Eleven days to go but certainly not 11 places up for grabs as Rotherham United count down to League One opening day.
Centre-forward Jamie Proctor was absent for the second game running, protecting a tight hamstring, but the rest of the Millers side for the friendly at Chesterfield didn’t look too far away from the one which will go into battle at Fleetwood on August 5.
None of the starters at the Proact Stadium did their prospects any harm and £75,000 buy Proctor now faces real competition from Kieffer Moore after the targetman’s leading role in a stunning Millers first-half show.
Rotherham raced into a 2-0 lead as they overwhelmed the home side, with Moore, right-back Josh Emmanuel and centre-half Semi Ajayi standing out in a team of impressive performers.
Six victories in seven pre-season matches. Six goals in six games for striker David Ball. It’s been a sizzling summer so far for manager Paul Warne and his men.
“I thought were outstanding to begin with,” said Warne. “We played a high press and went looking to get the ball back whenever we could.
“We could have been well and truly out of sight by half-time.”
The game was less than a minute old when Moore released Jon Taylor with a lovely pass down the right but the winger scampered in and shot wide when he would have been better finding the lurking David Ball.
Lee Frecklington was just as close three minutes later with an 18-yard effort following a corner and, in a frantic opening seven minutes, Michael Ihiekwe saw his shot cleared off the line.
A fourth chance went begging in the 11th minute, with Frecklington curling a good effort just off target after a great link-up between Moore, Ball and Taylor.
A goal had to come and Ball duly obliged on 17 minutes, poking the ball home from close range after Moore’s low, right-wing cross.
Taylor add goal No 2 three minutes later, latching on to Joe Mattock’s pass and looping his header over advancing Chesterfield goalkeeper Joe Anyon.
All the overwhelmed Spirietes had to show for their first-half efforts was an Ian Evatt header which was well saved by Richard O’Donnell.
“It was good to see Bally score again,” Warne added. “We had the GPS on him and by half-time he had run six kilometres, which is amazing for a No 10 brought in for his guile.
“Tayls did well with his header to say he’s only three feet tall!”
Chesterfield, after three substitutions af the interval came more into the game and O’Donnell had to be sharp to deny Gozie Ugwu in the 51st minute, while Charlie Wakefield somehow skied his shot over an empty net 10 minutes later.
The fizz went out of the match and a raft of replacements from both sides did nothing to help proceedings.
But it was two substitutes who combined for the goal of the game as Rotherham wrapped up proceedings in the 79th minute.
Anthony Forde beat his man in a 40-yard bust down the left flank and Ryan Williams produced a sublime clip when the cross came in to leave Anyon grasping at air.
Chris O’Grady’s 87th-minute strike for the Spireites was just a consolation.
“It was disappointed how we dropped our standards in the second half, and I enjoyed telling them that in the dressing room,” Warne said.
“I don’t want to detract from an excellent first half, but we need to keep that going for 90 minutes. I want more.”
The opening 45 minutes was hugely encouraging stuff for the boss who may now have only a couple of midfield conundrums and the Proctor/Moore decision to make before the action begins for real.
The day before this game, Rotherham had paid an official visit to Rotherham Town Hall to meet the town’s most senior dignitary.
Here, in the first half, they staged a Lord Mayor’s Show of their own.
Goals: David Ball 17, Taylor 20, Williams 87 (Rotherham United); O’Grady 87 (Chesterfield).
Chesterfield (4-1-3-2): Anyon; Wiseman (McGinn 70), Hird, Evatt, Maguire (Plummer 25); Dimaio (Reed H-T); Barry (McCourt H-T), Latour (Mitchell 81), Wakefield (Donohue 65); Brewster (Ugwu H-T), O’Grady. Subs not used: Lee.
Rotherham United (4-4-2): O’Donnell; Emmanuel, Ajayi, Ihiekwe, Mattock (Purrington 54); Taylor (Williams 71), Potter (Vaulks 65), Frecklington (Dominic Ball 74), Newell (Forde 65); Moore (Clarke-Harris 71), David Ball (Yates 71). Subs not used: Price, Wood, Fisher, Belaid.
Referee: James Adcock (Nottinghamshire).
Attendance: 2,498 (650).