Goals from Kieran Sadlier and Joe Wright were not enough as Rovers fell to a 3-2 defeat in an entertaining game at the New York Stadium in the Leasing.com Trophy.
There were plenty of twists and turns in the match. Sadlier’s first half thunderbolt cancelled out an early own goal from Wright, and Rovers took the lead when the centre-back headed into the right end just after half time.
But goals from Carlton Morris and Trevor Clarke settled a topsy-turvy clash and ensured it would be the home side who took the three points to keep their hopes of progress alive.
Darren Moore made nine changes to his side that faced Portsmouth in the league on Saturday with only Kieran Sadlier and Brad Halliday retaining their place in the starting XI.
There was a start for Wright who got his first competitive minutes of the season coming on as a late substitute against Portsmouth after picking up an injury in pre-season. The centre back was also given the armband.
Moore also gave AJ Greaves his senior debut as well as including 17-year-old Jack Watson on the bench, while Kwame Thomas made his Rovers bow after signing for the club on Friday.
Rotherham manager Paul Warne made eight changes. Midfielders Dan Barlaser and Ben Wiles, as well as captain Joe Mattock, were the only survivors from the team which started in their 4-0 win over Coventry City at the weekend.
It was an interesting opening period with both teams probably feeling they could have been given a penalty. Danny Amos appeared to be wiped out just inside the Rotherham area, but referee Marc Edwards was not interested in the Rovers appeals. Edwards also waived away Rotherham’s penalty shouts as Morris went down in the Rovers box.
Amos proved busy in the match. A fantastic first touch and forward ball almost played Thomas in but the ball was just short of the striker. He was soon called upon at the other end to prevent Morris cross.
Rotherham took the lead just after 10 minutes after Billy Jones fired a wicked cross into the box, Wright got to it first under pressure but was only able to steer the ball past his own keeper.
Chances kept coming for the home side. Freddie Ladapo twisted and turned in the box but his shot was saved by Ian Lawlor while Mattock’s cross found Julien Lamy but Ian Lawlor was untroubled by the shot.
Rovers fashioned a couple of half chances. A good move down the right - started by a smart bit of play by Greaves in the centre of the park - saw Alex Kiwomya whip a cross in towards Thomas. The striker got his head to it but guided over.
Brad Halliday also got forward brilliantly and played a low cross into Will Longbottom. Longbottom tried to touch it into the path of Kiwomya but some brave defending from Shaun MacDonald saw him get between Kiwomya and the ball.
The defence were still under pressure and had to withstand the pressure of a number of Rotherham corners.
Rovers equaliser came on the break. A fantastic bit of defending by Shane Blaney prevented a tap in for the Lamy – and the subsequent clearance up to Thomas was flicked on to Sadlier. The former Ireland U21 international still had it all to do but he was direct in his running and fired a thunderbolt beyond keeper Lewis Price.
The home side tried their luck from distance. Barlaser forced Lawlor into a save with his effort and Lamy rattled the crossbar soon after.
Greaves - encouraged by the Rovers fans – took a speculative shot from distance but he did not get enough power to truly trouble Price.
Moore made two changes at half-time. Sadlier and Brad Halliday made way for Donervon Daniels – who came on at right-back – and Alfie May.
Greaves did brilliantly to thread a through-ball into the path of Longbottom. The forward stabbed his shot towards goal, but Price saved. Kiwomya’s follow-up was deflected for a corner.
Rovers took the lead through Wright. May did well to ride a few challenges and hit an inviting cross into the box which was met by a brilliant looping header by the skipper which dropped over keeper Price.
At the other end, a good reaction stop by Lawlor from point blank range prevented Morris from heading in from Lamy’s cross and Mattock’s fizzing cross was punched clear by the Irishman.
A through-ball found Morris who beat the offside trap and used his pace to sprint away from the Rovers defence. It was a calm finish from the Rotherham forward to slot the ball beyond Lawlor.
Rotherham looked to have turned the game around when a challenge by Blaney in the Rovers box was deemed reckless by referee and he pointed to the spot. Morris stepped up for the home side, but his strike lacked any real power and Lawlor dived the right way to make the stop.
The Millers did take the lead soon after. Trevor Clarke slotted into the far corner after Morris’ ball forward put the substitute through on goal.
The home side looked fairly dominant after retaking the lead. They kept Rovers penned into their own half winning free kicks in dangerous areas and the defensive pair of Jake Cooper and Robertson seemed to head any Rovers forward ball clear. Rotherham’s best chance of this period fell to substitute Joshua Kayode who headed over from Lamy’s cross.