Millers bow out of EFL Trophy
ROTHERHAM United exited the EFL Trophy at the group stage following a reversal at the hands of Lincoln City.
John Akinde’s first-half double and sub Tyler Walker’s late strike put pay to the Millers hopes of progressing in the competition with the Imps also missing out, by the narrowest of margins - as local rivals Doncaster Rovers reached the knockout stages alongside group winners’ Manchester United Under-21s.
Following their FA Cup victory over Maidenhead United, Millers boss Paul Warne reshuffled his pack for the visit to Sincil Bank.
Experienced stopper Lewis Price was given a rare outing between the Rotherham sticks while young duo Jake Cooper and Akeem Hinds were given run outs in a youthful visitors defence, alongside Adam Thompson, who made his first start in Millers colours, and American flyer Matt Olosunde.
Jake Hastie and Julien Lamy were asked to provide the ammunition from the flanks while Freddie Ladapo was rewarded for his man-of-the-match display at the weekend, by being asked to lead the line along with Michael Smith.
There was a familiar face in the Imps line-up with former Millers legend Lee Frecklington making his first start of the campaign.
The Millers were quick out of the blocks and they had the first shot in anger when Ladapo latched onto a loose ball to advance with menace before striking a rising effort which cleared the Lincoln goal.
Moments later, Olosunde and Lamy combined to great effect to release Ladapo, but his wayward pass failed to find Smith and the chance was lost before Frecklington had the home side’s first opportunity when he flashed a long-range effort harmlessly wide of the target following Akinde’s smart lay-off.
However, Lincoln were given an opportunity to break the deadlock on 12 minutes when Akinde’s clip over the top was latched upon by Tom Pett, who tumbled under the challenge of Thompson in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Akinde kept his nerve to calmly stroke the ball into the heart of the Millers goal wrong footing Price in the process.
The home side took a firm grip on the game, just two minutes later, by doubling their lead when Akinde got on the end of a through ball to strike an effort from the edge of the box and his shot took a slight deflection off Akeem Hinds, en-route to goal, as it found the bottom right hand corner of the goal.
Lincoln were going for the jugular and Harry Anderson screwed an effort well wide after Rotherham only half-cleared the danger before Dan Barlaser arrowed a long ball over the top which almost found the defence splitting run of Hastie, at the other end, but the ball skipped off the surface into the grateful hands of Grant Smith.
Moments later, Olosunde galloped down the right to deliver a slide-rule cross which Ladapo diverted into the path of Smith, who nodded goalwards but his namesake, smothered the danger on his own goal-line before Jake Cooper failed to make a clean connection with the goal at his mercy after Lincoln made a hash of dealing with Hastie’s corner.
With half-time approaching, Lincoln almost added a third when Harry Anderson drilled a shot which Price parried into the path of Jorge Grant, who looked a likely scorer from the rebound, but his goalbound effort was blocked by a retreating Rotherham defender.
Half-time- Lincoln City 2 Rotherham United 0
Following the break, Jamie Lindsay fought hard to win possession before giving Hastie the chance to show Pett a clean pair of heels but the Rangers loanee’s cross was snuffed out with Smith lurking for a tap-in.
Moments later, Lindsay was again the architect with a clipped ball over the top which gave Smith the chance to lob Grant Smith in the home goal, but despite the ball dribbling narrowly wide, any goal would have been chalked off for offside.
There was a moment of controversy when Hastie and Anderson tussled in the box – with the former losing his footing, but no further action was taken before Olosunde injected pace into a Millers move with a barnstorming run but Ladapo failed to make the most of the opening when he blasted over from the edge of the box.
Minutes later, sub Jake Hesketh slashed wide from a promising position before Payne fired a dipping free-kick narrowly over, after the home playmaker was felled by Hinds, just outside the box.
With time running out for both sides, Barlaser showed good anticipation to latch onto a loose ball to evade the challenge of Ellis Chapman, before looking to find the bottom corner with a measured strike from distance, but the ball whistled just wide before Grant stung the palms of Price with a snap shot, at the other end.
Moments later, sub Chiedozie Ogbene had a shot blocked by one-time Millers loanee Harry Toffolo before Payne waltzed past the challenge of Hinds to drill a low effort, which was arrowing towards the bottom corner, until Price’s full-stretch intervention with a parried save.
Rotherham frustration boiled over when Olosunde was yellow carded for a late challenge on Walker and Lincoln rubbed salt into Millers wounds with a third goal when Grant’s curling free-kick saw Price in no man’s land and sub Walker met his centre to head home into the unguarded net.
In the dying minutes, Lincoln pushed men forward in an attempt to get another goal, which would have seen them progress, but Walker fired wide from the edge of the box before Hesketh brought a fine save from Price, in their late chance of note.
Rotherham came close to a consolation goal when sub Carlton Morris’ defensive splitting pass presented Ladapo with the chance to strike but Grant Smith was his equal with a fine save, in a disappointing evening for the Millers.
Full-time- Lincoln City 3 Rotherham United 0
Lincoln City 3
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Lincoln- G Smith, Pett, Frecklington (Hesketh 58), Payne (Walker 82), Chapman, Grant, Connolly, Melbourne, Anderson, Akinde, Coker (Toffolo 60). Unused- Vickers, Shackell, Adebayo-Smith, Eardley.
Rotherham- Price, Thompson (Robertson 68), Ladapo, Barlaser, Lindsay, Olosunde, Hastie (Morris 68), M Smith, Lamy (Ogbene 59), Hinds, Cooper. Unused- Iversen, Jones, Wiles, Crooks.
Referee- J Oldham
Attendance- 1860 (137)