ROTHERHAM UNITED finished off their Scottish tour in fine style with a 4-1 victory over Ayr United thanks to a brace from Alex Revell and strikes from Mitchell Rose and Ben Pringle.
Following the victory on the Ayrshire coast, the Millers’ concluded the tour in unbeaten fashion after their goalless draw with Greenock Morton on Tuesday and their comfortable victory over Livingston on Wednesday.
‘Gaffer Steve Evans, who played for the Somerset Park outfit for one season during his playing career, was expected to continue his rotation policy against the Scottish Division Two side as he named his full squad with a flurry of changes due at half-time.
The Millers were almost gifted the perfect start when Alan Lithgow’s weak backpass was latched upon by Danny Hylton, who advanced on goal but to everyone’s amazement, the assistant referee flagged for offside presumably for an earlier infringement.
Moments later, clever footwork by Daniel Nardiello split open the home defence before the ex-Exeter striker found Hylton, who cut inside his marker before looking a certain scorer, but his low drive was saved at point-blank range by the legs of David Hutton.
The visitors were looking the most likely and they came within a whisker of the opener on eight minutes.
‘Keeper Scott Shearer arrowed a long clearance into the path of Nardiello, who showed great skill to control the ball and evade the attentions of Gordon Pope, before drilling a low effort which smacked against the upright.
In their first real attack of note, Ayr turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and Michael Moffat had a sight of goal but he screwed his shot narrowly wide of the target.
Moments later, an incisive move paved the way for Craig Malcolm to strike goalwards but Richard Brindley bravely blocked his drive before Moffat blazed an effort over.
The Millers were looking dangerous with every attack and they were denied minutes later by a combination of ‘keeper and woodwork.
Following a fine one-two, Joe Skarz delivered a tantalising centre which saw Hylton climb highest to power a header which Hutton parried onto the crossbar before collecting at the second attempt.
With half-an-hour gone, Michael Tidser’s drilled corner found David Worrall at the back post but his low effort was blocked by a ruck of bodies in the box.
At the other end, Craig Morgan had to be on his guard to snuff out a home attack before the resulting corner saw Malcolm bundle the ball goalwards but Shearer smothered smartly.
It was a surprise the game was still goalless and Ayr were the next to threaten when Moffat got on the wrong side of Skarz before looping the ball over Shearer, but the ex-Bury full-back recovered to clear from his own line before Malcolm stung the palms of the Rotherham stopper with a curling effort in the next phase of play.
With half-time approaching, an arrowed ball from the left flank saw Worrall arch his neck but he couldn’t control his header as it skimmed wide of the target before Ayr almost made the breakthrough in the dying seconds of the half when Rotherham failed to clear a corner and Robbie Crawford unleashed a rasping drive which was heading goalwards before Shearer acrobatically parried the ball over the bar.
Half-time:- Ayr United 0 Rotherham United 0
Following the restart, Rotherham had the first sight of goal when Michael O’Connor’s slide-rule pass released Kieran Agard but from an acute angle, his low drive was smartly smothered by Hutton.
The Millers missed a guilt edged chance to break the deadlock when Agard made a timely break before playing an inviting centre which saw Revell toe-poke the ball goalwards but Hutton saved smartly at point-blank range before Pringle miscued the rebound despite having the goal at his mercy.
However, the Millers were finally rewarded for the pressure with the breakthrough on 52 minutes.
O’Connor flighted a corner to the front post and with hesitation in the home defence, Revell climbed highest to power a header into the heart of the goal from six yards out.
The visitors were lifted by the opener and O’Connor’s defence splitting pass paved the way for Revell to advance menacingly into the box before pulling the ball back into the path of Agard, who failed to get a proper connection and the ball dribbled narrowly wide of the upright.
However, the Millers extended their lead with 22 minutes remaining thanks to another perfectly executed set-piece.
O’Connor noticed a two-on-one opportunity and played a short corner to Pringle, who swung an outswinging cross which saw Revell nip infront of his marker before steering a header past the outstretched hand of Hutton to find the bottom corner of the goal.
The Millers were sniffing blood and they put the game to bed with fourteen minutes remaining.
There looked little danger when Pringle broke on the right flank but his cross was deflected in the path of the advancing Mitchell Rose, who calmly stroked the ball home from the edge of the box giving Hutton no chance.
The home side rallied and Moffat was snuffed out at the near post before Malcolm headed over from the resultant corner.
Minutes later, Adam Collin had to be alert to block Michael Donald’s drilled effort before Ayr were given an opportunity to reduce the arrears with nine minutes remaining.
Sub Alan Forrest’s throughball saw Moffat get on the wrong side of Johnny Mullins, who bundled him over and the referee had no hesitation in point to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Moffat dusted himself down to send Collin the wrong way to find the bottom corner.
With minutes remaining, O’Connor tussled with Adam Hunter after the Ayr full-back brought him down in full flow. However, from the resultant free-kick, Rotherham made the home side pay when Pringle curled a delightful free kick from 22 yards over the wall and into the far corner of the goal.
Full-time: Ayr United 1 Rotherham United 4