Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock joked that his players must try twice as hard to beat Sheffield Wednesday this weekend after deepening the relegation concerns of his former club Rotherham.
The Millers took an early lead through Angus MacDonald but were reduced to 10 men after 19 minutes when Matt Crooks was sent off and Boro went on to secure a 2-1 win courtesy of George Saville and Chuba Akpom goals.
Warnock guided the Millers to Sky Bet Championship safety during a ‘Great Escape’ back in 2016 and admitted he had mixed feelings after leaving his former employers four points adrift of fourth bottom.
But the former Sheffield United manager is now determined to do Rotherham a favour by defeating his old cross-city rivals when the second-bottom Owls visit the Riverside on Saturday.
He said: “I was disappointed with the goal we conceded but it didn’t affect us. We carried on playing the same way and I thought poor old Jonny Howson was playing the crossbar challenge with the two chances he had.
“Overall, I was happy to get the points but I’m disappointed it was against Rotherham because I want them to stay up. I want the lads to try twice as hard on Saturday for them and for me being a United-ite.”
Warnock went on to reveal that out-of-contract strikers Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher will play no further part in Boro’s season.
“They won’t be involved again or train with us,” he said. “From what I’m told, they are both going to other clubs, so I don’t see any point in them being with us for the next two weeks.”
Crooks was sent off for an aerial challenge on Grant Hall, with Warnock adding: “I thought he endangered their player and that’s a red card.
“With the cameras, everybody sees it from every angle, but the referee only has one look and, when I saw it, I shouted ‘he’s not going to stay on’. Grant wasn’t concussed, but there was a bit of blood around his eye and he’s getting some stitches.”
Rotherham boss Paul Warne disagreed with Warnock’s assessment, insisting: “Crooksy is not a dirty player and I want him to attack the ball. That’s how we play.
“It’s a contact sport and I would be amazed if he went to maliciously hurt him. But their bench all went up and made a furore and, while it might have looked like a red from where the referee was, I thought it was harsh and we will certainly appeal it.
“We could have gone on to lose 5-1 if it had been 11-v-11, but I would be lying to say I didn’t think it had an impact on the result.”