Ball strikes again to put seal on Reserves' victory over the Millers
STRIKERS Greg Mills and Callum Ball scored as Derby County Reserves beat leaders Rotherham United Reserves 2-0 in the totesport.com League Central Division at Christchurch Meadow, Belper, yesterday.
Mills, who has been out on loan at Telford, struck in the first half and Ball found the net in the second.
It was Ball's sixth goal for the Reserves this season, making him their leading scorer.
Dean Leacock, Jake Buxton and Dean Moxey all started for Derby, as did winger Lee Croft, who is back from his loan spell at Huddersfield Town.
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Thirty-six-year-old Paul Evans was among the substitutes and came on at right-back for the final 15 minutes. Evans, the former Shrewsbury Town, Brentford and Nottingham Forest midfielder, is part of the Rams' medical staff.
Rotherham included young Arsenal midfielder Mark Randall, who had a trial spell with the Rams during pre-season ahead of the 2009-10 campaign. He has made three appearances for Rotherham's first team this season.
Experienced striker Paul Warne led the Millers' attack.
Derby almost took a third-minute lead. Jeff Hendrick, Moxey and Mills combined and Luke Ashworth just managed to scramble Mills' low centre away as Ball closed in.
Croft whipped in a cross from the right which forced Rotherham to concede a corner, which they cleared.
Leacock and Buxton formed the centre-back partnership and Mark O'Brien was at right-back but the only threat to Derby in the opening 10 minutes was a Randall free kick which struck the defensive wall.
Hendrick, captain for the afternoon, tested Jamie Annerson with a free kick from distance before Derby took the lead after 21 minutes.
Alex Witham helped Moxey to find space in the Rotherham area and his low ball saw Mills finish from close range.
Croft almost got on the end of a teasing cross from David Martin, while Rotherham's only effort on target in the first half came from Warne, whose shot was easily dealt with by Saul Deeney.
Determined defending restricted Rotherham to few sights of goal in the opening 45 minutes. Buxton won his headers, Leacock looked comfortable at the heart of the back four and Moxey played well at left-back.
Leacock was replaced at half-time by Kallum Keane, who was booked three minutes after the restart for a poor challenge on Tom Pope.
Derby pressed for a second goal and Ball's shot struck the foot of a post, then another effort from the striker was saved by Annerson.
Deeney made an important stop from Warne to keep Derby in front and the Rams doubled their lead after 75 minutes.
Ball met Hendrick's fine centre and gave Annerson no chance with a beautifully controlled header which contained power and placement.
Graham Kelly, on for Witham, was inches away from making it three when his glancing header drifted beyond the far post.
Rotherham almost pulled a goal back with the last kick of the game when Randall spun cleverly at a free kick and his deflected shot was clawed away by Deeney.
DERBY COUNTY: Deeney; O'Brien, Leacock (Keane, 46), Buxton (Evans, 76), Moxey; Croft, Hendrick, Witham (Kelly, 78), Martin; Mills, Ball. Other sub: Severn (gk).
ROTHERHAM UNITED: Annerson; Royles, Green, Harrison, Ashworth, Hall, Bradley, Randall, Pope, Warne, Arthur. Subs: Darley, Banks, Denton, Rose, Leyden.
REFEREE: R Wigglesworth (S Yorkshire).
DERBY County's Totesport Cup game at Walsall a week today has been postponed.
The Rams were due to play the Saddlers at the Banks's Stadium on Wednesday, January 19.
A new date for the tie has yet to be arranged.
ROSS Atkin's loan deal at Tamworth has been extended until the end of the season.
Derby County's 21-year-old goalkeeper was at Tamworth for much of the first half of the season.
"This is a good move for Ross. We will continue to monitor his form very closely," said Rams manager Nigel Clough.