Rotherham United: Christmas turkey and stuffing ... Bury 0 Millers 3
On Christmas Day, they enjoyed their dinner at home. On Boxing Day, Rotherham United tucked into Bury.
Manager Paul Warne had given his players a December 25 day off. In return, he wanted the right response against League One’s bottom club.
The Millers squad, having had their rest, relaxation and turkey, kept their side of the Yuletide bargain, going two goals up through David Ball and Lee Frecklington in a quickfire start which had all the trimmings.
Will Vaulks, late on, struck in spectacular style for the second match in a row as the visitors, who have won three and drawn one of their last four outings, climbed to eighth in the table, two points off the play-off places.
It’s been a merry festive period so far.
“We began the game really well,” Warne said. “We pressed high up the pitch and Bury had trouble dealing with that. For 15 minutes or so we were virtually unplayable.
“It’s always good to quieten the crowd. We showed some of our early-season form today.”
On a wet pitch against limited opposition, Rotherham were virtually home and dry after only 10 minutes.
David Ball fired them ahead in the fifth minute. Ryan Williams crossed, Bury failed to clear and Ball curled home his shot from inside the area.
Only five minutes later, they were 2-0 ahead as Lee Frecklington’s thumping header from Anthony Forde’s corner flashed past home goalkeeper Leonardo Fasan.
On 18 minutes, with Bury supporters already booing their side, Ryan Williams’ low 20-yarder for the Millers brought a fingertop stop from Fasan.
The visitors were guilty of over-playing at times after taking control of the game but comfortably dealt with what little the Shakers threw at them.
Rotherham were almost as slow out of the blocks at the start of the second half as Bury had been in the first.
Two shots whipped just wide by Jay O’Shea in the 54th and 56th minutes reminded Warne’s men they were in a game and Danny Mayor wasn’t away with a low drive on 73 minutes.
Warne had kept 13-goal Kieffer Moore on the bench following the striker’s three-match ban. He unwrapped his top scorer in the 79th minute and soon after the Millers’ ended Bury’s last trace of resistance.
Vaulks stepped up to fire home from 20 yards right in front of more than 1,400 vocal away supporters to follow up his stunning long-range effort against MK Dons three days earlier.
Warne had named an unchanged side and made no apologies for not using the talents of Moore from the first whistle.
“Jerry Yates has been playing well and I like to reward excellence,” the boss said. “He deserved to keep his place.
“Thanks to the fans who made a tough journey here. It was like Narnia coming across the M62. There were snowballs and polar bears! We really appreciate their support.”
Marek Rodak saved smartly from Nicky Ajose in the 85th minute, after a mix-up between Josh Emmanuel and Semi Ajayi, to ensure the Millers kept their first league clean sheet since October 14.
Ajayi could have added a fourth goal in the dying seconds but his effort was turned away for a corner.
“I’ll be getting on the bus back to South Yorkshire quite happy,” Warne grinned. “Boxing Day is a good day anyway with all the leftovers. We like our pickled onions, cabbage and cold mash in the Warne household.”
That early stuffing of Bury tasted quite sweet too.
Bury (4-2-3-1): Fasan; Edwards, Aldred, Whitmore, Leigh; Dawson (Bunn 72), Laurent; Ince, O’Shea, Mayor; Ajose. Subs not used: Moloney, Tutte, Maguire, Williams, Reilly, Skarz.
Rotherham (4-4-2): Rodak; Emmanuel, Ajayi, Vaulks, Mattock; Forde, Towell (Wood 70), Frecklington, Williams (Newell 59); Yates (Moore 79), Ball. Subs not used: O’Donnell, Cummings, Clarke-Harris, Ihiekwe.
Goals: Ball 5, Frecklington 10, Vaulks 83 (Rotherham).
Referee: Anthony Backhouse (Cumbria).
Attendance: 4,630 (1,452).