Millers slip in final pre-season outing...
KIERAN Agard maintained his fine goalscoring form during pre-season with another strike but it was not enough as Leicester City showed their Premiership class by running out comfortable victors at the New York Stadium.
Following an even opening, Leonardo Ulloa’s first half double put Nigel Pearson’s men in control at the break and although Agard reduced the arrears with his seventh goal of the summer shortly into the second half, Danny Drinkwater put the game to bed with a well-taken strike.
Millers gaffer Steve Evans gave a number of his summer recruits a final opportunity to stake a claim in the starting line-up for the season opener at Derby County.
Chelsea starlet John Swift was handed his first Millers’ start since his cameo substitute appearance at the Keepmoat Stadium last weekend while Evans partnered Alex Revell and Matt Derbyshire in the striking positions with the ex-Forest striker making his first home start.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Revell tried his luck from distance but his ambitious effort failed to trouble Kasper Schmeichel.
Minutes later, Ben Pringle drilled a skimming effort from distance which stung the palms of the Danish ‘keeper, who teased Derbyshire by offering him a chance of stealing possession with the goal at his mercy but his clever footwork snuffed out the danger.
The visitors had their first foray of note when Matty James’ incisive run and pass into the feet of Tom Hopper, saw the visiting frontman work a shooting position before firing a low effort which was smothered by Scott Loach.
Minutes later, Paul Konchesky delivered a tantalising cross which evaded the visiting runners before Schmeichel dropped a regulation catch from Pringle’s corner and although he prevented Kari Arnason stabbing goalwards, the ball ran kindly into the path of Michael Tidser, whose instinctive effort forced the ex-Leeds ‘keeper into a reflex save.
Just shy of the half-hour mark, Swift’s superb crossfield pass drew acclaim from the home faithful before Pringle’s delivered an inswinging corner which saw Revell make a darting run to the near post but his glancing header failed to trouble the visiting goal.
However, Leicester made the breakthrough moments later thanks to their £8 million Argentinian striker, Ulloa
There looked little danger when James picked up possession in the visiting engine room but as the Millers backed off, he threaded a ball into the feet of Ulloa, who superbly worked a yard of space on Mat Sadler, before drilling a low effort which arrowed into the bottom corner of the goal.
The visitors were sparked into life and Konchesky’s crossfield pass saw Ritchie De Laet superbly head the ball over the Millers rearguard into the path of Gary Taylor-Fletcher, whose bullet header forced Loach into taking evasive action, but any goal would have been chalked off for offside.
At the other end, good work by Lee Frecklington gave Derbyshire a glimpse of goal but his cross-cum-shot whistled harmlessly past the upright before the ex-Olympiakos hitman was in the thick of the action again minutes later when he was the quickest to react from Sadler’s centre but his header blazed wide of the target.
With the interval approaching, the East Midlands side took a stranglehold on the proceedings by doubling their advantage.
Following a period of crisp passing by the visitors, De Laet swung a fantastic centre which bisected the Millers’ rearguard and with Loach unable to collect, Ulloa ghosted in unnoticed to power an unstoppable header into the heart of the home net.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Leicester City 2
At the interval, Evans made a flurry of changes with just Swift and Kirk Broadfoot, from the starting line-up, to come out for the second half.
Agard almost made an immediate impact when he was felled just outside of the box and the ex-Yeovil striker almost dished out his own retribution when he curling effort whistled narrowly past the upright.
Moments later, Swift’s good work paved the way for Conor Newton, to fire a rasping effort from distance which forced Schmeichel into an acrobatic save before Jordan Bowery muscled his way past two defenders to plant a downward header which was straight down the throat of the visiting ‘keeper in the next phase of play.
Despite their early pressure, the Millers had Adam Collin to thank for keeping them in the game when De Laet’s fantastic delivery again had the home defence at sixes and sevens as Ulloa’s flicked header had the ex-Carlisle stopper at full stretch.
The game was swinging end to end and Ryan Hall’s fizzing effort brought the best out of Schmeichel before Bowery got the better of Liam Moore to drill a low effort which had the Danish ‘keeper nervously scurrying across goal shortly after.
The Millers were rewarded for their pressure when they halved the deficit just shy of the hour mark.
Bowery found himself in space on the left flank before pulling the ball back into the path of Hall, whose fired cross struck Moore and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Agard, who kept his nerve to drill a low effort which beat the outstretched hand of Schmeichel before finding the corner of the net.
However, Leicester responded immediately by restoring their two-goal advantage four minutes later.
The Millers were caught napping on the left flank and a hopeful cross saw Joe Skarz head the ball into the path of Drinkwater, who controlled smartly before firing a shot with the outside of his boot and the ball angled away from the dive of Collin to find the bottom corner of the net.
The visitors came within a whisker of adding a fourth when Anthony Knockaert’s superb slide-rule pass saw Ulloa get on the wrong side of his marker to advance menacingly on goal but he was denied his hat-trick, when his goalbound effort was superbly parried around the post by Collin.
With time running out, Agard blasted over as he was the quickest to react from Broadfoot’s knockdown before Ulloa tried his luck with a delicate chip but the ball floated harmlessly wide of the target.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Leicester City 3
Teams:- Rotherham- Loach (Collin 46), Broadfoot, Arnason (Brindley 46), Wood (Morgan 46), Sadler (Skarz 46), Swift, Frecklington (Green 46), Tidser (Newton 46), Pringle (Hall 46), Revell (Bowery 46), Derbyshire (Agard 46).
Leicester- Schmeichel, De Laet, Konchesky, Drinkwater, James, Moore, Hopper (Dodoo 67), Taylor-Fletcher, Ulloa, Knockaert (Watson 72), Wasilewski. Unused:- N’Goma, Smith, Stankivicius.
Referee:- Carl Pawson
Attendance:- 3714 (595)