A year ago, ‘little’ Rotherham United ended their pre-season campaign with friendlies against Championship clubs Huddersfield, Barnsley and Middlesbrough.
The idea was the Millers would test themselves against opposition from a higher division to sharpen them for their own campaign in League One where no-one outside the club expected anything better than a midtable finish.
Fast forward 12 months and last night Steve Evans’ men met one of the biggest second-tier clubs of them all, Nottingham Forest. Once champions of England, twice winners of the European Cup.
After two promotions in two seasons, Rotherham could look them straight in the eye as a fellow Championship outfit.
Some progress, eh?
And let’s make it clear here and now: They deserved their victory on a hugely encouraging night where they lost nothing in comparison to their illustrious visitors.
There were huge cheers before kick-off for the Millers players, with Kieran Agard, Ben Pringle and two-goal Wembley hero Alex Revell receiving tumultuous receptions.
The Millers should have gone ahead in the seventh minute when Jordan Bowery missed his header with the goal gaping after a terrific cross from the impressive Frazer Richardson on the right.
Two minutes later Bowery chased Revel’s probing hoof on and was just beaten to the ball by Forest keeper Karl Darlow.
Paul Green was managing to be energetic and composed at the same time in midfield and catching the eye with his ability to keep possession.
Michael Tidser worried keeper Karl Darlow from distance and then the same player produced a top-notch curling effort after cleverly making room for himself. Darlow could only touch it for a corner. Revell, always troubling the Forest defence, headed wide from the resulting Pringle flag-kick at the back post with the goal at his mercy.
The Millers made eight changes at half-time. On came Scott Loach, Richard Brindley, Joe Skarz, Kari Arnason, Kirk Broadfoot, Ryan Hall, Conor Newton and Lee Frecklington, with Agard switching to central striker.
Evans’ side were still looking lively and on 48 minutes Hall volleyed just wide at the kop end after a great ball down the line by Pringle and pull-back by Revell.
For the first time in the match the home fans were chanting.
Hall played a lovely little through-ball after 51 minutes but Agard had strayed offside.
Hall and Newton combined well and when the ball came in from the right Revell headed just wide. Revell, on this evidence, will be a handful in the Championship.
Then came the deserved breakthrough. Inch-perfect through-ball by Pringle. In raced Agard. Only one outcome. 1-0 to the Millers in the 64th minute as the pacy striker produced an emphatic low finish past Darlow’s left hand.
Pringle departed to be replaced by former Manchester United midfielder Jonathan Greening who is training with the club.
Forest hit the bar with a thumping 75th-minute effort from sub Stephen McLaughin but the Millers were defending resolutely and still looking lively up front.
Revell left to loud acclaim in the 79th minute to be replaced by Mitchell Rose. As ever, the big man had put in a shift.
And so did every Miller as they held on for victory.
Forest hit the woodwork again in the 85th minute but it speaks volumes about Rotherham’s effort that we still don’t know how good a keeper Scott Loach is as he didn’t have a significant second-half save to make.
Rotherham United: Collin, Richardson, Wood, Morgan (c), Sadler, Agard, Tidser, Green, Pringle, Revell. Bowery. Subs: Loach, Brindley, Skarz, Arnason, Broadfoot, Hall, Frecklington, Newton, Walker, Rowe, Rose, Thompson.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Hunt, Mancienne, Fox, Harding, Halford, Osborn, Mackie, Reid, Paterson, Cox. Subs: Not named.
Referee: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire).
Attendance: 3,600 (777).