A youthful Rotherham United side kicked off the 2019/20 reserve campaign with a 4-2 defeat at Doncaster Rovers in The Central League Cup, despite a brave display against their South Yorkshire counterparts.
Following postponements to their scheduled opening two Central League fixtures against Grimsby Town and Walsall, the Millers braved the wet conditions to travel to Cantley Park where Doncaster Rovers awaited them as their first test in the second string cup competition.
With injuries still plaguing a number of Paul Warne’s first team squad, Matt Hamshaw took charge of a side made up mainly of Academy scholars, with the likes of Akeem Hinds and Jake Cooper handed the chance to get some minutes under their belts.
French winger Julien Lamy completed his first minutes of competitive football since sustaining an injury in the pre-season friendly against Parkgate, getting his name on the scoresheet in the process.
The hosts were always in control of the scoreline after a bright start saw them go 2-0 up early doors, but the Millers had more than their share of the chances.
Lamy reduced their advantage to one goal before Doncaster added another to lead 3-1 at the break, before Jacques Etia’s header pulled one back for the Millers and set up a tense finish.
However, a clinical counter-attack ended Millers hopes of a revival eight minutes from time.
As the driving rain settled in Doncaster, so did the two second string outfits and a quiet first five minutes passed without incident but it wouldn’t be long before the visitors found their stride.
An early chance came and went for Joel Spence after the Doncaster goalkeeper was unable to properly deal with Robbie Gateshill’s set piece delivery, before the latter combined with Jacob Gratton as the pair were unlucky to see a one-two cut out on the edge of the area.
The Millers were called into action in front of their own goal soon after though and when a Doncaster attacker had rounded the advancing Laurence Bilboe, the hosts looked set to take the lead until a heroic goal line clearance from Jake Hull ensured the scores remained at 0-0.
A Doncaster spell of pressure produced a rapid home double with the opener coming on 16 minutes. A decent initial save from Bilboe saw the stopper unlucky to see his parried clearance drop kindly for a red and white shirt, who duly tucked home the rebound.
A second followed just three minutes later as Doncaster made no mistake in putting daylight between the two sides with a smartly taken finish from close range which left Bilboe powerless to resist.
The returning Lamy had been a bright light among a side predominantly made up of Academy scholars and it was the Frenchman who replied for the Millers, having threatened on a couple of occasions prior to hitting the net.
On 22 minutes, a drive forward took Lamy beyond a Doncaster defender before he coolly stroked an effort into the bottom corner to half the deficit.
The Frenchman was proving a real handful in the dreary conditions on Tuesday afternoon and almost doubled his tally for the afternoon moments later. This time his chance came in the form of an audacious strike from 30 yards which had the goalkeeper well-beaten, before the ball cannoned back off the crossbar and away from danger.
Doncaster re-established their two-goal cushion just before the half-hour mark but it came in fortuitous fashion when an unkind deflection left Bilboe with no chance as the ball crossed the line to make it 3-1.
Half time | Doncaster Rovers 3 v 1 Reserves
The hosts appeared intent on extending their advantage after the restart and gave the Millers an early scare when they worked the ball into a shooting position before the ball whistled wide from 25 yards out shortly after the second period had gotten under way.
Lamy was again involved in a Millers raid when he burst up the wing to deliver a cross which was initially palmed clear by the goalkeeper before being kept alive by the visitors, who were unlucky to see Peel-Evans denied in the second phase of the attack.
Jacob Gratton turned provider for Lamy in the Frenchman’s next charge towards goal with a nicely-weighted ball through but the subsequent effort was high and wide of the target.
Bilboe then produced a fine save to keep the scores at 3-1 and his contribution would help the Millers back into their stride.
Hamshaw’s side struck back 20 minutes from time to set up an interesting finish to the club’s opening Central League Cup clash, as they clawed one back through young forward Jacques Etia. The goal came following Spence’s set piece delivery from a corner which the striker rose to head home from six yards and make it 3-2.
Peel-Evans rocketed an effort at the target soon after as a warning blow to the hosts, who will have been pleased to see the midfielder’s effort arrow over the crossbar.
Despite their brave fight, the game seemingly slipped away from the young Millers side eight minutes from the full time whistle. It had been Hamshaw’s side in the ascendency for long periods of the second half, but Doncaster dealt the Millers a cruel blow on 82 minutes with a sweeping counter-attack which saw a home striker expertly despatch the ball into the bottom corner to make it 4-2 and to wrap up the tie.
Full-time | Doncaster Rovers 4 v 2 Reserves
Reserves | Bilboe, Beeden, Hinds (C), Spence, Hull, Cooper, Gateshill, Peel-Evans, Etia, Gratton, Lamy.
SUBS | Farrar, Millen, Scott, Wenham.
Doncaster Rovers | Jones, Trialist, Amos, Gomes, Wright, Blaney, Walker, Greaves, Kiwomya, Trialist, Longbottom.
SUBS | McLean, Prior, Ravenhill, Gibbons, Myring