Millers lose Group H opener...….
ROTHERHAM United’s EFL Trophy campaign started on a losing note as Manchester United Under-21s ran out winners at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Following a fairly even first half, the visitors struck twice in four second-half minutes thanks to Ethan Laird and Largie Ramazani to turn the Group H tie in their favour.
Following the narrow opening day victory over AFC Wimbledon at the weekend, Millers boss Paul Warne rang the changes for the hosting of Manchester United’s youngsters.
Lewis Price was named between the Rotherham sticks while there was a mixture of youth and experience at the heart of the Millers rearguard with skipper Richard Wood lining up alongside youngster Jake Cooper. Fellow academy player Akeem Hinds was asked to ply his trade at left back despite his recent loan move to Bradford Park Avenue.
Scottish midfielder Jamie Lindsay was handed his first competitive start in Millers colours while Carlton Morris and Jamie Proctor were given a chance to impress in the forward berths alongside weekend scorer, Freddie Ladapo.
The Millers had the better of the early exchanges with Dan Barlaser fizzing a free-kick into the danger area before the Newcastle loanee drilled a corner which skimmed off the head of Morris, as the ball drifted to safety.
Moments later, Ladapo and Lindsay injected pace into a home move but the ball ran away from the attentions of Olosunde before Hinds skipped down the by-line to deliver a tantalising centre but Ladapo was unable to get the ball under his spell in the box.
The Millers were indebted to Price for preserving parity when Lindsay’s weak pass was latched upon by Angel Gomes, who put Tahith Chong in the clear but the experienced stopper won the battle of wills, with a smart save with his legs before Laird fired a cross-cum-shot across the Rotherham goalmouth.
Minutes later, Ladapo made something out of nothing to fire a fierce left-footed effort which stung the palms of Matej Kovar, in the visitors’ goal, before Laird had a rising shot deflected over, at the other end.
In the next visitors attack, Gomes fired a Ronaldo-esque free-kick from distance with his instep which swerved in the air and Price, despite scurrying across goal, was relieved to see his strike smash into the side netting.
Minutes later, Lindsay’s deft flick gave Ladapo, a glimpse of goal but Kovar stood up tall to block his effort at close quarters before Barlaser became the first to see yellow for pulling back Gomes.
Laird soon joined him in the book for a late challenge on Cooper before Hinds was penalised for clipping Gomes in full flow, on the edge of the box.
Gomes dusted himself down to take the resultant free-kick but his lofted effort narrowly cleared the Millers crossbar.
Minutes later, Cooper’s ball over the top was inch-perfect for Ladapo to burst into the visitors box and the former Plymouth striker took his time before playing a pass into the path of Lindsay, who could only scoop over before Ladapo threatened once again with a sharp turn and strike which Lee O’Connor bravely blocked en-route to goal.
With half-time approaching, Gomes showed fleet of foot to bamboozle Wood before presenting D’Mani Mellor with the opportunity to strike, but he screwed his left-footed effort well wide of the target.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Manchester United U21s 0
The Millers were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and Olosunde skipped to the by-line before clipping a centre which saw Hinds rise highest at the far post but his tame header was straight down the throat of Kovar.
At the other end, Dylan Levitt’s pass took Olosunde out of the equation and Chong raced into the box before blazing an effort harmlessly over the Millers bar before Laird fired a centre into the danger area and Di’Shon Bernard toe-poked over from close range.
Minutes later, Levitt tried his luck from distance but he failed to trouble the target before Rotherham came within a whisker of the opener when fine work from Olosunde paved the way for Proctor, to present Morris, with the chance to strike, and the Norwich loanee fired a low effort which looked destined for the far corner of the net until Kovar’s late intervention, which saw the ball tipped around the post by the visiting stopper.
From the resultant corner, sub Michael Smith looped a header which again called Kovar into action, as it flew narrowly over before Chong failed to make the most of Ramazani’s assist, as he dragged a shot well wide, from a promising position.
Just past the hour mark, Olosunde latched onto the loose ball to clip a cross which saw Smith arch his neck to head goalwards but Kovar smothered his effort before Mellor fired over, from the edge of the box, at the other end.
Minutes later, Laird’s spellbinding run worked the opening for Ramazani, who was denied by Price but Laird went from creator to scorer, by breaking the deadlock with twenty minutes remaining.
The United youngster got a pass from under his feet in the box before firing an angled shot which beat the outstretched hand of Price to find the Millers net via the inside of the post.
The visitors took a firm grip on the game, just four minutes later, by doubling their advantage when a long punt upfield was latched upon by Ramazani, who cut inside with menace and with the Rotherham defence backing off, he fired a left-footed effort from the edge of the box, which flew into the bottom corner of the goal giving Price no chance.
The Millers responded positively to the double setback and good approach play from Ben Wiles presented Smith with the opportunity to drill an effort which Kovar parried clear before Mellor came close to adding a third, but he was unable to make a clean connection, despite being just yards out, following superb work from Chong.
In the dying minutes, Ramazani’s pull-back saw Levitt strike a sweet effort which struck the foot of the post, as the ball rolled to safety before Price denied Chong, with a smart, reflex save, late on.
Full-time- Rotherham United 0 Manchester United Under-21s 2
Rotherham United 0
Manchester United U21s 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Price, Wood, Wiles, Proctor, Ladapo (Smith 54), Barlaser (Crooks 46), Morris, Lindsay (MacDonald 68), Olosunde, Hinds, Cooper. Unused- Bilboe, Robertson, Ihiekwe.
Man Utd U21s- Kovar, Gomes, Garner, Laird, O’Connor, Chong, Mellor, Williams, Bernard, Ramazani, Levitt. Unused- Fojticek, Ercolani, Puigmal, Galbraith, Tanner, Traore, McGhee.
Referee- G Salisbury
Attendance- 3105 (435)