There was more success in the virtual football world for the Millers on Wednesday night as they advanced to the final 32 of the FIFA Ultimate Quaranteam Cup with a convincing 4-1 win over Preston North End.
Ben Galloway once again took charge of Paul Warne’s virtual outfit, this time under the lights at AESSEAL New York Stadium and ensured a safe passage into the next round as a Freddie Ladapo hat-trick and a solitary strike from Chiedozie Ogbene saw them see off the challenge of the Lilywhites, despite Tom Barkhuizen’s late reply.
There were clearly no virtual selection headaches for the Millers, who turned out the same XI and substitutes as the ones who tasted success in the opening round against Colchester United, with Shaun MacDonald once again lining up alongside Ben Wiles in midfield, while Curtis Tilt partnered Michael Ihiekwe at the heart of the defence.
Ladapo, who had started his virtual career in a similar vein of scoring form to the way he had ended it in the real world before football was put on hold, added his third goal of the tournament and the Millers’ first on the night after just 18 minutes, when he blasted the ball beyond Declan Rudd in the Lilywhites goal to make it 1-0.
The home pressure continued to mount and it was Ladapo’s strike partner Kyle Vassell who was next to threaten, forcing the Preston stopper into an excellent save to prevent his long-range thunderbolt from rippling the back of the net.
It was the former Plymouth Argyle forward who had his name on the scoresheet as the Millers doubled their advantage after half-an-hour, on this occasion keeping his cool with time on his hands in the penalty area to beat Rudd with a composed finish.
He completed his hat-trick two minutes before the interval to cap a stunning individual display in the first half and put clear daylight between the Millers and their virtual Sky Bet Championship counterparts, as they went into the break three goals to the good.
Half-time | Virtual Millers 3 v 0 Virtual Preston North End
Keen not to rest on their comfortable advantage and in true Rotherham United style, Ben Galloway and his virtual Millers came flying out of the traps after the break and it wasn’t long before those efforts were rewarded.
Ladapo again proved to be a thorn in the side of the Preston defence, twisting and turning in the area before unleashing a powerful strike which was too hot for Rudd to handle in the visitors’ goal, leaving the lightning Ogbene with the simplest of tap ins from close range to make it 4-0.
Vassell’s industrious approach in the final third almost paid dividends again just after an hour had elapsed but Rudd would again win the battle ensuing between the two, diving low to make an astute save and denying the Millers a fifth.
A rare Preston attack did yield some success with less than 15 minutes remaining and it was some brilliant solo work from Barkhuizen which helped them to a goal of their own. There looked to be little danger as Barkhuizen charged forward with not much in the way of support from his teammates, but after breaking into the area he smashed the ball home to sabotage a virtual clean sheet for Daniel Iversen and the Millers’ rearguard.
The visitors almost clawed another back just moments later when defender Andrew Hughes leapt above a crowded penalty area, but would have been virtually disappointed to see his powerful header miss the target.
Josh Koroma, deployed in the Number 10 role, almost added further gloss to the scoreline when his volleyed effort had the keeper beaten only to land on the roof of the goal, before Rudd once again prevailed in the face off between him and Vassell, thwarting the striker late on.
The Millers now move into the final 32 of the competition with their opponents to be confirmed.
Full-time | Virtual Milers 4 v 1 Virtual Preston North End.
Virtual Millers | Iversen; Jones, Ihiekwe, Tilt, Mattock; Ogbene, MacDonald, Wiles, Koroma; Vassell, Ladapo.
Unused | Price, Wood, Olosunde, Clarke, Crooks, Adelakun, Smith.