Proctor brace books Millers passage into Round Two...
JAMIE Proctor made a fairytale return to the Millers starting line-up with a well-taken brace which helped the Millers book a berth in the Carabao Cup second round, at the expense of fellow Championship outfit Wigan Athletic.
The experienced striker, who was sidelined with a long-term injury around a year ago, made an instant impact on his return to the fold – with a predatory first-half finish before Semi Ajayi doubled the Millers lead, just minutes later.
Proctor had a night to remember with a glancing header which made it three and after taking the skipper’s armband, the ex-Bradford City striker exited the proceedings, late in the game, to a standing ovation from the AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful.
Following their last-gasp victory over Ipswich Town, the Millers made nine changes to their starting line-up with just Zak Vyner and Ajayi retained from the weekend.
Sean Raggett and Clark Robertson made their competitive bows for the home side while academy youngster Ben Wiles was handed his full senior debut in the Millers engine room.
Following a slow start by both sides, the Lancastrians had the first sight of goal when Jamie Walker got the better of Billy Jones to dig out a cross and Kal Naismith pounced on the loose ball to drill a dangerous centre which was hacked clear by Raggett, from near his own line.
Moments later, Gary Roberts’ clipped cross over the top saw Vyner look anxiously over his shoulder but Naismith was unable to get the ball under his spell and the chance was lost before Vyner combined smartly with Wiles, who skipped to the by-line to fizz a cross which was scrambled to safety by the Wigan rearguard.
In the next Millers attack, David Ball cut inside with purpose before dinking a cross which was aimed towards Wiles, in the six-yard box, but the Millers youngster was snuffed out by a retreating defender.
Moments later, Williams got the better of Callum Connolly in a midfield duel before being felled in full flow by Athletic skipper Alex Bruce, who received the first caution of the evening although Anthony Forde failed to exact retribution with the resultant free-kick when his tame effort struck the Wigan wall.
Just before the half hour, the Millers had Raggett to thank for preserving parity when Roberts and Walker split open the home defence and the latter fizzed a tantalising centre which was diverted to safety by the Norwich loanee – with a couple of Athletic forwards lurking for a tap-in.
Minutes later, Rotherham failed to deal with a long punt into the box and Callum McManaman picked up the pieces on the edge of the box before screwing an effort harmlessly wide of the target.
In the next phase of play, Roberts attempted a speculative effort from just inside his own half which had Lewis Price momentarily scurrying nervously back towards his own goal but the ball sailed harmlessly over.
The Millers broke the deadlock, eight minutes before the break, when an arrowed free-kick into the box was met by Raggett, who attacked the ball before showing great tenacity to scuff the ball into the path of Proctor, who kept his nerve to strike a right-footed volley, which fizzed into the corner of the net giving Jamie Jones no chance.
The game sprang into life and Wigan almost struck back immediately when Walker played a one-two before firing a snap shot which whistled narrowly wide of the upright before McManaman darted into the box before striking an effort which stung the palms of Price, who palmed the ball to safety.
Just shy of the interval, Warne’s men took a firm grip on the tie when Wigan gave away a needless corner and Forde swung the resultant set-piece into the danger area and Ajayi towered above his marker to plant a powerful header, which arrowed into the corner of the net.
In the last noteworthy action of the half, Wigan came within a coat of paint of reducing the arrears when Roberts ghosted in from the flank to curl a delightful effort which smashed against the underside of the bar, before falling to safety.
Half-time- Rotherham United 2 Wigan Athletic 0
The visitors were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and Roberts’ slide rule pass paved the way for Walker to brush past the attentions of Jones before firing a left-footed effort which was smartly smothered by Price, who was well-stationed on his own goal line.
Moments later, Bruce threw his body, in an attempt to meet Roberts’ dangerous free-kick but he was unable to make a clean connection, as the ball flashed narrowly wide before Connolly blasted over, from just outside the box, when he should have done better.
There seemed little danger for the Millers but Warne’s side effectively sealed the deal with a third with 25 minutes to go when Jones showed fleet of foot to work a yard of space on his marker to deliver a tantalising cross which was superbly anticipated by Proctor, who glanced the ball past the outstretched hand of Jones, as the ball nestled in the far corner of the Wigan goal.
The Millers were determined to preserve their advantage and Robertson was on-hand to hack the ball to safety from Walker’s dangerous centre before Price showed his agility to palm Connolly’s long-range effort away from goal.
However, the Lancastrians continued to press and they gave themselves a lifeline with 15 minutes remaining when Roberts delivered a superb centre into the box and James Vaughan ghosted in between two Rotherham defenders to power a point-blank header which crashed into the roof of the home goal despite the attentions of Price, who appeared to get a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.
The goal seemed to lift Paul Cook’s side and home nerves were almost shredded further when Connolly’s superb first-time cross was met by the head of Vaughan, who looked a likely scorer, but his powerful header from just inside the six-yard box grazed the outside of the post, to the relief of the home faithful.
The Millers almost put the gloss on a polished performance, late on, when sub Jon Taylor swung a delicious centre which was met by the run of Wiles, who timed his run into the box to perfection, but his downward header was plucked out of the sky by Jones.
Full-time- Rotherham United 3 Wigan Athletic 1
Rotherham United 3
Wigan Athletic 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Price, Vyner, Ajayi (Palmer 69), Forde, Proctor (Vassell 82), Ball, Robertson, Williams (Taylor 75), Wiles, Raggett, B Jones. Unused- Bilboe, Newell, Hinds, McGinley.
Wigan- J Jones, Walker (Gelhardt 78), Vaughan, Bruce, McManaman (Cole 63), Macdonald, Roberts, Da Silva Lopes, Naismith, Kipre, Connolly (Weir 89). Unused- Evans, Merrie, Golden, Long, Cole.
Referee- P Bankes
Attendance- 3017 (222)