Our Retro Review series continues as we look back at the first-ever league game at the New York Stadium.
This is right up there with the most anticipated games in the club’s history. After four years away, Rotherham United were making their grand return to their home town.
At the end of the 2007/08 season, the Millers were forced out of Milmoor as a result of financial troubles. They had to then play for four years at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium.
This was a desperate time for everyone associated with the club. But when new owner Tony Stewart announced plans of a new stadium in Rotherham, there was hope again.
It was a long process, but the New York Stadium was ready for the 2012/13 season. Steve Evans took over as new manager late on in the previous campaign ahead of a huge season.
He was tasked with achieving promotion to League 1 in his first full season. There was a mass influx of new players in the summer, and there was a lot of pressure on their and Evans’s shoulders heading into the start of the season.
All of this got going with their opening League 2 game of the season against Burton Albion. The excitement was growing with fans in the week leading to the game. The stadium was fully sold-out and it was a massive day for the club.
Rotherham United Starting XI
There were plenty of fresh faces in the starting XI for Rotherham, as eight players were making their competitive debuts for the club.
Ben Pringle, Jason Taylor and Johnny Mullins were the only players to have featured for the club before. Millers Boss Evans oversaw a mass overhaul as he put his stamp on the team during the summer.
Given the number of new faces, a slow start would have been understandable. But there were high expectations around the place, so Evans’ side could not afford a sloppy first few games.
Luckily enough, any pre-game nerves were quashed early on. The Millers were awarded a penalty in the 6th minute after new boy Daniel Nardiello was brought down.
The forward took it himself and he calmly slotted away into the bottom left corner. This early goal did Rotherham the world of good as they took control from here on in.
The volume in a joyous home end was upped again in the 11th minute as the hosts doubled their lead. It all came from what soon became a trademark of the Millers, a Kari Arnason long-throw.
The Icelandic international sent the ball dangerously into the box towards another new signing, Kayode Odejayi. Odejayi made his presence felt right away, heading home to double Rotherham’s lead.
Rotherham controlled most of the game. Burton’s best opportunity on goal came as Adi Yussuf had a goal disallowed in between the Millers’ opening two goals.
But this was as close as Burton came to scoring all-afternoon, as this was Rotherham United’s afternoon to rejoice in their brand new home.
Burton’s woes were compounded just after the hour mark. Midfielder Lee Bell received two quickfire yellow cards as he was sent off for the visitors.
The first came in the 59th minute for unsportsmanlike conduct. Then in the 62nd minute, his 2nd booking came for a late challenge on Rotherham midfielder David Noble.
All this did was assert Rotherham’s dominance further. With 15 minutes left to go, the Millers got their third. A deflected Pringle cross caught Burton ‘keeper Ross Adkins off guard to put the host three goals to the good.
Rotherham could have extended their lead further, but 3-0 was how it finished. Evans and his team could not have asked for a much better start to life at the New York Stadium.
This really did set the tone for the season, as Rotherham went onto win 14 out of their 23 home games at their new ground in 2012/13.
It was a tough season with plenty of ups-and-downs, but this impressive home form helped Evans’ side achieve what they set out to do in August. To be promoted to League 1.
Their promotion was confirmed on the final day of the season. Rotherham faced Aldershot Town, needing a win to secure a place in the top three.
The Millers were in the ascendency for much of the game. But there was a lot of tension around as they searched for an opening goal.
They had to wait until the 64th minute, but that goal finally came. After a brief scramble in the box, Johnny Mullins tapped the ball home to get the stadium bouncing.
This was before Lee Frecklington secured the win late on. His goal set off some unbelievable scenes that will never be forgotten by Rotherham supporters.
It was a great season for the club both on and off the field. After years of turmoil, they were on the up back to where they belong. As it turned out, this season was just the start of a phenomenal few years for the club…