the division with their fast, direct, muscular attacking.

But they have work to do on a defence which is lacking an organiser, a talker, a real leader.

Warne knows what is required if his team are to operate in the area of the league where he wants them to.

“Everyone can see we’re a good attacking side and we’re going to win games this season,” he said. “However, we can afford to lose only eight or nine games if we are going to be really up there and that’s two we’ve lost already.”

His face twisted as he thought of the mistakes again.

He added, perhaps ominously for one or two of his back five: “That’s something I am going to have to deal with.”

THE GAME

Warne knew there’d be goals. Beforehand, he’d predicted a 4-2 or 4-3 win for his players.

It was a full-on encounter between two teams committed to going forward. Had Jamie Proctor’s 66th-minute header, which would have put the visitors 2-1 ahead, not been ruled out for offside, Rotherham may well have gone on to take all three points.

Marriott smashed an early shot against the bar while the Millers somehow failed to score in an amazing goalmouth scramble in the 22nd minute.

Ryan Williams saw his shot smartly saved by Jonathan Bond, Proctor’s follow-up from a tight angle brought another sharp Bond reaction, Lee Frecklington was denied by a crucial block and Kieffer Moore latched on to the loose ball only to direct it against the inside of the post.

Little Marriott, with his tree-trunk legs, pace, control and eye for an opportunity, troubled the Millers all afternoon. He bagged a brace and hit the woodwork twice in a performance one star better than the nearby four-star hotel which bears his name

He made the breakthrough two minutes into the second half and now Rotherham showed what they could be about this season, upping their game and relentlessly probing until Moore powered in a header from Frecklington’s cross eight minutes later for his fourth goal in two matches.

Then came Ajayi’s apologetic attempt at a routine clearance.

Warne was bold with his substitutions, sending on three attacking replacements and sacrificing right-back Josh Emmanuel, but the Millers, for all their efforts, never looked quite as dangerous late on as they had earlier in the game.

Rotherham have now gone 27 matches without an away league win, equalling a mark dating back to 1979.

“Peterborough are probably top of the table and we came here and deserved to get at least a point,” said Warne, speaking before he knew Wigan Athletic had climbed to the summit.

“I’m biased and think it should have been even more, so to get nothing is hugely disappointing.”

Right on both counts. Slightly biased. But to get nothing was cruel. A draw between two dangerous teams would have been the fairest result.

PLAYER WATCH

Stand up, Moore and Darren Potter.

6ft 5in Moore didn’t hit the hat-trick heights of last week’s demolition of Southend United but showed up well again, while Potter, composure personified in midfield as he kept possession and chose the right pass, is already a key man only three appearances into his Rotherham career.

Ajayi, at his best, is a Championship player. Ajayi, on his game, has the ability to be among the best central defenders in League One. Yet a pattern is emerging of an accomplished player who has a blunder in him.

Last term in the second tier, errors against Wolves and QPR saw Rotherham’s rearguard breached, although he fought back from those mishaps and was a big player in the latter stages of the season.

This season, he has already had a hand in goals for Lincoln City and Posh that could have been avoided.

“The two goals we’ve conceded are shocking,” Warne said. “Semi walked in and apologised to me, but you know ...”

His voice trailed off in much the same way Ajayi’s defending had.

As the defender headed for the tunnel, centre-half partner Michael Ihiekwe gave him a consoling pat on the back.

The boss wasn’t so forgiving.

Shame on Semi: Player ratings