SO much for the season fizzling out then. Middlesbrough might not have had anything to play for, but on a rip-roaring night in Rotherham, they managed to serve up arguably their most entertaining game of the season.

Three goals, three efforts against the crossbar, a disallowed finish, a controversial red card and two homegrown youngsters coming on for their debuts. Who needs the Super League when you can ely on the Championship for a night like this?

From Middlesbrough’s perspective, it was a shame there was nothing riding on the outcome, although Rotherham’s defeat has damaged their hopes of remaining in the Championship and offered a helping hand to both Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday, their rivals at the foot of the table.

The Millers felt aggrieved by the first-half dismissal of Matt Crooks following what appeared to be a clash of heads with Grant Hall, and playing against ten men for more than 70 minutes undoubtedly made Boro’s task significantly easier.

Even so, the Teessiders deserve credit for the way in which they shrugged off the concession of a third-minute opener to take complete control of the game, with goals from George Saville and Chuba Akpom ultimately securing their victory.

Both Yannick Bolasie and Neeskens Kebano produced their most effective displays in a Boro shirt, exploiting the space that was created by the visitors’ numerical advantage. On the strength of last night’s performances, it is a shame neither is expected to be remaining beyond the end of the campaign.

Indeed, with thoughts turning to the future, it was a night when the absentees from Neil Warnock’s team sheet were arguably of more significance than the players actually lining up in South Yorkshire.

Britt Assombalonga and Ashey Fletcher were not involved in Boro’s squad, with their time on Teesside effectively at an end. The pair were called into a meeting at Rockliffe Park on Tuesday and told they would not be playing again before their contracts expire in the summer.

They will leave as free agents, having been signed for a combined total of £21.5m during Garry Monk’s spending splurge in the summer that followed relegation from the top-flight. Assombalonga scored 47 goals in 161 appearances in a Boro shirt; Fletcher claimed 28 in 108 outings. Both suffered from injury issues, and it can be argued that no Boro manager ever truly played to their strengths. Ultimately, though, their four years at the Riverside were a major disappointment.

It remains to be seen whether they will be followed through the exit door by Djed Spence and Hayden Coulson this summer. Spence has a knock while Coulson was unavailable because of illness, but Warnock appears to have lost patience with the former, whose obvious natural talent has always been accompanied by a questionable level of application. Coulson’s professionalism cannot be questioned, but Warnock clearly harbours concerns over his defensive capabilities and does not appear to believe that the 22-year-old can be moulded into a midfielder.

There will be a large amount of change this summer, to the extent that only four members of last night’s starting line-up can be pencilled in as likely starters in the opening game of next season. Paddy McNair, Hall, Marc Bola and Jonny Howson will almost certainly start if fit, with Saville and Duncan Watmore likely to be in the squad with them. The rest? Kebano and Bolasie will leave when their loans expire, with Jordan Archer also unlikely to be offered a new deal. Akpom will remain, but will find himself shuffled behind two or three new acquisitions in the pecking order.

Marvin Johnson is in an interesting position, with his return to last night’s starting side suggesting his fate is not yet sealed. As things stand, he is due to become a free agent in June. Talks are understood to be ongoing, however, and his presence at the New York Stadium suggests Warnock has not yet given up on him.

Johnson lined up at left wing-back last night, with Warnock’s decision to revert to a back three requiring the deployment of Kebano as a makeshift wing-back on the opposite flank.

Boro’s defence certainly had an experimental look to it, and it did not take long for it to be picked apart. Just three minutes in, and Rotherham were opening the scoring.

It was a bitterly disappointing goal to concede from a Boro perspective, with Angus MacDonald rising unopposed at the back post to head home from close range after Joe Mattock swung over a corner from the right. To the Teessiders’ credit, it at least sparked a positive response in terms of attacking intent at the other end.

Four minutes after falling behind, Boro had the ball in the net themselves, but while Watmore displayed commendable anticipation to nip in and score as MacDonald tried to shepherd play back to Viktor Johansson, the referee, Darren Bond, adjudged that the goalkeeper had the ball in both hands. It was a close call.

For all that Boro might not have had much to play for, the early action was relentless, and the key moment of the game arrived in the 19th minute. Crooks thudded into Hall as the pair went up for a high ball close to the halfway line, leaving the Boro defender nursing a head injury that forced him off the field. Crooks joined him in the dressing rooms, with Bond ruling that he had led with his arm and issuing him with a straight red card for serious foul play. Replays suggested that the dismissal was harsh, with Crooks’ head appearing to make contact with Hall’s face rather than his arm.

Hall’s replacement was Connor Malley, with the 21-year-old Geordie coming on to make his first senior appearance in a Boro shirt. An academy product who started his footballing career in Sunderland’s youth system, Malley slotted into central midfield alongside Saville.

With an extra man, Boro swarmed around the Rotherham box, and Kebano was the key to his side’s 33rd-minute equaliser, bursting past his marker on the left before pulling the ball back from close to the byline. Saville still had plenty to do when the ball came into his path, but he swept an excellent first-time strike into the top left-hand corner. With six league goals to his name, the Northern Irishman is now Boro’s leading scorer.

Five minutes later, and the Teessiders were twice coming close to claiming the lead. Howson curled a 20-yard strike against the crossbar with Johansson beaten, before Bolasie also struck the crossbar with a looped header from the rebound.

Rotherham’s resistance always felt fragile, and Boro deservedly went ahead ten minutes after the break. Johansson missed his attempted punch from Johnson’s free-kick, enabling McNair to square the ball across the face of goal. Akpom latched on to McNair’s pass, and swept home a clinical first-time finish.

Howson made it three efforts against the bar when he headed Kebano’s cross against the woodwork, and Richmond-born youngster Josh Coburn was handed his debut when he left the bench with three minutes left.