Millers denied at the death....
Kwesi Appiah’s last gasp spot kick for AFC Wimbledon broke Rotherham hearts after Paul Warne’s side looked on course to notch their fourth successive victory after sub Freddie Ladapo struck late on in an enthralling encounter at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
In windswept conditions, Matt Crooks cancelled out Max Sanders’ opener before Ladapo came off the bench to notch his 14th goal of the season but Rotherham had to settle for a share of the spoils when the Dons struck, in second half stoppage time.
Following their hard-earned victory over Lincoln City last time out, Warne kept faith with his starting line-up for the hosting of the Dons. The solitary change to the home squad was the return of left-back Joe Mattock, on the bench, following injury with Trevor Clarke missing out.
For the visitors, French winger Julien Lamy was not part of the Londoners squad, as he was ineligible to face his parent club.
The Millers had an early scare when Jack Rudoni’s slide rule pass presented Scott Wagstaff with the opportunity to stroke the ball past Daniel Iversen into the home goal, but the offside flag had long been raised to curb any visiting joy.
In Rotherham’s first foray of note, Kyle Vassell’s perfectly weighted pass gave Chiedozie Ogbene the chance to get on the wrong side of his marker to strike goalwards but Joe Day was his equal with a reflex save before the Dons ‘keeper denied Crooks on the follow-up.
Just before the quarter hour, Rotherham came within a whisker of the opener when Dan Barlaser’s inviting centre was met by the head of Michael Smith, who looked a certain scorer but a combination of Day, with a fine save, and a number of well-stationed Dons’ defenders, in the ensuing melee, kept the Millers at bay, and despite Crooks, eventually, appearing to force the ball home from close range - the referee had already blown for an infringement.
The home side were looking the most likely and Michael Ihiekwe’s ball over the top caught the Dons defence square and Smith beat the offside trap to bare down on goal, but Day stood up tall to block his low effort before AFC Wimbledon broke the deadlock, on the half hour – with a fantastic strike from distance.
There looked little danger for the Millers when a sweeping ball found Paul Osew in space on the left flank but the ball was played back into the path of Sanders, who got the ball under his spell, before curling a delightful effort which evaded the attentions of Iversen, as the ball nestled in the far corner of the home net.
The Millers responded positively to the setback and Barlaser’s free kick wreaked havoc in the Dons box but the ball was scrambled clear before Smith headed into the side netting from a tight angle, from another pinpoint Barlaser delivery.
The Dons goal was leading a charmed life and Adam Thompson forced Day into a parried save with a snap effort before Crooks fluffed his lines, from the rebound, when he blasted over with the goal at his mercy.
In the last act of the half, Sanders helped preserve the slender lead he gave his side, when Barlaser’s wind-assisted corner beat the outstretched hand of Day, but the Dons midfielder headed clear from underneath his own crossbar.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 AFC Wimbledon 1
The Millers started the second half as they finished the first 45 with Barlaser invariably at the heart of their attacking intentions – with the Newcastle playmaker testing Day with a swirling cross before stinging the palms of the Dons’ ‘keeper with a low effort.
Minutes later, Hakeeb Adelakun slashed a shot wide from a promising position before Thompson hung up a cross which was headed back across goal by Smith but Vassell, off-balance, could not control his header, as his effort flew harmlessly over.
The Millers were piling on the pressure and Shane McLoughlin superbly took the ball off the toe of Adelakun, who was well-poised to tap home from Ogbene’s fizzed cross before Warne’s side deservedly levelled matters, in their next attack.
A hopeful punt from the heart of the Millers midfield saw Vassell challenge for possession, on the edge of the box, and the ball fell kindly for Crooks, who kept his nerve to fire a right-footed effort past Day.
With the AESSEAL New York Stadium fans in full voice, Vassell had faint appeals for a spot kick turned down before Ogbene tumbled under the challenge of Osew, in the box, but the referee, once again, waved away home protests.
In a rare Wimbledon attack, Pigott stung the palms of Iversen with a fierce effort from an acute angle before a game of head tennis involving Ben Wiles and Richard Wood paved the way for Ihiekwe to nod goalwards, but Day snuffed out the danger.
Minutes later, Vassell had the home fans off their seats when he drilled a low effort into the visitors net but the referee had penalised the Northern Ireland international for a foul in the build-up before Wood had a downward header cleared off the line, by a well-stationed Dons defender.
With the game in the balance, Thompson failed to make a clean connection, from just yards out, following Ihiekwe’s knockdown before sub Ladapo had a shot deflected wide, from the edge of the box.
However, Rotherham took the lead with nine minutes to go when Wimbledon failed to deal with an innocuous ball into the danger area and the ball fell kindly for Ladapo, who kept his composure to fire a left-footed effort which Day got a hand to but couldn’t keep out, to the joy of the home faithful.
In a cruel twist of fate near the end, Wimbledon threw caution to the wind and they earned a precious point in their fight for survival when Thompson was adjudged to have brought down Pigott in the box, after Rotherham failed to clear the danger and Appiah fired into the roof of the net from the resultant penalty.
Full-time- Rotherham United 2 AFC Wimbledon 2
Rotherham United 2
AFC Wimbledon 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Iversen, Thompson, Wood, Vassell (Ladapo 71), Wiles, Barlaser, Adelakun (Koroma 71), Crooks, Ogbene, Ihiekwe, Smith. Unused- Bilboe, Mattock, S MacDonald, Lindsay, Olosunde.
AFC Wimbledon- Day, O’Neill, Thomas, Wagstaff (Pinnock 73), Rudoni (R McDonald 90), McLoughlin (Appiah 84), Sanders, Bech Sorensen, Reilly, Osew, Pigott. Unused- Trott, Hartigan, Roscrow, Guinness-Walker.
Referee- M Salisbury
Attendance- 8626 (248)