Semi Ajayi's early intervention and some quality stuff from the Millers ... the story of Rotherham United 1 West Brom 1

IT was just like old times.
The message from the Millers on the dressing-room door for Semi AjayiThe message from the Millers on the dressing-room door for Semi Ajayi
The message from the Millers on the dressing-room door for Semi Ajayi

Rotherham United old boy Semi Ajayi strode imperiously round the pitch at AESSEAL Stadium, just like he has for the last two and a half seasons.

He also had a mistake in him, just like he has for the last two and a half seasons!

We'll come to that.

Football moves on quickly and home supporters had a signing of their own to whet their excitement in the Millers' penultimate pre-season friendly, against Championship opposition West Bromwich Albion.

Goalkeeper Daniel Iversen was making his debut after arriving on a year-long loan from Premier League Leicester City only a day earlier as Rotherham gear up for what they hope will be an assault on League One promotion.

The contest finished 1-1, West Brom's Dara O'Shea cancelling out Freddie Ladapo's second-minute goal, and the Millers can be well pleased with their evening's work after dominating for large spells and creating the majority of the chances.

"It was good workout, although not perfect by any stretch of the imagination," said manager Paul Warne

"Everyone put a shift in. Out of possession we were good. Now we just have to try to polish them up for the start of the season. Generally, their fitness, effort and desire to play was pretty good.

"Today was the first time we didn't train before playing so we probably looked a bit fresher."

Ajayi, bless him, on his first start for his new club, wasted no time in doing his old team a favour, felling Ladapo after only 78 seconds to concede a penalty. The striker climbed to his feet to send a confident spot-kick high and down the middle to open the scoring.

Iversen, tall and rangy in the Marek Rodak mould, wasn't called into action until the 11th minute, the 22-year-old Dane beating away a Chris Brunt free-kick, as Rotherham clearly had the better of the opening exchanges.

Ajayi back at New York

Kyle Vassell brought a flying save out of Jonathan Bond on 14 minutes following a beautiful chest set-up by Ladapo and Dan Barlaser fired over a few seconds after.

Vassell tested bond 11 minutes later, cutely dinking an indirect free-kick over a charging defensive wall when everyone was expecting him to flex his tattooed muscles.

Ladapo, who troubled the Baggies throughout the contest before going off to ringing endorsement from the New York faithful, was next to leave Bond shaken and stirred with a stinging 38th-minute effort from the edge of the area.

Ajayi's return, meanwhile, felt a bit strange for everyone, not least the player himself.

He had to check himself as he walked inside New York, making sure he turned off into the away dressing room rather than taking the few extra steps down the corridor and settling into the inner sanctum he used to share with his former teammates.

It was, after all, only four days after his move, worth up to £2.5 million, was announced. Following his initial gaffe, he did little wrong but not a deal that stood out either.

"Coming back was a bit surreal," he said. "I am so used to coming here and going straight to the home changing room, so going to the away one was a bit different. But once the game started, I had to put that out of my mind and focus on the task ahead.

"I made sure I went to find the gaffer and all of the staff before the game. I spoke to them and then I spoke to all the players in the tunnel before and after the game, so it was really good to say 'goodbye' properly.

"The penalty, it's an unfortunate one. I don't think I actually touched him! It's down to the referee. It's pre-season and pre-season is there to get you sharper, to iron out the nicks in your game. I will learn from it and hopefully it doesn't happen in the proper season."

The last time Rotherham faced West Brom the Millers' Championship survival was on the line. Warne's side were unlucky to lose a hard-fought contest at the Hawthorns 2-1 in April as their drop back to League One was confirmed.

There was nothing at stake this evening, but the Millers were committed, strong, quick, mobile and on the front foot, giving their best performance of the summer.

Warne was enjoying it as much as the crowd, dipping to his knees in theatrical frustration a couple of times as inviting crosses flashed across the penalty area.

Iversen drew applause for getting down smartly and holding on to a Rakeem Harper effort. However, just after a flurry of away substitutions that included Ajayi, the visitors equalised against the run of play in the 63rd minute when O'Shea emphatically headed home a corner.

Trialist Brad Dockerty came on in the 80th minute for his first Millers outing but had no opportunity to impress before Iversen excelled himself by keeping out a late Kyle Edwards' shot.

New goalkeeper Daniel Iversen

Warne, who hugged Ajayi at the end, grinned: "It was good of Semi, wasn't it? He came into our office beforehand to say 'goodbye'. He's a good kid, isn't he? I'm really proud of him.

"For him to give us a penalty was a beautiful parting gift."

It was a hot night at New York, with heatwave temperatures remaining in the 70s, yet the real warmth of the occasion was to be found in the reception the Millers gave to West Brom's new boy.

Even before he handed them a spot-kick.

The club made it easy for him on his arrival by pinning a picture of him on the West Brom changing-room door saying 'Welcome back, from the gaffer and all at Rotherham United'.

Just ahead of kick-off, when his name was read out, supporters rose to give him a standing ovation.

Ajayi. Gone but not forgotten. Always one of their own.

Goals: Ladapo pen 2 (Rotherham); O'Shea 63 (West Brom).

Rotherham (4-3-3): Iversen; Olosunde, Ihiekwe (Cooper 82), Robertson, Mattock (Wood 42); Wiles, Barlaser, Crooks (Dockerty 80); Vassell (Morris H-T), Proctor (Smith 62), Ladapo (Kayode 70). Subs not used: Bilboe, Jones.

West Brom starting 11 (4-4-2): Bond; Furlong, Ajayi, Fitzwater, Townsend; Leko, Harper, Brunt, Tulloch; Robson-Kanu, Zahore. Subs: Johnstone, Bartley, Krovinovic, Livermore, Phillips, Burke, Edwards, O'Shea, Field, Melbourne, Ferguson. (Mass substitutions on 62 minutes).

Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside).

Attendance: 2,484 (300).