Rotherham United’s Matt Derbyshire added 11 new people to his list of admirers on Saturday - the newly-opened German arm of the striker’s fan club.
That was the official number of visiting FSV Mainz 05 supoorters at AESSEAL New York Stadium, huddled together in the centre of an otherwise empty away end, and they can’t help but have been impressed by the quality of the 29-year-old’s goal which swung the match in the Millers’ favour.
Steve Evans’ men were a goal down to quality Bundesliga opposition when they broke the length of the field through Emmanuel Ledesma and Jordan Bowery with 10 minutes to go.
Bowery fed Derbyshire on the left of the penalty area and the former Premier League ace still had plenty to do.
He took control of the ball before bending a stunning 20-yard equaliser round Mainz substitute goalkeeper Robin Zentner into the far right-hand corner of the North Stand goal.
Fancy that. Derbyshire. Deadly. On Yorkshire Day.
Along with the rest of the Rotherham squad, the forward who did so well in the second half of last season looks ready for Championship opening day on Saturday at home to MK Dons.
A minute from time, sub Jordan Bowery showed the pace, power and purposefulness that Millers followers wish he’d demonstrate more often, latching on to trialist left-back Joe Newell’s raking long pass, making ground and then firing the winner past Zentner.
It was a fierce shot, but Zentner shoudn’t have been beaten at his near post. So much for so-called German efficiency.
This was a tough workout for Rotherham against a technically-gifted squad containing seven full internationals and five players with under-21 honours.
The first half was a cagey affair, both sides concentrating on not conceding, but the classy away team, with aspirations of a top-six Bundesliga finish next term, upped things after the break.
There was evidence of new coach Eric Black’s influence as the Millers spent the next 25 minutes on the back foot, defending resolutely, keeping their shape and discipline, and looking a more solid proposition than last season.
“It’s a different way for me and (assistant boss) Paul Raynor,” said manager Evans. “We normally go out and try and win 10-9!
“We’re trying to balance that with Eric’s expertise and keep our shape and get behind the ball.
“But at times we’ll lose that. We want to get a mix, because we don’t want lose that mentality to go and affect and win a game.”
Affect the game they did, win the game they did, to wrap up an excellent pre-season on a high. No-one is getting too carried away in the Millers camp, but there is so much more quality about them now compared to 12 months ago.
Bowery’s winner was set up by Newell, the 22-year-old Peterborough player who has been training with the Millers for the last few days and who put in a steady shift on Saturday.
Evans likes him and the Posh youngster will probably be given another chance to shine in tomorrow’s behind-closed-doors friendly at Sunderland, a match which will also see new boy Lewis Buxton, an unused sub against Mainz after recovering from a calf injury, make his first appearance for the Millers.
After Saturday’s game, Evans name-checked young centre-half Tom Thorpe, saying Premier League bosses had been calling him to say what a talent the 22-year-old is looking.
Alongside him against Mainz, Danny Collins was superb, reading the game, blocking, organising, cajoling, and getting some part of his body on everything that came his way. He may be 34 but there’s plenty of sharpness, in mind and body, still there.
Another new boy to impress was Aidy White whose pace and penetration on the left worried the Germans throughout the match. He can beat a man on either side and, on this form, will stretch defences and win the Millers free-kicks aplenty as the opposition resort to desperate measures to stop him.
The former Leeds United man, still only 23, can play at left-back if called upon, but Rotherham will do everything they can to cover for Joe Mattock’s injury absence and keep him in the attacking slot where he has looked so threatening in pre-season.
After 11 summer signings, more reinforcements could arrived this week, with Evans saying: “We’re certainly hoping to add a a couple of players.
“We’re sitting here with funds to be able to do what we like really. We’ve been very careful and scrupulous with our budget. We’ve walked away from some players because we wouldn’t take ourselves out of our wage structure.
“We’ve made an offer for another loan player. They involve loan fees these days. You don’t just get them and pay their wages. We’re talking to one other club about a permanent transfer. I think we have recruited really well. I think we are significantly stronger than last year.”
Mainz, who had beaten Italian side Lazio 3-0 in an earlier friendly, had gone ahead in the 71st minute when centre-half Leon Balogun volleyed home from just inside the penalty area.
They deserved their lead at the time, but reckoned without the ‘10-9’ mentality that saw the Millers come fighting back on a happy, encouraging afternoon.
When the stadium announcer revealed the number of away supporters, there was good-natured laughter and appreciative applause around New York from the home faithful. The tiny Mainz mob responded with big beams and waves. So much for so-called lack of German humour.
They were smiling less when Derbyshire produced his party piece, while there was joy and relief among the 3,735 Millers souls who made up the rest of the crowd when Bowery sealed the deal with just over 60 seconds to go.
With Germany’s reputation, none of them wanted it to go to penalties!
Rotherham United (4-4-2): Roos; Halford, Collins, Thorpe, Newell; Frecklington, G Ward (Ledesma 67), Smallwood (Green 82), White (Wood 82); Maguire (Bowery 67), Derbyshire (Clarke-Harris 82). Subs not used: Collin, Buxton, Richardson, Yates, Warren.
FSV Mainz 05 (4-2-3-1): Karius (Zentner 62), Brosinski (Latza 62), Balogun, Bell, Bengtsson (Moritz 62); Baumgartlinger, Frei (Koo 62); Clemens (Park 62), Mall, (Bungert 62), Samperio; Muto (Niederlechner 41).
Goals: Derbyshire 80, Bowery 89 (Rotherham); Balogun 71 (Mainz).
Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire).
Attendance: 3,746 (11).