ALEX Revell was the Millers’ hero as his last-gasp header earned Steve Evans’ men a share of the spoils as they fought back from a two-goal deficit against MK Dons.
The visitors looked odds-on favourites to claim maximum points when Matthew Kennedy and Izale McLeod struck either side of the interval despite Brendan Galloway’s dismissal just after half-time.
However, Rotherham showed their fighting spirit to earn a point as they maintained their hopes of finishing third when Michael O’Connor pulled a goal back before Revell headed home in a dramatic finale.
Following their hard-fought victory over Port Vale on Easter Monday, the Millers reshuffled the pack by making four changes to their starting line-up.
Talismanic midfielder Lee Frecklington made a welcome return to the starting line-up after shrugging off a back injury at the expense of Richard Smallwood, who was suspended following his red-card against the Valiants.
Robert Milsom was also given an opportunity in the Millers’ engine room as Nicky Adams dropped to the bench while Revell and Kieran Agard were handed the striking berths at the expense of Wes Thomas and Haris Vuckic, who had to settle for places amongst the substitutes.
The visitors had the first sight of goal when Dele Alli ghosted past Milsom and Joe Skarz with a minimum of fuss to fizz a cross which was intercepted by the well-placed Kari Arnason before the in-form Agard stung the palms of David Martin with a stinging drive from distance at the other end.
Minutes later, O’Connor and James Tavernier combined smartly to give Frecklington a sight of goal and the ex-Peterborough midfielder almost marked his return with a goal but his low drive from distance whistled past the upright before Jordan Spence headed over from point-blank range for the visitors as he rose highest from a corner in their next attack.
However, the MK Dons stunned the home faithful when they broke the deadlock on nine minutes following an incisive counter-attack.
A long punt forward looked innocuous enough but it found Ryan Hall on the left flank and he advanced with menace and with the runners being drawn to the near post, his tantalising centre was inviting for the on-rushing Kennedy, who kept his composure to slide the ball into the heart of the home goal giving Adam Collin no chance.
The home side responded well to the setback and after a period of Millers pressure, Arnason strode forward before striking a fearsome effort from distance which had Martin nervously scurrying across goal but it flew narrowly wide of the target.
The Millers then came within a whisker of the equaliser when the MK Dons only half-cleared a Ben Pringle free-kick paving the way for O’Connor to show fantastic technique by executing a superb volley which fizzed narrowly wide with Martin rooted to the spot.
On the half-hour mark, Alli became the first to see yellow for a late lunge on Tavernier before the visitors’ were forced into a change when George Baldock, was stretched off with the injury calling a lengthy halt to the proceedings.
With half-time approaching, Galloway became the next to incur the wrath of the referee when he halted Frecklington in full flow to earn a yellow card before Revell’s clever knockdown from Pringle’s floated cross narrowly evaded Agard, who was ready to pounce with the goal at his mercy.
Moments later, Rotherham caught the MK Dons napping with a quick corner routine involving Pringle and Tavernier, which saw the latter curl a delightful centre which skimmed off the head of Frecklington as it failed to trouble the visitors’ goal.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 MK Dons 1
Following the restart, Rotherham were quick out of the blocks and with Martin forced to race from goal under pressure from Revell, Agard had an opportunity to shoot into an unguarded net but the ex-Yeovil striker screwed his shot wide of the target.
The Millers’ hopes of a second half comeback were given a shot in the arm moments later when the visitors were reduced to ten men as a long sweeping ball saw Agard get on the wrong side of Galloway, who following a tussle hauled down the home frontman and referee Graham Salisbury took his time before brandishing a second yellow card to the visitors’ full-back.
From the resultant free-kick, Pringle blazed his effort harmlessly over but the ex-Derby playmaker was the architect behind giving Revell a sniff of goal moments later but his snap shot was blocked by a retreating defender.
The home side missed two gilt-edged chances to equalise when firstly Craig Morgan’s raking ball found Revell, whose instinctive shot was deflected by sub Tom Flanagan into the path of Adams, who had just Martin to beat but the visitors’ keeper stood up tall to block his effort before the MK Dons failed to clear moments later giving Frecklington an opportunity to strike goalwards from just outside the box but his left-footed half-volley narrowly cleared the crossbar.
In a rare foray by the visitors, Arnason’s stray pass saw the MK Dons attack with intent paving the way for sub James Loveridge to advance menacingly before striking a fierce effort which was parried to safety by Collin.
The Millers’ failed to heed the warning as the MK Dons doubled their advantage with 17 minutes to go following an incisive counter attack.
Following the breakdown on a home attack, Alli injected pace into the attack and with a two-on-two situation, his slide-ruled pass saw McLeod calmly cut inside Arnason to take the Icelandic international out of the game and with just Collin to beat, he dinked the ball over the advancing ‘keeper into the heart of the goal.
The Millers fought back strongly when Pringle’s drilled effort was smothered by Martin before Tavernier’s volley narrowly cleared the visitors’ bar.
With quarter an hour to go, Martin was yellow-carded for time wasting before the Millers gave themselves renewed hope when they halved the deficit with 11 minutes to go.
Skarz’s arrowed ball into the visitors’ box saw Revell climb highest to head the ball across the face of goal and the ball fell invitingly into the path of O’Connor, who kept his composure to wrongfoot Martin and slide the ball into the corner of the goal.
The visitors’ were bracing themselves for a home onslaught which failed to materialise until Agard’s timely pass gave sub Thomas an opportunity to strike but his snap shot was bravely blocked by a retreating defender.
With time running out, Loveridge twice tested Collin with shots from outside the box before Tavernier screwed a volley harmlessly wide of the target.
With the Millers’ home campaign looking like it was going to end with a whimper, Rotherham finished with a bang as they equalised in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Arnason launched a long bullet throw into the box and with Martin rushing from goal, Revell out jumped the visitors’ ‘keeper to loop a header which dipped under the crossbar to find the bottom corner of the net.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 MK Dons 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Tavernier, Arnason, Morgan, Skarz, Pringle, Frecklington (Hitchcock 78), O’Connor, Milsom (Adams 29, Thomas 78), Revell, Agard. Unused:- Shearer, Brindley, Davis, Vuckic.
MK Dons- Martin, Lewington, Gleeson, Smith (Randall 50), McLeod, Alli, Baldock (Flanagan 41) , Galloway, Hall (Loveridge 67), Spence, Kennedy. Unused:- Burns, Rasulo.
Referee:- Graham Salisbury
Attendance:- 9405 (347).