Match Report: Parkgate FC 1 Rotherham United 9

Matt Derbyshire shoots
Matt Derbyshire shoots

There were red-and-white shirts everywhere, bodies speeding across the pitch, giving their all, crosses and shots flying in from all angles.

No wonder Parkgate took a bit of beating.

Only this was half-time. The real players were back in the dressing room taking a much-needed break from the intense heat. These out on the pitch were the stars of tomorrow, any age from three to 15 and trying to emulate what they’d just seen their Millers idols do in building up a 4-0 interval lead.

You don’t see Rotherham players called to the touchline by their mums and lathered in cream and made to wear a cap because the sun’s too strong.

This was a good day for football. There was the serious business of a match taking place as Steve Evans’ men stepped up their fitness and honed their sharpness ready for the start of the Championship season on August 9.

But it was also an afternoon when fans got to mix with their heroes, when community really met with the club. Non-league v professional, with access nearly all areas.

Around 1,000 followers turned up at Parkgate’s sprawling Green Lane complex, which is the training home of the Championship Millers during the week.

For the record, the pros won 9-1 but that’s already consigned to the history books. The bonds forged by a club going right into their heartland and shaking hands with their fanbase will last all season.

There were some sights you don’t expect to see in the Football League. I doubt the Millers will go to the iPro Stadium on August 9 and see a fan quietly throwing up behind the opposition goal because he’s dipped his hand in his carrier bag of tinnies once too often.

Then there was the surreal sight of full-back Joe Skarz overlapping on the left flank and passing within inches of a fan juggling a packed tray of lagers right along the full length of the touchline.

Whatever tricks were on show on the pitch, none matched this supporter. He didn’t spill a drop.

“It was a good workout for us,” said coach Paul Warne. “It was played in the right

way by both sides and one of the bonuses for us is that we’ve come through with no injuries.

“It felt as if the whole of Parkgate had turned out to watch. It was a great to see and we really appreciate the support.”

Matt Derbyshire saw his first action for the Millers, scoring the third goal from the penalty spot after two openers from Alex Revell. An own goal made it 4-0 and after the break Revell completed his hat-trick, with Kari Arnason, Ryan Hall, Richard Wood and sub Jerry Yates also on the scoresheet.

Don’t dismiss the Parkgate lads as cannon-fodder. This was a big day for them and they played a full part. They never gave up and troubled the professional side a few times early doors before the second half became virtual one-way traffic.

The muscled difference between athletes who train for a living and good local players who have jobs rather than practice sessions was plain to see. Men against boys on a physical level. Centre-half Kari Arnason running after skinny Parkgate No 11 George Morley ... Morley is a skilful lad, but it look liked a dad chasing his slightly unkempt son who could do with a haircut.

Parkgate won’t be on the wrong end of many 9-1 scores when their own North Counties East League campaign gets under way, and they’ll always be able to tell their kids about the day they played against Rotherham United.

These are players who will have stood out as they grew up in school teams and in junior Sunday League footie and are now near the top of the local-football ladder. There’s no disgrace in losing to a side crammed with players who were either starring at Wembley in May or plying their trade all last season at Championship level.

It was hot. Boy, it was so hot. I’ve never known heat like it at a football game.

The Rotherham players toiled in the heat and sweated for the cause, but none dug in quite like their media guy, Matt Young.

Defiantly, his shirt sleeves stayed down and his tie on for the entire duration of the game as he tweeted away in a flowered comfy chair bought for a fiver from a service station. How hard is he? Roy Keane would have given up on that before half-time.

At the end the players loitered and signed autographs for the hordes of kids decked out in their Saturday finest – the new Millers home shirt and those aforementioned big smears of sun-block.

One player attracted more attention than any other and stayed out on the pitch longer than any other. Alex Revell signed his name a hundred times, had his picture taken another hundred, and laughed and smiled as if he was the most contented person out there.

Surrounded by kids and happy Millers families, he stood tall among the little bodies, a 6ft 3in tanned talisman symbolising the relationship which has flourished between the Millers and their fans on the back of their magnificent new stadium and two promotion in two years.

Revell is that kind of guy. He scored the Wembley goals, he looks the part in photographs and he’s a genuinely decent fella who loves the fans the way they love him. He symbolises all that is good about the club.

Just before then, as the Millers led 8-0 in the dying moments, Parkgate had scored. Scott Whittington’s day in the sun, literally, as he beat sub keeper Peter Denton.

Some wag (that’s funny person, not rich girlfriend) on the Parkgate side of things shouted: “Come on, we’re still in this.”

Everyone laughed, and it summed up the whole occasion.

Warm, warm feelings on a hot, hot day.

Goals: Revell 6, 12, 76, Derbyshire (pen) 14, own goal 35, Arnason 71, Hall 79, Wood 85, Yates 90+1, for Rotherham. Whittington 90, for Parkgate.

Parkgate: Darwent, Wragg, Bond, Lowe, Bownes, Abdulla, Langford, Shelton, Whittington, Fletcher, Morley. Rolling subs after half-time: Shaw, Edmondson, Preece, Poole, Ngoyi, Brown, Morton.

Rotherham: Collin (Denton 90), Rowe, Skarz, Arnason, Wood, Rose, Green, Frecklington (Wiles 89), Revell, Derbyshire (Yates H-T), Hall (Warren 86).

Referee: Dean Bradshaw, Rotherham (Conference List).

Meanwhile, a strong Millers XI lost 2-1 at Tamworth on Saturday, with striker Jordan Bowery scoring his first goal for the club.

Millers No 2 Paul Raynor, who was at Tamworth while boss Evans went to Parkgate, said: “I think we need to sharpen up, but that’s what these games are for. Nobody likes losing but we will learn a lot from this game.”