Notts County were on the receiving end of a 6-0 thumping at the New York Stadium, which left them five points from safety. Rotherham United claimed the victory through goals from James Tavernier, Haris Vuckic (2), Alex Revell, Kieran Agard and Tom Hitchcock, as the Magpies dropped to the foot of the table.
With Jimmy Spencer suspended, Kwesi Appiah made his first start for the Magpies up front in one of two changes from the side that faced Shrewsbury Town. Jack Grealish also dropped out of the starting line-up and was replaced by Mark Fotheringham.
Notts adapted a new-look diamond formation that saw Fotheringham join Hayden Mullins and Andre Boucaud to pack out the centre of midfield. Callum McGregor took lined up in an advanced midfield role behind a front two of Appiah and Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
In the opening stages, McGregor looked County’s biggest threat and created a golden opportunity after he skipped away from Tavernier into space. The winger found Campbell-Ryce inside the area with a pass that stretched the retreating home backline but the resulting shot across goal evaded the back post and Appiah.
Rotherham’s first opportunity arrived in the form of a controversial free-kick, following Kieron Freeman’s challenge on Agard, which had been viewed as an excellent tackle by the Notts players and bench. Tavernier did not sympathise and curled over the wall to find the inside of the left-hand post.
On 16, the Magpies defence were caught out by a short free-kick that led to a delivery into the box from the right wing. Notts struggled to clear and Vuckic’s shot on the turn took a wild deflection that meant Bartosz Bialkowski could only watch on as the ball trickled over the line.
The hosts were brimming with confidence and created numerous openings with their quick passing and movement in the final third. Midfielder Lee Frecklington twice fired wide from range before United added their third.
Revell was next to add his name to the scoresheet in the 26th minute. The frontman found space on the edge of the box and rifled unstoppably into the bottom-right corner.
It was not a pretty sight for the away fans behind the Notts goal and it got worse when a mix up between Gareth Roberts and Bialkowski led to a penalty. Vuckic capitalised on the hesitation at the back and was upended by Bialkowski, who was unable to keep out Agard’s 12-yard drive into the roof of the net.
The fourth goal prompted an early substitution, as Andre Boucaud made way for Kyle Dixon. It was Dixon’s first Football League appearance and fully deserved after an impressive loan spell with Boston United.
Ahead of the interval, Rotherham created one further chance during stoppage time. A looped pass over the defence saw Revell beat the offside trap, only his lifted finish landed on the roof of the net.
Grealish was introduced at the expense of Fotheringham at half time and the Magpies reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Big improvements were needed at both ends of the pitch.
Rotherham could have added a fifth within a minute of the restart from another lofted ball over the defensive line. Revell raced into the box but prodded behind as he attempted to tame the pass and find a way around Bialkowski.
On 55, a neat passing move allowed Campbell-Ryce to target the near post with an inviting cross that was inches away from Appiah’s outstretched toe. A bounce took the ball towards Grealish at the back post but the winger was unable to keep his header down.
Four minutes later, Rotherham made it 5-0 following a breakaway attack in the right channel. Vuckic then found space to unleash a strong 12-yard hit, which took a heavy deflection off Freeman and dipped under the crossbar.
McGregor attempted to catch out the home goalkeeper, Adam Collin, with an unexpected attempt that was well anticipated. This proved to be the forward’s final involvement as he was replaced by Tyrell Waite, who had returned from an impressive loan spell with Ilkeston FC.
The Millers’ sixth and final goal of the afternoon was scored by Hitchcock, following his introduction from the bench. Another substitute, winger Nicky Adams, was the provider with a low centre, which allowed the goal-scorer to touch the ball over the line at the near post.
The Magpies should have scored a consolation goal from another dangerous Campbell-Ryce centre. On this occasion, the delivery was just out of Freeman’s reach.
Bialkowski prevented a seventh goal late on with a fine parry to deny Michael O’Connor. It was a disappointing day but special credit must be given to the County fans, who backed their team until the final whistle.