Manchester United lure in the fans at Rotherham United for Football League Trophy return

Rotherham United manager, Paul Warne. Picture: Steve Ellis
Rotherham United manager, Paul Warne. Picture: Steve Ellis
0
Have your say

AND SO, like the proverbial bad penny or the pub bore you just can’t escape, the Football League Trophy is back.

The name may have changed – Leasing.com having taken over sponsorship duties after Checkatrade called time on their three-year deal – but little else has.

Warne underlined where his priorities lay by making eight changes from the side that had triumphed 2-1 at AFC Wimbledon on the opening day. The upshot was a disjointed display

Richard Sutcliffe

A bloated format that ties in until the depths of winter even those clubs desperate to duck out and focus on the league, check.

Nonsensical rules that include drawn games in the elongated group stage going to penalties for an extra point, check.

And a vast swathe of supporters turned off by the involvement of 16 Academy sides in a competition that started life as the preserve of clubs in the third and fourth tiers, almost certainly ‘check’ as the season progresses.

The 3,105 hardy souls who filed through the turnstiles at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium was decent by the standards of a competition where crowds have quite often been numbered in the low hundreds.

Most were probably lured in by the grand name of Manchester United, competing in the Trophy for the first time.

A commendable 435 supporters also made the trip across the Pennines, most of whom spent the night running through the Old Trafford playbook.

Manchester City, scousers and Leeds United were just some of those on the receiving end as the Red Devils ran out 2-0 winners.

The tie had been pulled forward by a month at the request of the Premier League club, whose youngsters will be otherwise engaged in international football during the first week of September.

Chelsea were also in action at Swindon Town last night for the same reason to underline how the Trophy seems increasingly geared towards serving the needs of budding top-flight footballers above anyone else.

“It was not ideal timing,” admitted Millers manager Paul Warne. “We were only given a couple of fixture dates and this seemed better than the other one.

“But that is no excuse. We played against a really good team. We had chances to take the lead but they were stronger than us in the second half.”

Warne underlined where his priorities lay by making eight changes from the side that had triumphed 2-1 at AFC Wimbledon on the opening day.

The upshot was a disjointed display, even if Rotherham did – as Warne suggested – create several good chances.

Freddie Ladapo drew an early save from Matej Kovar, who later denied Carlton Morris. Michael Smith also hit the crossbar with a looping header, while Jamie Lindsay was guilty of an awful miss when he scooped over from close range after being found by Ladapo.

United made the Millers pay for their profligacy courtesy of two quick-fire goals early in the final quarter.

First, Ethan Laird broke the deadlock on 69 minutes with a low drive past Lewis Price after being found by James Garner.

Then, just four minutes later, Largie Ramazani finished neatly from the edge of the penalty area after cutting in from the right flank.

Cue chants about a likely Wembley final in the spring for United filling the south Yorkshire air. Doncaster Rovers and Lincoln City, the other sides in Group H, may have something to say about that but, in terms of their own promotion prospects, Rotherham may well be better off making an early exit.