Richie Barker and Mike Pollitt oversaw the pre-season test at the Look Local Stadium, in which their Millers team recorded a 4-1 win over Stocksbridge Park Steels.
A Kyle Vassell hat-trick in a performance which included a penalty miss was the headline as Rotherham United saw off the challenge of a resilient Steels’ side on Tuesday night.
The frontman set the visitors on their way before Scott Ruthven equalised, but Barker’s side never looked back as a brace from Vassell followed with goals either side of substitute Akeem Hinds’ header.
The contingent travelling to the Look Local Arena on Tuesday night included new recruits Vassell and Clark Robertson, who were joined by senior professionals including Will Vaulks, Joe Newell and Anthony Forde.
It was the former of those names who caught the eye in the early exchanges with Vassell proving to be a handful for the home defence. He fired a shot across the bows of the non-league opponents after just three minutes when the ball fell kindly for him after a Ben Wiles break and was unfortunate to see his snapshot flash just wide of the far post.
The opener came on 11 minutes when Ben Purrington’s burst into the box allowed him to get a shot away which was expertly saved by Jordan Greaves, but he was unfortunate to see the ball drop to Vassell who made no mistake turning the ball home from close range.
The former Blackpool forward should have had a second eight minutes later when he crafted himself another opening. Some quick thinking in the forward line saw him intercept and burst towards goal but he had his head in his hands after he rounded the ‘keeper before slotting into the side netting.
Stocksbridge had competed well from the outset though and found an equaliser soon after. A floated ball to the back post was headed back across goal by Luke Mangham to Scott Ruthven, whose tidy finish had enough on it to squirm it’s way beyond Lewis Price.
Despite the best efforts of the hosts, the Millers continued to look the more threatening and came within inches of adding a second with Newell at the heart of the best chances. Firstly he was provider as he fired a teasing cross in which Vassell couldn’t quite reach, before having a pop himself with a half volley on the turn which went just over the bar.
Vassell atoned for that earlier miss and added a second for the evening on 34 minutes as he once more showed predatory instincts to pick up the pieces in the box to apply a finish. Greaves was once again called into action to make a solid save on Newell’s strike, but the former Blackpool man pounced to blast home and make it 2-0.
The hosts almost restored parity again when Tyler Williams turned on the afterburners to show Michael Ihiekwe a clean pair of heels down the left, before delivering a cross which Mangham headed just wide of the far post with a glancing connection.
Half-time | Stocksbridge Park Steels 1 v 2 Rotherham
The resolve of the home defence would not weaken following the break, despite a start to the second period which saw the Millers continue to enjoy the better of the possession.
The halftime withdrawal of Newell allowed youngster Akeem Hinds to take up a place wide on the left of midfield and he had a hand in Barker’s side’s first chance of note. A lovely turn on halfway by Yates cleared some space before he picked out the Academy graduate with a perfectly-weighted pass. Hinds’ centre was a good one and caused problems for Todd Jordan, who would have been relieved to see his clearance go inches wide of his own post.
Ben looked to score points in the battle of the Wiles’ over brother Alex in midfield with an effort on goal just after the hour-mark but he was unlucky to see his left-footed strike whizz just wide of the far post.
The Millers did eventually get their first goal of the second half and it was Hinds that found it. The young defender, deployed in midfield, rose highest in the box to apply a firm header to Forde’s corner which Greaves couldn’t prevent from finding the back of the net.
The 82nd minute provided Vassell with the opportunity to complete his hat-trick from the spot after Wiles was felled by the goalkeeper in the area. However, he would have to put claims for taking the matchball home on hold, as the ‘keeper got down to his right to make a smart save and deny him a third.
The former Blackpool man looked intent on finding that elusive goal though and managed to do so five minutes from time. Yates was again involved with a nicely weighted pass after advancing from just off the forward line and Vassell held his nerve to apply a cool finish as he broke into the area to make it 4-1.
Full-time | Stocksbridge Park Steels 1 v 4 Rotherham
Millers | Price; Ihiekwe (Salah), Onariase, Robertson, Purrington; Forde, Vaulks, Wiles, Newell (Hinds HT); Vassell, Yates.
Attendance | 212