Time to call it a day? Checkatrade Trophy offers little appeal to fans as Rotherham slip out

Chesterfield's Diego De Girolamo lobs the ball over Richard O'Donnell to score the opening goal.

NEW YORK, New York has been Rotherham United’s musical accompaniment when taking to the field since moving to their state-of-the-art home five years ago, but another Frank Sinatra creation might have been more appropriate last night.

Where Are You? was the title of the great man’s 1957 album and there were certainly a lot of absentees as the Checkatrade Trophy returned to the town.

A crowd of just 2,043 was 6,000 down on the weekend win over Northampton Town in League One. More pertinently, it was a little under half the attendance that had turned out for the New York Stadium’s last Football League Trophy tie before the controversial revamp that has turned off so many supporters.

York City were the visitors for that 2012 first-round clash and there can be little doubt the decision two summers ago to allow Academy teams to take part and introduce a group stage has taken away any lustre a competition now into its fourth decade once had.

Those who stayed away for the visit of Chesterfield missed a reasonable contest, at least in the second half as Jack Lester’s men withstood a concerted spell of Rotherham pressure before snatching a dramatic late winner through Jak McCourt.

Defeat, however harsh, on the back of a 1-1 draw with Manchester City’s Under-21s that included losing a penalty shoot-out worth an extra point to the victor – another tweak to the format that has invited ridicule – means the Millers are struggling to qualify for the knockout 
phase.

The picture will be slightly clearer once the Blues’ Academy side have faced Bradford City on October 24, but Warne’s men must surely beat the Bantams a fortnight later to have any chance of progressing.

The Spireites winner was a well-worked affair, a series of incisive passes culminating in Jordan Flores finding sufficient space on the left flank to pick out McCourt who headed in from close range.

It came against the run of play, Will Vaulks’s equaliser in the 72nd minute having come amid a heavy spell of pressure on the Chesterfield goal.

Vaulks fired in after latching on to a Joe Newell knockdown and if his team-mates could have shown a similar ruthlessness in front of goal then Rotherham would surely be top of Group F this morning.

Jonson Clarke-Harris wasted an excellent opportunity, as did David Ball following an exchange of passes with Jerry Yates.

This profligacy proved costly against a Spireites side who had belied their shocking form – even after this win, the club’s 14 league and cup outings this term have yielded ten defeats – by taking an early lead through Diego De Girolamo.

McCourt’s late winner then confirmed Lester’s liking for the Millers, his hat-trick for Grimsby Town reserves at Millmoor as a youngster setting the tone for much of what followed.

This Indian sign over Rotherham, which included another hat-trick at the age of 35, has now continued into management, though perhaps the biggest talking point was the New York’s lowest ever crowd.

Across South Yorkshire, just 1,520 were present to watch Doncaster Rovers edge out Sunderland Under-21s with a goal from Issam Ben Khemis.

The Night We Called It A Day, the title under which Sinatra’s Where Are You? album was later reissued, is a sentiment that fans can empathise with when it comes to the Checkatrade Trophy.

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