In essence, Rotherham’s first outing of the new season at the AESSEAL New York Stadium followed the same old story, though this made much better reading for Paul Warne’s men.
In losing 2-1 in a friendly to Sheffield United, the Millers failed to get anything out of a game in which they more than matched their opponents for a long time – a regular occurrence last season.
But the bigger picture presents a far more brighter outlook as there were no points on offer, and more importantly Warne’s men went toe-to-toe with the side that have just blitzed the division they are about to compete in. This was a promising evening’s work.
The Blades won it through an own goal from Michael Ihiekwe and Enda Stevens’ effort in the space of 13 second-half minutes, with Jerry Yates registering a worthy response for the Millers late on.
It was the first look at Warne’s new-look side on home soil for the fans and they will have been pleased with what they saw, especially in the first 65 minutes where had it not been for substitute Blades goalkeeper Jake Eastwood, the Millers could have had the game wrapped up.
Although the loss stops a 100 per cent record in pre-season, it certainly does not end the positivity that is growing around the club.
Against their first real testing opposition, the Millers did not falter and the signs – albeit still formative – are there that Warne has built a squad that will be competitive and entertaining to watch.
“I would have liked to win the game, I didn’t want to lose the game, I don’t want to get into the habit of that, especially with how pre-season has gone,” Warne said afterwards.
“The performance was good, I would like to think the Rotherham fans are leaving thinking it is a positive, energetic side.
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) July 21, 2017
“They are a good side, they have been together a while, at times they caused us problems but I thought we caused them problems.
“If you turned up as a neutral it was a good end-to-end game and that is what you want from pre-season, you want it to be competitive.
“It was a good work out for the lads, disappointed with the goals we conceded, but it was nice for Jerry to get a goal. Overall, pretty pleased.”
From the notebook
– As encouraging as it was, there were several other familiar traits also still on show from last season.
Exhibit A: Darnell Fisher’s defending for the second goal.
Exhibit B: Lewis Price’s sub-standard kicking.
Exhibit C: A lack of end product from Jon Taylor.
– Semi Ajayi and Michael Ihiekwe put themselves in pole position to be the first-choice centre-back pairing. Both looked strong, quick and good on the ball.
– David Ball showed glimpses that he might live up to his hype. Tricky on the ball, can see a pass and most of all, looks like exactly the sort of player that can win a penalty, something much-needed after last season.