Rotherham United: Top-three spot is prize - Warne

Beating League Two's strugglers will go a long way towards booking Rotherham United a sought-after automatic ticket out of football's basement – according to Paul Warne.

The high-flying Millers' form against their promotion rivals has pretty much taken care of itself in 2010-11, like last weekend when Ronnie Moore's troops started the New Year in sensational fashion.

United showed no signs of rustiness after a three-week lay-off to produce a turbo-charged 5-0 home slaying of managerless Port Vale – all the more remarkable for the fact that goal machine Adam Le Fondre didn't breach the onion bag!

Leaders Chesterfield have also tasted defeat at the Don Valley Stadium, their only loss on the road this term ahead of this weekend's action and one of just three suffered in a peerless first half of the campaign.

The Millers have also triumphed at play-off chasing Crewe and claimed a commendable draw at Bury but, on the flip side, they have failed to secure win bonuses against a clutch of sides below mid-table, particularly on home soil.

Morecambe, Burton Albion, Macclesfield Town, Stevenage and Northampton Town have all taken away something from the DVS, with that particular Achilles heel of failing to see off strugglers, especially at home, probably proving the difference between a top-three place and being consigned to the dreaded play-offs in what was an ultimately heart-breaking 2009-10 campaign.

The Millers have started as they mean to go on so far in 2011 – after the marquee Vale victory they backed things up with a 2-0 triumph at Macclesfield on Monday to help make up for a disappointing draw against

the Silkmen in November.

And showing no mercy to the division's toilers is certainly the way forward in Warne's eyes, particularly in their own back garden, with the likes of Barnet, Hereford United, Stockport County and Accrington Stanley yet to visit Sheffield.

Warne, who doubles up as the club's fitness coach, said: "We don't do bad against the footballing sides at the top; if we struggle against anyone, it's with the lesser ones.

"We're the opposite of Tottenham really. We do well against the good sides, it's the one's at the bottom – like last year when Darlington caused us problems and we lost six points!

"We've played well in a handful of games this season, but I think we've been average at home in most games if I'm honest.

"If we can sort out our home form, we can look comfortably towards

getting in the top three and being there or thereabouts. In that respect, the Port Vale result was a massive boost.

"The best we'd played before that was probably against Shrewsbury, even though we lost. We were decent against Bury and drew and played alright against Chesterfield and won.

"The other week, we played Crewe away and I thought we were outstanding and had got things sussed. Then we went 2-0 up at home against Northampton and threw that away and only got a point, which was hugely disappointing.

"We'd have only been a point or two off the top, if we'd won.

"I think if we maintain some consistency, and do well against the lesser sides, we've got a great chance.

"In terms of our rivals, I did fancy Port Vale with Micky Adams. He ran them three days a week and it was a hard school.

"Chesterfield are doing well and Bury are decent, but the problem they may have is that they haven't got too big a squad. Last year was the same, they were flying, but in January, February and March, they only got one win or something."

While the Millers are on schedule on the pitch to achieving their goal of automatic promotion this term, off it, telling strides have been made.

Outline planning permission was granted on their eagerly-awaited new 12,000-capacity stadium, on the Guest and Chrimes site near the town centre by Rotherham Council's planning board at the end of November, and chairman Tony Stewart is hopeful that work can start on the 20m

scheme as early as next month.

Several contractors and architects have submitted tenders to help build the stadium and, after short-listing their favoured ones, the club will reveal the victors shortly. The clock is ticking with the Millers seeking to move into their new state-of-the-art home by the start of the 2012-13 season.

And the stadium is the cornerstone of go-ahead chief Stewart's plans for the club to return to the Championship table they vacated so unceremoniously at the end of a fraught 2004-05 campaign on and off the field.

Warne was part of that side and the one which enjoyed memorable back-to-back promotions in 1999-00 and 2000-01 alongside three joyous seasons of punching above their weight in the Championship.

That spell brought some heady days both on the road and at their former Millmoor home, where they turned over the likes of West Ham, Leeds United and Ipswich Town.

And Warne insists the positive ground developments have added to the feelgood factor within the club.

He said: "In fairness to the chairman everything he has said he was going to do, he's done.

"Just like anything, it can take longer, even if you want to get an extension on your house, it can take forever to get the planning through.

"It's been a case of crossing the t's and dotting the i's and all that malarkey.

"It's taken longer than people thought, but building a ground in Rotherham will have a massive effect.

"If you look at Chesterfield, you can see the advantage they have had this year (in a new ground).

"Yes, they are playing well, but it does give them a boost."

Elland Road.

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