Millers edged out in five-goal clash.
ROTHERHAM United’s League One play-off hopes suffered a setback as Milton Keynes Dons edged a five-goal thriller at stadium:mk to inflict the Millers second defeat in as many games.
Paul Warne’s men had the perfect start thanks to Semi Ajayi’s tap-in but the Millers found themselves behind at the break, owing to goals from Robbie Muirhead and Peter Pawlett.
Muirhead’s second of the evening gave the home side some much needed breathing space and although sub Jon Taylor gave the Millers some hope of claiming a share of the spoils late on, the Dons defence held firm to earn their first victory under new coach Dan Micciche.
Following their narrow loss at the hands of Rochdale at the weekend, Warne made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit to Buckinghamshire.
Shaun Cummings was recalled on the right hand side of defence at the expense of Josh Emmanuel while Caolan Lavery was handed his first start in Millers colours, as David Ball had to settle for a substitutes berth.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Joe Mattock got the better of George Williams before fizzing an inviting centre which looked inch-perfect for Michael Smith, at the far post, but Elliott Ward stuck out a timely leg to snuff out the danger.
At the other end, Callum Brittain floated a delicate cross which saw Osman Sow rise above the attentions of Ajayi but his downward effort failed to trouble Marek Rodak, in the visitors goal.
Moments later, Cummings skipped down the by-line to play a delicious centre across the face of the MK goal, evading the attentions of both Smith and Lavery before Anthony Forde kept the ball alive to curl an inviting cross which was met by the head of Smith but his effort was straight down the throat of Lee Nicholls.
In the next Millers attack, Richie Towell’s fired harmlessly wide before Lavery became the latest to threaten the home goal with an effort which took a wicked deflection of Williams to spin viciously over the home bar.
The Millers were rewarded for their early pressure on 11 minutes when the Dons were caught napping from a quick corner routine and Forde took advantage of the indecision to curl a cross into the danger area and Lavery showed great awareness to deftly flick the ball into the path of Ajayi, who had the simple task of tapping home from close range.
The home side responded positively to the early setback and Pawlett’s reverse pass was latched upon by Osman Sow, who fired a left-footed effort from distance which had Rodak nervously scurrying across goal, as it whistled narrowly wide of the target before Ajayi showed his defensive instincts by diverting Muirhead’s dangerous cross to safety.
Minutes later, Aneke was the quickest to react from Muirhead’s corner but his towering header cleared the Millers crossbar before Vaulks executed a volley, at the other end, but it screwed off his boot, as it flew wide.
Just before the hour mark, a fine flowing Millers move ended with Towell trying his luck with a half-volley from distance but a retreating Dons defender took the sting out of his shot, as it looped into the grateful hands of Nicholls before the home side squandered a gilt edged chance to level matters when Muirhead’s cross found Aneke, in acres of space, but the Dons frontman fluffed his lines when he headed over, despite having the Millers goal at his mercy.
Moments later, Sow forced Rodak into a full-length save but the Millers failed to heed the warnings as Forde dwelt in possession before being robbed by Aneke and with the referee waving away Millers appeals for a free-kick, Aneke took advantage of a two-on-one to find Muirhead, who advanced with menace into the Millers box before striking a fierce effort which beat the outstretched hand of Rodak to find the bottom corner of the net.
The home side were buoyed by the equaliser and they turned the game on its head, just three minutes before the break, when the Millers failed to deal with a ball into the box and Aneke held off his marker to plant the ball into the danger area and with Rodak in no man’s land, Pawlett was the grateful recipient as he scuffed the ball home from close range.
The Millers responded in kind and Towell got to the touchline to clip a centre which saw Smith head over from close range when he should have done better before Forde almost latched onto the breakdown of a visitors attack but Nicholls showed fleet of foot to cut out the danger.
Half-time- MK Dons 2 Rotherham United 1
In a slow start to the half by both sides, Newell headed over from Forde’s corner before Rodak had to be quick off his line to deny both sub Iko Ugbo and Aneke with a timely punch, at the other end.
Just before the hour mark, the home side took a firm grip on the game by adding a third goal when Pawlett’s slide rule pass found the lively Muirhead, who cleverly worked a yard of space on Cummings, before striking a fierce left-footed effort which flew past the attentions of Rodak to find the bottom corner of the net.
The Millers struggled to regain their composure until Smith had a snap shot deflected wide before Towell fired an effort which was blocked en-route to goal by a backtracking home defender.
At the other end, sub Brandon Thomas-Asante stung the palms of Rodak with a long range shot before the Millers came within a coat of paint of reducing the arrears when sub Matt Palmer’s deep corner was headed across goal by Smith into the path of Ajayi, who looked a certain scorer but Nicholls pulled off a top draw save to tip his point-blank header onto the crossbar, before the ball was scrambled to safety.
However, the Millers grabbed a lifeline with 15 minutes to go when Towell managed to dig out a cross whereby sub Taylor nipped in front of his marker and although the ex-Shrewsbury winger’s initial effort was blocked, he had a second bite of the cherry as he scuffed the ball into the net from close range.
Moments later, Smith’s lay-off presented Newell with the chance to race into the box before firing a rasping effort which was superbly tipped over by Nicholls before Ajayi was well-placed to deny Muirhead a hat-trick with a hacked clearance from his goalbound shot, at the other end.
With the game in the balance, Taylor turned architect, as he latched onto Vaulks’ free-kick to give Palmer a shooting chance and the ex-Burton playmaker curled an effort from distance which flew narrowly over the Dons bar before Vaulks’ ambitious effort from long range was parried to safety by Nicholls.
With time running out for the visitors, Newell curled a long range effort over, in the Millers’ last chance of note, as they made the trip north empty-handed following a largely frustrating evening.
Full-time- MK Dons 3 Rotherham United 2
Milton Keynes Dons 3
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- MK Dons- Nicholls, Williams, Lewington, Wootton, Upson, Sow (Ugbo 46), Aneke, Pawlett (Thomas-Asante 59), Ward, Muirhead, Brittain (Cisse 72). Unused- Sietsma, Agard, McGrandles, Nesbitt.
Rotherham- Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood (Palmer 66), Forde (Yates 59), Towell, Newell, Smith, Cummings, Lavery (Taylor 59). Unused- Price, Ball, Ihiekwe, Williams
Referee- Michael Salisbury
Attendance- 7327 (559)