Rotherham United did everything right in the derby that didn’t really matter. Now on to the one that absolutely does.
The Millers were comfortable victors in their all-Yorkshire encounter at Bradford City as they wrapped up their Group F matches in the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy.
Just a few hardy Millers souls made the journey to Valley Parade to watch Jerry Yates, Jonson Clarke-Harris and Richie Towell score the goals which kept alive their club’s chances of qualifying for the next stage.
The travelling army will be slightly bigger on Saturday when Rotherham do League One battle at South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Rovers and points are at stake.
This may have been victory against a team of Bantams kids - including City’s youngest ever player in 15-year-old substitute Reece Staunton - but any win is good for morale, particularly after a run of four matches without one.
“As a group of pros, they’re a proud bunch, so, after not winning for a few games, it’s good to get a victory again,” manager Paul Warne said.
“I said to the lads before we came, whatever competition it is, we want to win the game. I was pleased with their attitude. We caused Bradford a lot of problems and could have won by a cricket score.”
Will Rotherham qualify for the knockout rounds? The match between Chesterfield and Manchester City Under-21s on November 29 will decide that. If either side wins, the Millers are out. If the Spireites draw and win the penalty shoot-out, Warne’s men will play no further part in the tournament. If City draw and win a shoot-out, Rotherham are through.
The Millers took the lead after 17 minutes when the ball fell to Yates around 10 yards out and he made no mistake with a low shot.
Lewis Price protected the lead nine minutes late with a sharp save when Jordan Gibson shot fiercely after nimble footwork had taken him through Rotherham’s defence.
And Clarke-Harris increased it just past the half-hour mark when he was fouled in the area and got up to bury the penalty beyond Rouven Sattelmaier’s right hand.
The tie was over by half-time as Towell latched on to Yates’ lay-off in the 45th minutes and stroked a lovely 20-yard effort into Sattelmaier’s left corner.
The Millers fielded a shadow side showing 10 changes as Warne kept back his main men for Doncaster duty, with 18-year-old Ben Wiles making his first senior start and left-back Akeem Hinds, 17, selected for only his second outing at left-back. Fellow Academy kids Josh Kayode and Reece McGinley also came on.
“We’ve managed to blood more youngsters and give them a taste of what’s to come,” Warne said. “The senior pros committed themselves really well. Richie Towell didn’t want to come off. He wanted to play on.
“I said to the young lads afterwards, if you want to have a career in the game, you need to look at people like that. My overall feeling is one of pride.”
Jon Taylor shot just wide after a good run soon after the restart and that was about it for second-half excitement.
The Checkatrade is an unloved, unwanted competition. The official attendance showed 48 Rotherham followers braved the November cold to cheer on their side.
This Saturday and the real thing at the Keepmoat Stadium? Around 3,500.
Goals: Yates 17, Clarke-Harris pen 31, Towell 45 (Rotherham).
Bradford (4-2-3-1): Sattelmaier; Devine, Laird, Thompson, Robinson; Dieng (Maltby 82), Pybus; Gibson, McCartan, Patrick (Hudson 64); Poleon (Staunton 74). Subs not used: Raeder, Hefele, Powell, Kirkpatrick.
Rotherham (4-4-2): Price; Emmanuel, Onariase, Mattock, Hinds; Taylor (Bray 62), Wiles, Towell, Forde (McGinley 81); Clarke-Harris (Kayode 74), Yates. Subs not used: O’Donnell, Ajayi, Warren, Francis.
Referee: Robert Lewis (Shrewsbury).
Attendance: 931 (48).