A young Rotherham United reserve side slipped to a 3-1 defeat against Stockport County on Wednesday afternoon in the Central League Cup.
A team whose main source of experience came in the form of first year professionals Nat Ford and Josh Ayres had taken a first half lead through the latter before the visitors produced a courageous comeback at Roundwood, in which Keane Barugh starred as he bagged a second half hat-trick.
It was the Hatters who carried the early threat in the midweek meeting at the club’s training base, with Kylan Depeiza and Dallas Omoryui testing the home side’s resolve in the opening 10 minutes.
The host’s plans were disrupted somewhat when Oskar Niewiem was forced off which paved the way for Tom Shepherd to try and grasp his opportunity under the watchful eye of the staff present for the Central League Cup clash.
Omoruyi continued to be a livewire in attack for the visitors and might have opened the scoring had it not been for a heroic intervention from Hamid Seisay’s timely intervention to block a Jid Okeke delivery at the back post.
Ayres played a pivotal role in helping his side to grow into the game with a series of involvements at the top end of the pitch, the most notable of which saw him drive up the right wing and deliver a ball into his strike partner Reece Wilson, who was unable to make a decisive contact in a good position in the box just after the half-hour mark.
Stockport would fire one more warning shot across the bows of the Millers as Depeiaza weaved his way into the box, where another solid block – this time from Harry Roddis – would prevent the opener.
The first goal of the match did eventually come five minutes before the break, and it was the hosts who made the breakthrough.
It was the predatory instincts of Ayres that allowed the Millers to open the scoring, when he popped up amidst a crowded penalty box to steer his side into a 1-0 lead in what was the last notable act of the opening 45 minutes.
Half-time | Reserves 1 v 0 Stockport County
Stockport wasted no time licking their wounds following the opening goal and made a start to the second half akin to the bright way in which they kicked off the game.
After just two minutes, they were handed the chance to level the match from the penalty spot when Keane Barugh was felled by Owain Gordon and it was Barugh himself who dusted himself off before stepping up to despatch the spot kick from 12 yards beyond Nathaniel Ford.
The pendulum swung from side-to-side thereafter with each side testing the opposition goal. Barugh threatened to double his tally for the afternoon before Ayres did the same at the other end, with no success.
Ford was then forced into a series of top drawer saves to keep his side in the tie as the game ticked up to and past 70 minutes, but he would be powerless to resist when Stockport eventually found a way through 15 minutes from time.
The first team youngster had managed to keep out the initial effort which came in from Omoruyi, but Barugh was alive to the danger and followed up to tap the ball home and make it 2-1 to the visitors.
Kingston Figg and substitute Luke Partington then combined for the Hatters in the final third, with the latter skewing an effort off-target when the chance to shoot presented itself.
The visitors then wrapped up the Central League Cup points with Barugh capping a fine afternoon by sealing his hat-trick in added time.
This time the Stockport attacker’s burst into the box allowed him the room to take aim at the target and he duly obliged by thundering an emphatic effort beyond Ford to make it 3-1 in the final act of the game.
Full-time | Reserves 1 v 3 Stockport County
RESERVES: Ford, Paisley (Abraham 83’), Niewiem (Shepherd 15’), Hibbard, Seisay, Gordon, Giwa (Mare 83’), Grove, Ayres, Wilson, Roddis (Lee 45’).