ALEX Revell’s fifth goal of the season breathed life into Rotherham United’s League Two promotion charge as they earned a narrow 1-0 victory over AFC Wimbledon.
The Millers endured a largely frustrating afternoon against a resolute Wimbledon outfit but Revell capped a hardworking display with his matchwinning strike near the end which proved the difference for Steve Evans’ men.
The Millers’ reshuffled the pack following their last outing at Cheltenham by making four changes with long-term injury victim Scott Shearer returning between the sticks at the expense of Andy Warrington.
New signing Joe Skarz was thrown immediately into the fray following his move from Bury earlier in the week while Icelandic international Kari Arnason returned to his favoured central midfield berth following suspension.
Peterborough loanee Daniel Kearns was also given an opportunity to shine against Wimbledon, who came into the encounter on the back of an improved run of form of late.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and they had the first of sight of goal when following good work by David Noble and Arnason, Lee Frecklington was presented with an opportunity to strike from the edge of the box but he screwed his effort wide when he should have done better.
At the other end, a long punt forward by John Sullivan saw Rashid Yussuff thread a ball into the advancing run of Jack Midson but he was snuffed out by Johnny Mullins as he looked to strike from an acute angle.
Minutes later, Noble floated a deep corner which evaded the jump of a couple of visiting defenders and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Mullins, who snatched at his shot as it blazed over the bar from point blank range.
Just shy of the quarter-hour, Skarz swung an outswinging centre which was met by the head of Revell, but he couldn’t control his header as it flew harmlessly wide of the target before Frecklington toe-poked an effort over the bar moments later.
Minutes later, fine interplay between Arnason and Frecklington saw the former float a dinked cross which fell into the path of Revell, whose first-time shot was deflected wide by Pim Balkestein.
From the resultant corner, Noble found Claude Davis at the far stick, whose bobbling shot was arrowing into the bottom corner until Sullivan’s late intervention.
The Millers were looking the most likely and they came within a whisker of the opener when a long ball forward saw Nardiello play the ball inside into the path of Freckington, who worked a yard of space on his marker with a clever jink before curling a controlled shot which looked destined for the bottom corner before Sullivan got a fingertip to turn the ball around the post.
With half-time approaching, Mat Mitchel-King caught Rotherham napping with a quick throw before delivering a centre which saw Alan Bennett climb highest but his looping header whistled narrowly over the crossbar.
Deep in stoppage time, a quick corner routine saw Noble fizz a low cross which saw Arnason nip infront of his marker but his glancing header blazed wide of the target.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 AFC Wimbledon 0
Following the restart, Wimbledon failed to clear decisively and Kearns pounced on the loose ball before cutting inside to drill an effort wide of the target.
Moments later, Kearns ghosted past Yussuff with a minimum of fuss before floating a centre which evaded Daniel Nardiello but found Frecklington at the far post but although he got the shot away the referee adjudged he had controlled the ball with his arm.
In a rare foray by the visitors, a clever rollover by Luke Moore paved the way for Harry Pell to power an effort which forced Shearer into a palm over the bar before Jesse Darko almost scored with his first touch but he blazed over as Rotherham failed to clear the resultant corner.
Skarz then saw yellow on his debut for tugging back Kevin Sainte-Luce before Revell’s looping header forced Sullivan to tip over when there looked little danger.
Mitchel-King was the next in the referee’s notebook following a cynical tackle near the touchline but Noble’s resultant free-kick fizzed across the goalmouth without getting a decisive touch.
The Millers then wasted a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock when a quick corner saw the visitors’ short-handed and Kearns delivered a teasing centre which found the head of Mullins just yards out but the ex-Stockport defender fluffed his lines as his point-blank header blazed over.
At the other end, Mitchel-King narrowly failed to connect from close range as Jonathan Meades’ inswinger caused havoc in the home defence before fine one-touch play involving Darko and Midson split open the Rotherham rearguard and Moore got on the wrong side of Davis but Shearer stood up tall to block his goalbound effort.
However, the Millers turned defence into attack with the blink of an eye and after Wimbledon put the ball behind, Evans’ men made the much-needed breakthrough with 14 minutes remaining.
Sub Lionel Ainsworth delivered a tantalising centre to the near post which was flicked on by Arnason and the ball fell kindly for Revell, who nodded the ball home from close range.
After taking the lead the Millers were looking comfortable but they were given a scare in stoppage time when Moore cut inside to deliver a centre which saw Midson get on the wrong side of Davis, but to the home sides’ relief his header failed to trouble Shearer.
With the visitors’ throwing bodies forward with seconds remaining, the home side launched a lightning counter led by Ainsworth but despite putting fellow sub Kieran Agard in the clear, Sullivan blocked his shot before the referee put an end to the proceedings.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 AFC Wimbledon 0
Rotherham- Shearer, Mullins, Davis, Morgan, Skarz, Frecklington, Noble (Ainsworth 73), Arnason, Kearns (Agard 88), Nardiello (Odejayi 85), Revell. Unused:- Warrington, O’Connor, Pringle, Ridehalgh.
Wimbledon:- Sullivan, Mitchel-King, Hussey, Yussuff (Sainte-Luce 56), Bennett, Balkestein, Meades, Pell, Alexander (Darko 56), Midson, Moore. Unused:- Cummings, Jaimez-Ruiz, Long, Antwi, Youga
Attendance:- 7594 (480)