The Millers made a winning start to the 2022/23 campaign, coming out on top of an entertaining encounter at Evans Park in which both sides fully played their part. With several injuries to key personnel throughout pre-season Joint-Managers Dave Birch and Mike Norton were forced to shuffle their pack, with Elliot Cooke out for another month, John Cofie and Mason Fallon only fit enough for a place on the bench, Harrison Cunningham and Michael Fish unavailable, added to Rick TIndall's suspension, leaving The Millers with minimal decisions to make selection wise for the season opener.
Dylan Forth took his usual place in goal behind a back four of Chris Rogers, Jack Wray, Marcus Dibble and Adam Muir, with Adam Stuart, Kyle Oakes and Darren McKnight making up the midfield, McKnight taking the captains armband in the absence of Fallon. Teddy Osipitan, Akim Samms and summer signing George Howarth, a promising wide player brought in from Cheadle Heath Nomads, made up the front line.
The Millers dominated from the outset and took the lead four minutes in, Wray tripped 35 yards from goal and McKnight smashed in the resulting free-kick. The home side responded well to the set-back and were level within five minutes Adam Muir's clearance deflected off strike Josh Oultram, looped over Forth and nestled into the corner of the net. Two minutes later Stafford were ahead, a corner from the right found Henry Smith unmarked six yards out and he made no mistake in heading firmly back across Forth and into the net.
After the quick-fire double strike by the home side it took The Millers a while to settle back into the game but it was not too long before they were back on top, Stafford goalkeeper Joseph Williams called into action on several occasions, most notably in producing fine saves to deny Howarth and Samms. An equaliser seemed inevitable, and so it proved on 32 minutes as Adam Muir powered home a header from McKnight's clever free-kick, it was Muir's first competitive goal for the club and a moment he visibly enjoyed. There was no further scoring in the half and both sides went into the interval satisfied with the opening 45 minutes of the campaign.
Just two minutes into the second-half and The Millers injury jinx struck again, Dibble forced off and replaced by Finlay Phillips, and the home side seemed on top as Birch & Norton's men battled to remain on level terms. On 52 minutes The Millers went ahead for a second time and on this occasion it was largely against the run of play, a long clearance found Akim Samms midway in the Stafford half, he shrugged off the challenge of a defender before firing in a fierce drive from 30 yards out, Williams attempt to keep it out proved futile and Samms was a scorer on the opening day for a second consecutive season.
Stafford bounced back and wasted a glorious opportunity to level the scores, but as the game neared it's conclusion The Millers were well in control creating a number of opportunities. It was no surprise in the dying moments when Osipitan burst into the area and squared for debutant Finley Rorke to hammer in a fourth goal and secure the three points.
Man of the Match: Darren McKnight