The sun was beating down on the Fylde coast but it was an afternoon of frosty receptions for Rotherham at Fleetwood.
Having travelled to the seaside full of the joys of summer, hope fully restored after a superb pre-season, the Millers quickly learned that League One is not going to be a holiday camp.
Against a well-oiled, strong side, Rotherham were beaten 2-0 and outplayed all over the park.
Of course, you can’t read too much into the opening day – the first 20 minutes of last season is testament to that – but this was hardly the welcome into their new surroundings that they were hoping for.
They should have known from early on that Fleetwood weren’t in the most hospitable of moods when their boss Uwe Rosler shook everyone’s hand on the opposition bench other than goalkeeping coach Mike Pollitt’s.
The pair were together at Wigan and if there was any beef then Pollitt was not aware of it until the German disdainfully ignored his former colleague’s outstretched hand before kick-off.
After a promising opening 15 minutes for Paul Warne’s men, where Lee Frecklington had a goal dubiously disallowed for offside, Fleetwood went about showing exactly why they finished in the play-offs last season.
They had three no-nonsense centre-halves, outran the Millers in midfield and caused problems with their pacy attack.
In contrast, Rotherham made it look like the last six weeks had not happened. The high-tempo attacking style that had seen them rack up 6-2, 7-1, 3-1 and 4-0 friendly wins was nowhere to be seen and the stars of pre-season were reduced to barely a supporting role at Highbury.
— Goodbrand Stats (@StatsChristian) August 5, 2017
Nobody was more of a no-show for the Millers than David Ball, who failed to have an impact on his former stomping ground and was simply not in the game.
Instead, it was his replacement at Highbury Conor McAleny who stole the headlines with both goals and on this evidence at least, Fleetwood appeared to have upgraded on one of their star players from last season.
This was always going to be a litmus test, and plenty more sides will lose there this season, but after the hope and expectation that pre-season brought this was, as Warne said afterwards, a “rude awakening”.
From the notebook
– Has Jon Taylor ever crossed the ball without flailing his arms up in outrage when the goalkeeper continually plucks it out of the air?
– Will Vaulks needs to see if he can get his money back on his shoot-on-sight policy as a matter of urgency. None of his attempts at goal from distance were as foolish as his 30-yard attempt late on that sailed harmlessly wide when he had options around him.
– Fleetwood goalkeeper Alex Cairns has played more games against Rotherham than for them, despite being at the club for half a season. He won’t have a much easier outing than
– The writing looks on the wall for Jonson Clarke-Harris. A bit-part player throughout pre-season after scraping a new deal, the striker did not even make it on to the bench at Fleetwood.
– A new season but the same old story on the road. Rotherham have now not won away from home for 26 games and are just one short of equalling the club record.
– Hardly consequential this season, but Rotherham occupy a familiar position. In propping up the rest, they have been at the bottom of the table after every round of games they have played since losing at Huddersfield at the end of September last year. The only way is up.