Millers come from behind to beat Milton Keynes Dons...
ROTHERHAM United showed their fighting qualities, once again, by earning a comeback victory over MK Dons, thanks to Will Vaulks’ super strike.
Chuks Aneke put Robbie Neilson’s men in control of the AESSEAL New York Stadium affair before Rotherham levelled matters soon after – with both Jerry Yates and Semi Ajayi wheeling away in celebration.
Vaulks was then the Rotherham hero, as the converted centre-half, powered home from the edge of the box before marshalling the home defence, through the second half, as Paul Warne’s men earned seven points out of the last nine – all from losing positions.
Following their last-gasp equaliser against Plymouth Argyle last time out, Millers chief Warne made a solitary change to his starting line-up.
Club skipper Lee Frecklington returned to the Millers engine room as Richard Wood missed out, owing to his red-card against the Pilgrims. Vaulks was rewarded for his excellent cameo at centre-half, following Wood’s early departure – with a starting role alongside Ajayi, at the heart of the home rearguard.
There was a couple of familiar faces in the MK Dons line-up with former Millers favourite Kieran Agard looking to add to his impressive goal tally, in recent weeks, on his old stomping ground while former Rotherham loanee Scott Wootton was handed a starting berth for the visitors.
The Millers were quick out of the blocks and Frecklington forced an early corner whereby Anthony Forde delivered a tantalising centre which caused havoc in the Dons box before Forde got the better of his marker to clip a cross which was met by the head of David Ball, but his header was straight down the throat of Lee Nicholls.
In MK Dons first foray of note, Vaulks was penalised for a hefty challenge on Aneke on the edge of the box and the former Arsenal player made the home side pay from the resultant free-kick when he casually strode up to strike a precise effort which sailed over the Millers wall to nestle in the far corner of the net – with Rodak, who took guard at the opposite side of the goal - a helpless bystander.
The home side responded positively to the setback and Vaulks took aim from distance but he dragged his effort harmlessly wide of the target before Nicholls showed fleet of foot to snuff out the danger with Yates, in hot pursuit, of Ajayi’s defence splitting pass.
Just past the quarter hour, Ed Upson latched onto a loose ball before driving hard at the Rotherham backline to strike a rising effort which stung the palms of Rodak before the visitors failed to deal decisively with Vaulks’ floated free-kick, at the other end, and Frecklington volleyed towards goal from long range but Nicholls got his body behind his fierce effort to keep the ball out.
The Dons ‘keeper was in the thick of the action and he played a key part in Rotherham’s equaliser when the ball pinged around the visitors box and Yates, in attempting to put the ball back into the danger area, acrobatically hooked the ball towards goal and with Nicholls failing to make a telling connection with a punch, Ajayi, who may have got a touch, was able to usher the ball into the unguarded goal.
In a whirlwind few minutes, Aneke fired narrowly wide before Peter Pawlett drilled a low effort which fizzed across goal, as Vaulks hacked clear from near his own line before Ajayi headed narrowly wide for the home side before Ball had a glimpse of goal following Forde’s assist but his effort was blocked en-route to goal by a retreating defender.
Just before the half-hour, Rotherham grabbed the initiative by taking the lead thanks to Vaulks’ second league goal of the season.
Forde swung another dangerous corner into the Dons goalmouth and following a tame clearance, Vaulks punished MK to the full with a superb strike from just outside the box which found the roof of the visitors net, despite Nicholls seemingly getting a touch to his well-struck effort.
Moments later, Ajayi side footed wide following another inviting Forde centre before Ethan Ebanks-Landell became the first to see yellow for hauling down Yates. Frecklington, soon joined him in the book, for committing a foul on halfway.
With half-time approaching, Rotherham launched a quick counter attack and with Yates providing the assist, Ball fired over from an acute angle.
Half-time- Rotherham United 2 MK Dons 1
The Millers squandered an opportunity to extend their lead, in the early minutes of the half, when Ball’s clipped ball forward saw Ryan Williams show his namesake, George, a clean pair of heels before pulling the ball back into the path of Yates, who prodded goalwards from point-blank range but Nicholls produced a superb reflex save to keep the ball out.
Moments later, Richie Towell’s long diagonal ball paved the way for Forde to sneak around the back of the Dons rearguard to present Ball – with the chance to strike goalwards but his snap effort was bravely blocked by a visitors defender.
In a rare MK Dons foray, Pawlett stripped a flat-footed Josh Emmanuel of possession to give sub Alex Gilbey the opportunity to try his luck from distance but Rodak was able to watch his speculative strike flash harmlessly wide of the Millers goal.
Minutes later, Aneke’s slide-rule pass gave Agard the chance to drill a low effort which was spilled by Rodak but the Slovakian stopper was able to smother Gilbey on the rebound before Ebanks-Landell hooked an effort over following Rodak’s parried clearance, in the next phase of play.
At the other end, Ball and Frecklington combined smartly, to see the latter have a cross-cum-shot cleared by a backtracking defender before Joe Mattock picked up the pieces to unleash a dipping volley which had Nicholls anxiously looking over his shoulder, as it narrowly cleared the crossbar.
The home fans had their hearts in their mouths when Aneke rose unchallenged in the box from Pawlett’s free-kick but his header was straight down the throat of Rodak before Forde emerged from a ruck of bodies, at the other end, to steer a header towards goal but Nicholls was well-stationed to clear the danger.
With time running out for the visitors, Rodak won the battle of wills with Aneke, as the former’s free-kick was plucked out of the sky, by the home ‘keeper and Aneke’s frustration boiled over, moments later, as he was cautioned for dissent.
Aneke was somewhat fortunate to escape further sanction following a tumble in the box before sub Jonson Clarke-Harris almost made an immediate impression from the bench with a piledriver on the run but Nicholls smothered the danger, at the second attempt.
With MK pushing men forward late on, sub Joe Newell and Forde squandered opportunities to seal the deal – with the latter forcing Nicholls into a smart save following a darting run and shot.
Moments later, Conor McGrandles deservedly saw yellow for a scything lunge on Frecklington before the Millers successfully weathered seven minutes of second-half stoppage time to record their first home victory since October.
Full-time- Rotherham United 2 Milton Keynes Dons 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Forde, Frecklington, D Ball, Towell, Yates (Clarke-Harris 89), R Williams (Newell 71). Unused- O’Donnell, Purrington, Ihiekwe, Cummings, Wiles.
MK Dons- Nicholls, G Williams, Walsh, Wootton (Thomas-Asante 90), Upson (Gilbey 58), Sow (Ariyibi 66), Aneke, Pawlett, Agard, McGrandles, Ebanks-Landell. Unused- Sietsma, Cisse, Seager, Muirhead.
Referee- D Drysdale
Attendance- 8333 (243)