It was loud, they were proud and AESSEAL New York Stadium was bouncing as it always is when Rotherham United play under the lights
The home support was wildly vocal as the Millers fought back from a goal down to level matters with a Grant Ward screamer in the second half, and Burnley, a Premier League outfit last season, weren’t without their own raucous support either.
The visitors won 2-1. But Rotherham gave their all and proved there is life after Steve Evans.
Thirty seconds in and the home faithful chanted chairman Tony Stewart’s name and received a wave in return. Let the new era begin.
Defeat was cruel, although Rotherham contributed to their own downfall, time and again working their way into good positions only to waste the final ball.
This was an encouraging fresh start, with Eric Black in caretaker control while the club decide which candidates for the hot-seat will be granted interviews during the international break.
In front of the Sky cameras, the visitors, a hard-working, dangerous side with quality in the right areas, took a ninth-minute lead as Andre Gray – a scorer the last time he was here with Brentford – made the most of a defensive error to steer the ball past Lee Camp.
Grant Ward mishit a shot from the edge of the area when he should have done better in the 15th minute and Tony Andreu drilled a 20-yard free-kick just wide three minutes later before Camp produced a fine save to push away a deflected shot from ex-Chesterfield full back Tendayi Darikwa.
Sam Vokes rattled the bar from 25 yards and Camp produced a superb save to keep out David Jones’ curler.
But Tom Heaton, called up to the England squad, had to be at his best just before the interval to deny Matt Derbyshire after a superb turn and shot from the edge of the area.
The game sprang to life in the second half, with Rotherham going all out for the equaliser.
Jonson Clarke-Harris did wonderfully well to rob Darikwa on the left but when his cross came in Tony Andreu’s shot was deflected wide.
Joe Newell drove 60 yards forward before the move ran out of steam and there were countless times when the Millers were threatening only for the quality to be lacking at the crucial moment.
But Burnley knew they’d been in a game all right.
Black had kept faith as much as possible with the team that had won 2-0 at Birmingham last week, making just one enforced change - bringing in Grant Ward in right midfield after the return of loan man Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe to Norwich City.
And Ward justified his inclusion in the 75th minute, jinking away from his marker to fire in a truly stunning equaliser from close to 30 yards out.
The atmosphere reached fever pitch as Rotherham strove for a winner, but six minutes later the Clarets were ahead against the run of play, Vokes on hand to score from close range after Camp had denied Scott Arfield.
Black had done what he could to change the match, making a double substitution with Danny Ward and Chris Maguire entering proceedings four minutes before Ward’s ‘worldie’.
This was the first time in its history that New York was the venue for a Millers match which didn’t involve Evans as manager, although he did miss a little clutch of games in the League Two promotion season when he was the subject of a stadium ban.
He wasn’t there, but he was watching.
He’d promised that, wherever he was in the country, he would tune in for the clash against the Clarets who had arrived in seventh place.
Maybe he was at home in Peterborough. When referee Peter Bankes failed to give a blatant foul on Derbyshire in the second half, I couldn’t help but picture him leaping off the settee, arms outstretched, shouting at Mrs Evans in red-faced fury before slumping back down in his seat with a disbelieving shake of his head.
Amid the second-half mayhem, Mark Heywood stood there savouring a more peaceful Championship evening than he could ever have imagined.
That would be Mark Heywood, of West Yorkshire. Mark Heywood, fourth official.
What an ear-bashing he would have received at some stage from Evans, but not on this occasion as Rotherham came so close to the draw they deserved.
The only man to have a quiet night.
Rotherham United (4-4-2): Camp; Buxton, Collins, Rawson (Broadfoot 77), Mattock; G Ward, Smallwood, Andreu (Maguire 71), Newell (D Ward 71); Clarke-Harris, Derbyshire. Subs not used: Collin, Broadfoot, Ledesma, White, Richardson.
Burnley (4-4-2): Heaton; Darikwa, Duff, Keane, Mee; Boyd (Taylor 76) Jones, Barton, Arfield; Vokes, Gray (Long 88). Subs not used: Gilks, Ward, Lowton, Kightly, Ulvestad.
Goals: G Ward 75 (Rotherham); Gray 9, Vokes 81 (Burnley).
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside).
Attendance: 9,752 (1,595).