Late kick-off, a late arrival, happy faces and six new boys ... the story of Rotherham United 7 Parkgate FC 0

By Paul Davis | 07/07/2019

Late kick-off, a late arrival, happy faces and six new boys ... the story of Rotherham United 7 Parkgate FC 0
Action from Parkgate. Pictures by Dave Poucher

THE clock ticked towards the 1pm start time but there was no way the game could begin.

There were almost as many fans trying to gain admission to Saturday's annual fixture as there were people already thronging the Roundwood pitch.

This was the first chance for Rotherham United supporters to get a look at the six new boys and check in with old favourites. It was a big deal. Too big for the turnstiles.

With vehicles still jammed bumper to bumper on the road outside, with hundreds still making their way into the complex the Millers use for training and non-league opponents Parkgate FC call home, there was only one thing for it.

"The kick-off will be delayed for 15 minutes," came the announcement over the PA system, followed by a sentence being uttered for probably the first ever time at the Northern Counties East League venue. "This is because of crowd congestion."

Once the hold-up was over, Rotherham wasted little time in asserting their authority, scoring after only seven minutes and going on to finish emphatic winners. The Millers were pleased with their efforts but this was one of those happy instances when the result wasn't everything.

"Loads come to watch, don't they?" Rotherham manager Paul Warne appreciatively observed. "I think it's a good game to have, a brilliant event. It's become part of our tradition."

The proceeds go to genial hosts the Steelmen and help finance them for the other 364 days of the year, but there was one nearby establishment missing out on a payday of its own.

Families large and small and hungry fans young and old all passed by the Chinese takeaway at the top of the pitted, potted driveway that snakes into the packed Roundwood car-park.

However, the Wing Wah had a hand-written sign in its window declaring with all the defiance of a Richard Wood clearing header "Closed today".

Morning rain had given way to afternoon sun and this was a warm day in more ways than one. Last term's relegation from the Championship seemed long, long ago and all eyes are now on the good things that might happen next season in League One.

Warne enjoyed it as much as anyone. "I think it should always be played, and it's great for Parkgate," he enthused.

Dressed in a light shirt and dark shorts, he arrived even later than the kick-off, having suffered a hold-up of his own as he travelled back from his father's funeral in Norfolk a day earlier.

Kyle Vassell

"I had breakfast with my mum and left North Walsham at half past nine," he said. "My sat nav said I'd arrive at ten to one so I'm thinking: 'Everything is okay, I'll be there for kick-off.'

"Then the traffic was horrendous. My daughter said: "It's all right, Dad, the kick-off has been delayed by 15 minutes. My son said: "Was it delayed for you?" I said to him: "Who do you think I am? I'm not that powerful!

"The chairman had nicked my parking space when I got there, which killed me, but I managed to find one."

The boss isn't daft. He knew there might be a round of applause in it for him as he ran across the pitch to take his seat in the dugout three minutes into the game. And there was.

He saw all the goals. There were four in the first half as Joshua Kayode, Matt Crooks, twice, and Michael Smith, with a curling stunner, hit the target. Three more after Rotherham had changed all their outfield players at the break, with Jamie Proctor scoring twice, once from the penalty spot, and Carlton Morris wrapping up proceedings

The Millers were up against the best players in local football and the non-league men battled gamely and played a full part in making the affair such a success.

But there is a difference in power and physique between professional and part-time that was never demonstrated more than at a Rotherham corner in the opening period.

The hulking figures of Semi Ajayi, Kyle Vassell, Wood and Smith stood together at the edge of the penalty area before running in like a four-man WWE tag team to clear everything out of their way.

Wood - having dropping two catches at a charity cricket match in Wickersley the evening before, and on his 34th birthday as well! - sent an effort just wide.

"I'd much rather be heading the ball," he tweeted. "Can't do that either," teammate Crooks tweeted back. "You missed from three yards."

Red and white was everywhere and it had nothing to do with sunburn. The new Millers shirt was out in force as supporters packed all four sides of the pitch and set a new attendance record.

New boys Carlton Morris, left, and Shaun MacDonald

Some Roundwood residents took advantage of where they lived by firing up the barbecue and watching proceedings from over their garden wall. Goalkeeping coach Mike Pollitt, always partial to a feed and having driven past the shut Wing Wah, could barely concentrate as he thought about what was being served up just behind him.

On the opposite touchline was a tot in a full Rotherham kit, a stocky, little figure buzzing about with no-one quite able to control him. Ah, Jon Taylor, how I miss you.

All of the summer signings so far were given run-outs. You feared for Shaun MacDonald and his ginger hair in the heat but he was a stand-out performer in the second half, just as fellow midfielder Daniel Barlaser had been in the first 45 minutes. Both were so easy in possession and the ball went exactly where they wanted it to.

Full-back Matthew Olosunde was quick and lively up and down the right flank, attacker Carlton Morris bossed the left wing and striker Freddie Ladapo fizzed, flashed and was denied only by the heroics of Parkgate keeper Chris Butt.

Winger Julien Lamy, just loving being a Miller and boasting the afternoon's biggest grin, showed Olosunde-type pace before a minor injury ended his day and left Rotherham down to ten men.

"I was really pleased with Matt," Warne said. "We want full-backs who are going to bomb on, especially if we decide to play 3-5-2. It's good to have pace out wide.

"I thought Freddie was a constant threat. Carlton is very strong and powerful and reliable on the ball.

"I've got a big decision when I pick my midfield this year. I thought Dan and Shaun were excellent. I like to think the fans will have seen why I brought them in.

"Julien is learning and is one for the future. You can see how game he is. He got a knock so we didn't see enough of him. It's just a little knock, nothing to worry about.

Matt Crooks

"We've scored some goals today and there were some good performances. There were pockets of great stuff but at times everybody was a bit rusty. In two or three weeks they should be ready."

Half-time and its flurry of changes brought a rare and delightful coincidence: Matt Crooks off for the Millers, Matt Crookes on for Parkgate.

Meanwhile, Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart, a debonair, cream-shoed presence and the only person seemingly more tanned than Warne, looked on from his throne.

Maybe 'throne' is too grand. Having stolen his manager's parking spot, he'd now half-inched media man Matt Young's deckchair and was beatifically surveying proceedings from around the halfway line.

There was a special cheer for Proctor, on his return after two injury-wrecked seasons, when he struck the first of his double from close range.

Once back inside, he bounced around in just his shorts and GPS vest, his bare torso bathed in sweat, looking very pleased with himself. "Poacher's goal and a perfect penalty," he said to no-one in particular.

"He's trained hard all summer and he's determined to get in the team and score goals," Warne said. "I'm sure that's why he didn't let any of the new lads take the penalty!"

Like everyone, Proc was smiling. This was a family occasion with a family club at its heart; the Millers at one with their fans as they posed together for a million photos.

"Could we have a word with Polly?" asked a group of supporters. "Yep, I'll just go and fetch him," said Warne, running off with Olosunde-style swiftness.

All afternoon there had been the smell of something good in the air.

Obviously, it wasn't wafting from the Wing Wah, and neither was it the whiff of the garden barbie that had so tantalised the keeper coach.

It was the aroma of freshly-mown grass, signalling the impending onset of a new campaign. Fresh kit, fresh faces, fresh optimism.

Goals: Kayode 7, Crooks 21, 42, Smith 29, Proctor 63, 73 (pen), Morris 84.

Rotherham first half (4-3-3): Price; Jones, Ihiekwe, Wood, Mattock; Ajayi, Barlaser, Crooks; Kayode, Smith, Vassell.

Rotherham second half (4-3-3): Price; Olosunde, Southern-Cooper, Robertson, Hinds; Lamy, Wiles, MacDonald; Morris, Ladapo, Proctor.

Parkgate starting 11: Butt, Yates, Russell, Starosta, Ward, Whitaker, Rippon, Harrison, Holden, Bagley, Valladolid-Collins. Half-time subs: Crookes, Howard, Collinson, Fusco, Thornton.

Attendance: 1,536.


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