Richie Barker was a proud man after seeing Rotherham ease their Sky Bet Championship relegation fears with a 2-0 win at Bristol City.
Again in charge because of Paul Warne’s self-isolation, the assistant manager oversaw a committed display which suggested all is far from lost in the Millers’ battle to beat the drop.
They are now just three points behind fourth-from-bottom Birmingham, with four games in hand.
But Barker’s delight was matched by Nigel Pearson’s frustration as headers from Michael Smith on 44 minutes and Richard Cook on 74 condemned City to a club record sixth successive home defeat.
Barker said: “I’ve told the players after the game that a lot of the other clubs battling to stay up will look at our result today and wonder how it happened.
“They will be surprised. Only time will tell whether having so many games in hand will prove positive for us, but there is so much still to play for.
“Our training ground is going to be a happy place next week because it was a fully deserved win. I am proud of all the players.
“It seems unbelievable that we don’t play until Easter, with so many fixtures still to fit in, but that’s the situation and we need to use the break well and build on this result.
“We are looking at playing virtually every three days when we start again, but we will look forward to that challenge when it comes.
“There is a fortnight to prepare for the big run-in. I spoke to Paul Warne for about 20 seconds after the match and he said he would call me later, but he was very happy.
“The win is a boost for him and everyone else at the club. We knew we would need to be well organised to get something today and that’s how it turned out.”
Pearson’s dismay was compounded by injuries to Tomas Kalas and Callum O’Dowda in a season which has seen City’s squad decimated by fitness problems.
He said: “We don’t know yet how serious either injury is. But it’s disappointing that I again had to make enforced changes, rather than ones for the good of the team.
“Rotherham are good at what they do and at the moment we are not responding well to setbacks in home games.
“Until they scored, we were comfortable. But there is no accounting for individual mistakes like the one that cost us the first goal just before half-time.
“Only when we went behind did anxiety creep in. We knew it was going to be an ugly game and fair play to Rotherham, who are an honest, hard-working side.
“They are a big team as well and they played to their strengths. But we have to find the solution to not being able to cope with opponents scoring at Ashton Gate.
“Before the game the players were in good spirits and I had a good feeling about it. But it’s another day when we are disappointed with the result.”
Pearson is being strongly linked with a move to sign experienced full-back Danny Simpson, formerly with him at Leicester, but would say only: “If there is an announcement, it will be made at the appropriate time.”
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