Rotherham United kicked off their 2022/23 pre-season campaign with a 4-2 triumph over training ground hosts Parkgate FC at Roundwood on Friday night.
One of the most combative performances yet from the Steelmen ensured that Paul Warne’s Millers side were made to work hard prior to their departure for Croatia in the early hours of Saturday morning, with goals from Tolaji Bola, Georgie Kelly, Josh Ayres and Conor Washington enough to help them to victory – despite replies from Freddie Tracey and Alex Rippon.
With a number of players unavailable for a myriad of reasons – including the late return from international duty of Chiedozie Ogbene and Joshua Kayode – Warne handed run outs to a number of youngsters alongside members of his 2022/23 senior squad, while they were maiden outings in Millers colours for Peter Kioso, Jamie McCart and Conor Washington.
It was actually the non-league hosts who registered the first effort on target of note, when Brandon Bagley manoeuvred the room on the left flank to cut inside and fire a low strike at the target, which Viktor Johansson was down to save comfortably.
Georgie Kelly’s last involvement in a Millers’ shirt was to fire home the decisive second goal to ensure promotion to the Sky Bet Championship at Priestfield back in April and he looked lively in the penalty area again, spinning off his man to tee up young Mackenzie Warne, whose piledriver was well-held by the Steelmen stopper.
Bagley would test the hands of Johansson again, but with a similar outcome with just shy of 15 minutes on the clock. His curling effort after cutting in from the left was a stinging one, but again, well-fielded by the Swede.
Warne had opted to field all three of his first year professionals in the opening half of football in 2022/23 and two nearly combined to devastating effect. A surging run from Curtis Durose allowed him to room to poke a ball over the top and into the path of the onrushing Ciaran McGuckin, who did enough to round the advancing goalkeeper, but was unable to lob him from a tight angle.
With 19 minutes on the clock, the Sky Bet Championship outfit opened the scoring, albeit in unconventional fashion. A wicked delivery from the Millers’ right was headed at goal by Kelly, before his connection cannoned back off the crossbar and invitingly into the path of Tolaji Bola, who made no mistake as he prodded home from close range to make it 1-0.
The trio of first-year professionals appeared keen to make their mark on the opening friendly and Warne Jnr’s name was almost on the scoresheet when his effort from 25 yards whistled just over the crossbar.
Kelly had appeared intent to pick up where he left off in Sky Bet League One and got his reward for his persistence in the Millers’ attack with a poacher’s finish on 36 minutes. Dan Barlaser’s sumptuous delivery from a corner was well-attacked by debutant Peter Kioso, whose touch was headed just wide of the far post until the Irishman stole in to smash in at full-stretch.
After a bright start to the game from the hosts, it was the Millers who were controlling the tempo by the time the interval came. Further clever combinations from Kioso and Hakeem Odoffin – operating in a central defensive role – allowed the Millers to build patiently as they continued to apply the pressure.
Millers first half XI | Johansson; Kioso, Wood, Odoffin, Jenkinson;| Barlaser; Bola, Warne, Durose; McGuckin, Kelly.
Half-time | Parkgate 0 v 1 Millers
Having ended the half weathering a Millers storm, Parkgate came out of the blocks flying and pulled themselves back into the clash after just three minutes.
The goal unfolded as Tracey raced onto a ball over the top of the Millers defence to nudge it beyond the onrushing Josh Chapman, before hammering the ball home from a tight angle to make it 2-1.
The Millers – whose two goals had come from set plays – almost capitalised on further dead ball situations with Shane Ferguson providing the ammunition for Jake Hull and Harding, who both came close.
Half-time replacements Ayres and Jake Champion – both Academy scholars – looked lively in the second phase but were unable to find the net, with the latter looking to latch onto a good ball in at the back post.
Parkgate wouldn’t relent in their efforts to get back into the game and that endeavour paid dividends just shy of 70 minutes when Alex Rippon found the equaliser. His bending effort from the edge of the box taking a deflection which saw it just escape the outstretch grasp of Chapman in the Millers goal.
Ferguson’s delivery had posed problems for the hosts since his introduction and would do so again, this time as the Millers retook the lead. It was his wicked cross which picked out youngster Ayres, who finished with maturity beyond his tender 16-years of age.
With that goal coming from a player with no EFL experience at all, it would soon be followed by an equally quality finish from a man with bags of it. Washington’s clever run took him in behind the Parkgate defence and he made no mistake with a composed finish to put the tie to bed at 4-2 in the 88th minute.
Full-time | Parkgate 2 v 4 Millers
Millers second half XI | Chapman; Harding, Hull, McCart; McGuckin, Lindsay, Warne, Ferguson; Rathbone, Champion; Washington.