Rotherham United ended their 2021/22 pre-season preparations with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Sky Bet Championship outfit Middlesbrough at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
An individual moment of brilliance from the right foot of Paddy McNair at a first half set piece proved to be the difference as Paul Warne’s side enjoyed another useful run-out in front of their own fans.
The Millers boss reshuffled his pack following a useful run-out against Newcastle United on Tuesday night, rotating the majority of his first XI in order to evenly distribute match minutes ahead of the Sky Bet League One kick off next weekend.
Youngster Jake Hull joined the defence alongside a trialist with Richard Wood providing the experience. Meanwhile, Joshua Kayode was paired with Michael Smith – who bagged a goal against his childhood club – in attack.
The hosts looked to state their early intentions with the league campaign just a week away and it was Kieran Sadlier, who impressed as a substitute against the Magpies making the early running. Just two minutes had elapsed when Sadlier drove forward to unleash a low left-footed strike from 25 yards, which in the end, was easily fielded by Joe Lumley in the Boro goal.
In a squad already hit hard with some unfortunate injuries, Warne was given further reason for concern as goalkeeper Viktor Johansson hit the deck unchallenged after 10 minutes, sustaining an injury that would prompt his immediate substitution. Josh Chapman entered the fray in his place, in what was hopefully more of a precautionary change than anything more serious.
Chapman’s first duty would involve picking the ball out of the back of the net – through no fault of his own – after McNair’s perfectly executed set piece with 15 minutes on the clock. After Wood had felled Watmore on the edge of the box, it was left to McNair to take charge of the set piece, and take charge he did, whipping the ball up and over the wall and into the back of the net, via the feintest of touches of the near post.
Boro midfielder Morsy was next to try his luck on goal as he unleashed a fierce drive from 30 yards which drew a decent save from Chapman down low to his left, which saw him gather the effort at the second attempt.
Having seen Warnock dash down the touchline in a similar fashion in the league game between the two sides last season when Matt Crooks was dismissed, the former Millers chief replicated his run to bemoan an innocent-looking challenge on Isaiah Jones, which left the Boro number three down in some discomfort. Following a lengthy discussion with referee James Bell, the Boro boss did calm down but Jones had to be withdrawn as a result of the injury to his head.
There was almost more injury anguish for the Millers when Jamie Lindsay was caught late by Jonny Howson as the hosts looked to break, leaving him down on the deck and in some discomfort. After a lengthy period of treatment, Lindsay did return to the action, albeit with a fairly significant cut down his shin.
With Millers fans unable to travel to the recent friendly at Harrogate Town, the game against Boro provided them with a first chance to get a glimpse of the skills of Chapman, after he had replaced Johansson between the sticks.
Five minutes before the break, they got just that when he produced an excellent reaction save to deny Watmore with a volley from point blank range, which was made even more impressive by the offside flag being raised by the referee’s assistant on the far side.
Half-time | Rotherham 0 v 1 Middlesbrough
With enough cause for concern on the injury front already, Warne wasted no time in making the changes, introducing three new faces at the interval in the form of Freddie Ladapo, Ben Wiles and another trialist.
The replacements sparked an immediate impact with a short corner routine almost proving pivotal, as a ball flashed across the face of the Boro goal before Ladapo looked to make something of the loose ball at the byline as he forced another corner – which was this time cleared.
McNair’s inch-perfect free kick of the first half was almost equalled in the second by a player equally capable from set piece situations. After Ladapo had been upended 20 yards from goal in a central position, Barlaser stepped up to whip an effort up and over the wall, which resulted in Lumley clawing the ball away from his near post at full stretch.
The next chance of note came for the visitors and substitute Chuba Akpom, who looked to capitalise on a loose ball in the Millers box, turning and firing a snapshot at goal which, in the end, went well wide of Chapman’s near post.
There was a nice moment 15 minutes from the end when the home faithful were given their chance to show their appreciation and say ‘goodbye’ to now-Boro midfielder Matt Crooks. As his number was displayed on the Fourth Official’s board, the home contingent of AESSEAL New York Stadium applauded him from the field as a thank you for his services over the last two-and-a-half years.
Trialist did his chances of catching the eye of boss Warne no harm with a number of impressive touches in the second half, the most notable of which saw him pluck a high ball out of the air before playing a clever pass into the feet of Ladapo, with the other almost seeing him spin free of a Boro defender in the penalty area.
Full-time | Rotherham 0 v 1 Middlesbrough
Millers | Johansson; Trialist , Hull, Wood, Harding; Sadlier, Lindsay, Barlaser, Ferguson; Smith, Kayode.
Substitutes| Chapman, Wiles, Ladapo, Ogbene, Miller, Greaves, Cooper, Gratton, Durose, Greenhouse, Trialist.