ONE suspects this won’t be the last time Kari Arnason makes a significant contribution to a Rotherham United success this season.
The Iceland international supplied a real quality strike for the opening goal; a perfectly-timed pass for the second one and the third came from something that will be a handy weapon in the team’s armoury this season - his long throw.
“You’ll not see a better goal than that,” reckoned manager Steve Evans of the effort Arnason struck from around 25 yards high into the far top corner.
As Daniel Nardiello’s pass rolled to him, Arnason knew full well he had to strike ‘across’ the ball and he executed his contact with technical perfection. From the moment the ball left his foot, it was a goal all the way.
It set them on the way to a victory which might have been more emphatic but had one or two stutters in the second half although numerous changes disrupted the flow.
“It was just the type of game we wanted at this stage,” said Evans. “Mansfield will be one of the Blue Square Premier favourites, they were in the Play-offs last time. I knew we’d be tested.
“I wanted us to be away, where we would have a test and I could see a bit more of the players in a different setting and environment. So, on that score, it was good.”
Evans would have enjoyed his team’s dominant early spell. Not the near misses however.
Kayode Odejayi put a good header just wide from a corner; Jason Taylor and David Noble both headed chances off target and Kieran Agard fired at the keeper from a Taylor pass. So ended the first quarter-of-an-hour!
Arnason’s opener came on 25 minutes and it was 2-0 on 37 minutes when a break from deep, sparked by Noble, saw Arnason send Nardiello through to finish.
Lee Stevenson, who missed a good chance at the end of the first half, struck a fine 18 yarder to reduce the deficit two minutes into the second half and Rotherham had some defending to do.
Taylor had a header cleared off the Stags’ line before, on 70 minutes, Arnason’s long throw glanced off a defender and Mark Bradley (on at left back by then) stole in to sidefoot home - who would have thought he’d be top scorer in pre-season? Within 60 seconds, Mansfield - for whom ex-Millers midfielder Gary Roberts came on - pulled one back through Matt Green. In stoppage time, Luke Speight missed a great chance to equalise and there was still time for Gareth Evans to rattle the bar from 25 yards. The Millers took another look at on-trial right back Javan Vidal but Evans was non-committal on a decision over his future.
Tomorrow, Evans sends a team to Stamford, the club where he first went into management.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott; Thompson, Jones, Pilkington, Beevers; Howell (Roberts 65), Tolley; Dyer, Stevenson (Clements 55), Meikle (Wright 72); Green (Speight 72).
ROTHERHAM UTD: Warrington (Shearer ht); Vidal, Sharps (Johnson 84), Mullins, Wilson (Bradley 55); Taylor (Woods 83), Noble, Arnason (Pringle 74); Agard (Evans 55), Odejayi (Revell 55), Nardiello (Ainsworth 66).
Referee: Russell Booth (Notts).