Millers strike late for winning start.....
CLARK Robertson was the Rotherham United hero with a late winner for the Millers, who returned from the capital with maximum points, following a hard-fought victory over AFC Wimbledon.
Freddie Ladapo, who was earlier denied by Nik Tzanev, put the Millers in charge at the interval but their lead was soon cancelled out, early in the second half, by Joe Pigott.
With both sides having good chances for victory, it was Paul Warne’s side, who claimed the win when Robertson stroked home sub Ben Wiles’ corner – with fellow sub Jamie Proctor lurking, to the delight of the 785 Millers supporters, who had made the long trek south.
The Millers fielded five players, who were making their competitive debuts, at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Leicester loanee Daniel Iversen lined up between the Rotherham sticks while American full-back Matt Olosunde took his place in the right-back slot.
Shaun MacDonald and Daniel Barlaser freshened up the midfield options while Ladapo was one of three players to spearhead the Rotherham attack, following an impressive pre-season campaign.
The Millers had the first sight of goal in the early minutes when Olosunde’s lay-off paved the way for Robertson to try his luck from distance but his left-footed effort blazed harmlessly over the home goal.
Moments later, Kyle Vassell almost got on the end of a long ball forward but he was ushered out by a retreating defender before the Millers were almost rewarded for a fine opening when Joe Mattock and Vassell combined smartly for the latter to drill a low cross across the face of the AFC Wimbledon goal and Ladapo, who had a got on the wrong side of his marker, looked a certain scorer but the ex-Plymouth striker despite bundling the ball towards goal was denied by a superb, reflex save from Tzanev, who managed to claw the ball away from his own goal line.
Just before the quarter hour, Michael Smith presented Vassell with the opportunity to hang a cross into the danger area and Smith leapt highest to meet his centre, but the Millers striker was unable to direct his header goalwards.
Moments later, Vassell showed a good touch to bring Iversen’s long punt forward under his spell but the ex-Blackpool forward elected to pass rather than shoot from the edge of the box and the chance was lost.
The Millers were looking to most likely and after Paul Kalambayi was penalised for hauling down Vassell on the edge of the box, the Northern Ireland international dusted himself to take the resultant free-kick but he failed to make it count when he smashed an effort into the home wall.
In the next Millers attack, Olosunde injected pace into a Rotherham move and Matt Crooks cut inside to fire an effort which was straight down the throat of Tzanev before Warne’s side finally broke AFC Wimbledon’s resistance, by breaking the deadlock, just before the half-hour mark.
Mattock swung a deep corner to the far post and Smith emerged from the ruck of bodies to head the ball back into the six-yard box and Ladapo was in the perfect place, to bundle the ball home from close range.
The Millers were good value for their advantage and Olosunde was again the architect with a slide-rule pass which saw Vassell beat the home offside trap but Kalambayi was well-stationed to head clear his cross-cum-shot to safety.
In a rare Wimbledon foray, MacDonald was penalised for clipping Nesta Guinness-Walker but Luke O’Neill failed to test Iversen, from 25 yards out, when his effort flicked off the Rotherham wall before Callum Reilly came closest for the hosts, just seconds before the break, with a curling effort which flashed narrowly wide of the far post.
Half-time- AFC Wimbledon 0 Rotherham United 1
Despite Rotherham’s first-half dominance, AFC Wimbledon levelled matters just six minutes into the second half when Anthony Hartigan floated a corner into the Rotherham danger area and Pigott escaped the attentions of his marker to plant a header, which Iversen got a hand to, but couldn’t keep out, as it found the bottom corner of the visitors net.
The hosts looked a transformed outfit following the break and a hopeful clip forward saw Michael Folivi win a footrace with Iversen before playing a ball across the Rotherham goalmouth and Hartigan got the better of a tussle with Robertson, before poking an effort, which shaved the visitors’ uptight.
Just past the hour mark, Guinness-Walker got the better of Olosunde to burst into the Millers box before giving Hartigan, a shooting chance, but his rising effort was deflected over before Rotherham fans were left scratching their heads over their side did not regain the lead, with 23 minutes to go, in their first noteworthy attack of the half.
Smith’s flick-on gave Vassell the opportunity to race into the box and after Vassell got to the ball first in front of Tzanev, Crooks showed good awareness to square the ball into the path of Ladapo, who looked odds-on for his second goal of the afternoon, but the Dons were indebted to Kalambayi, for a superb diving block, on his own goalline – with the ball rolling to safety, to the anguish of all those of a Rotherham persuasion.
The Millers were finding their feet once again and Ladapo blasted over from a promising position before Smith was the next to trouble the home goal with an incisive run and shot, which flew narrowly wide.
With the game in the balance, MacDonald put his body on the line to block Guinness-Walker’s low shot en-route to goal following a lightning home counter attack before O’Neill found himself in acres of space to drill a skimming effort which fizzed past the uptight.
Sub Ben Wiles executed a well-controlled volley which forced Tzanev into a smart, acrobatic save before Will Nightingale rose highest to meet Pigott’s centre, at the other end, but the Dons skipper could not control his header, as it flew narrowly over.
Just seconds after Jamie Proctor entered the fray, Rotherham struck the decisive winner when Wiles bobbled a corner into the box and with no home defender taking charge, the ball fell kindly for Robertson, who swung an effort with his unfavoured right-foot, and with Proctor in the vicinity, the ball squirmed into the home goal, despite the attentions of a couple of home defenders on the line.
Full-time- AFC Wimbledon 1 Rotherham United 2
AFC Wimbledon 1
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- AFC Wimbledon- Tzanev, O’Neill, R McDonald, Nightingale, Thomas (Appiah 85), Hartigan (McLoughlin 80), Folivi (Connolly 83), Guinness-Walker, Kalambayi, Reilly, Pigott. Unused- McDonnell, Wagstaff, Pinnock, Rudoni.
Rotherham- Iversen, Mattock, S McDonald, Vassell (Morris 75), Ladapo (Proctor 84), Barlaser (Wiles 69), Robertson, Crooks, Ihiekwe, Olosunde, Smith. Unused- Price, Wood, Lindsay, Cooper
Referee- B Huxtable
Attendance- 4657 (785)