Millers earn superb comeback win....
SUPER-SUB Freddie Ladapo was at the heart of a superb second-half comeback from Rotherham United, as they overturned a two-goal interval deficit, to earn a fabulous 3-2 victory over Milton Keynes Dons.
It was the proverbial game of two halves at Stadium:MK as the hosts raced into a two-goal lead thanks to goal from Alex Gilbey and Joe Mason following a poor first half showing from the Millers.
Boss Paul Warne reshuffled his pack by introducing Ladapo and Kyle Vassell at the break and the move proved an inspired one, as Dan Barlaser pulled one back before Ladapo levelled matters with a predatory finish.
Ladapo went from hero to villain as he smashed a penalty against the crossbar but he won back the affections of the Millers faithful with the winning strike with just four minutes to go.
Following their hard-fought victory over Accrington Stanley in their last outing, Warne made one enforced change to his starting line-up with Rangers loanee Jake Hastie being recalled to the side, at the expense of Chiedozie Ogbene, who was suspended, following his sending-off against the Lancastrians.
Scottish centre-half Clark Robertson shrugged off a groin strain to take his place at the heart of the visitors’ rearguard while there was a familiar face in the home line-up with one-time Millers striker Jordan Bowery lining up against his former club.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Dean Lewington’s wayward pass was intercepted by Matt Crooks, who burst into the home box, but his attempted pull-back was cleared with a lack of Rotherham runners in support.
However, MK Dons stunned the Millers by breaking the deadlock on four minutes with their first foray of note when Baily Cargill’s marauding run from deep saw him put the visitors on the back foot and with no-one laying a glove on him, he was able to slide a ball into the path of Gilbey, who kept his nerve to get the ball under his spell before stroking a low effort from a tight angle which evaded the attentions of Daniel Iversen, at his near post.
The Millers responded positively to the early setback and Matt Olosunde and Ben Wiles injected pace into a visiting move to give Hastie, the opportunity to dart past Regan Poole, before firing a low effort which was smothered by Lee Nicholls before Wiles’ snap shot was bravely blocked by Cargill, in the next phase of play.
Minutes later, MK Dons came within a whisker of a second goal when Gilbey got the ball from under his feet to curl a delightful effort which shaved the far post - with a little doubt over whether Iversen got a touch to turn it around the post.
However, Rotherham failed to heed the warning as the home side doubled their lead, just before the quarter hour, when Callum Brittain ghosted into the box to deliver a centre which was only half-cleared by a retreating Rotherham defender and Joe Mason pounced on the loose ball to flash a fierce right-footed effort which arrowed into the far corner of the net giving Iversen no chance.
The home side were visibly lifted by the double salvo and the Millers were indebted to Iversen for keeping them in the game when firstly Dean Lewington’s defence-splitting pass gave Conor McGrandles the chance to strike a goalbound effort which the Dane parried to safety before he was called into action, moments later, to deny Mason from close range following Bowery’s dangerous centre.
Just before the half-hour mark, Crooks almost broke clear but Joe Walsh denied him with a timely tackle before Hastie clipped an over hit cross-cum-shot which floated harmlessly over the home goal.
Minutes later, Iversen again came to Rotherham’s rescue with a smart, reflex save to deny Brittain following fine approach play from the hosts before Barlaser screwed a long range effort harmlessly wide, at the other end.
In the next Millers attack, Hastie hung a cross with his weaker right-foot which was flicked on by Michael Smith into the path of Carlton Morris, who failed to make a clean connection, despite having the goal at his mercy.
In the dying minutes of the half, Millers frustration boiled over when Crooks was yellow-carded for kicking the ball at Lewington, following a free-kick award before Warne’s men were almost given a much-needed lifeline, just seconds before the half-time whistle, when Hastie drilled a low centre which was inches away from both Crooks and Smith, who would have had a tap-in, if they were able to meet his cross.
Half-time- MK Dons 2 Rotherham United 0
Following the poor first-half showing, Warne made a double change at the break, in an attempt to spark the Millers to life – with Ladapo and Vassell introduced as a new forward pairing.
The Millers were looking for a foothold back in the game and Olosunde worked a yard of space on Lewington to drill a low shot which was deflected behind by Cargill before Vassell was upended on the edge of the box but the ex-Blackpool striker failed to make it count when he smashed his free-kick against the home wall.
Ladapo had an opportunity to halve the arrears when Wiles’ fizzed cross was deftly flicked into his path but Nicholls superbly blocked his point-blank effort, by saving with his legs on his own goal line.
The home ‘keeper was in the thick of the action and he raced off his line to deny Morris, at close quarters before Gilbey was carded for a late challenge on Olosunde while Millers skipper Michael Ihiekwe soon joined him in the book for dissent.
Just before the hour mark, MK Dons almost sealed the deal when Poole got on the wrong side of Hastie to race into the Millers box but his angled shot shaved the far post.
Irish midfielder Trevor Clarke was thrown into the fray in a last throw of the dice for Warne and it almost paid dividends when he almost latched onto Morris’ dangerous cross but Nicholls was quick off his line to snuff out the danger.
However, the Millers halved the deficit with 25 minutes left when a hopeful ball forward saw Cargill plant a weak back header, in an attempt to find Nicholls, but Barlaser nipped in to clip the ball over the home stopper and despite Walsh looking to clear the ball from near his own line, he was unable to do so and Barlaser tapped into the unguarded goal from close range.
The game was turned on its head, just five minutes later, when the Millers levelled matters when Vassell’s deep free-kick was met by the head of Ihiekwe, who put the ball back into the danger area and Ladapo had the simple task of bundling the ball home from point-blank range.
In an amazing reversal of fortunes, the Millers had an opportunity to take the lead when Clarke’s cross looked inviting for Ladapo, who fired into the grateful arms of Nicholls, but the referee adjudged that he was pulled back in the box as he looked to shoot.
Ladapo dusted himself down to take the resultant spot-kick, but to the frustration of the Millers travelling contingent behind the goal, he smashed his effort from 12 yards against the woodwork before the ball ricocheted to safety.
With the game in the balance, the Millers were looking the most likely and Vassell’s dipping corner caught the Dons napping and Robertson rose highest to nod goalwards but his free header was straight down the throat of Nicholls, when he really should have done better.
The Millers were rewarded for a superb second-half performance with the decisive strike with four minutes to go when Vassell’s superbly executed free-kick was headed across the face of goal and Ladapo was perfectly positioned at the far post, to usher the ball into the goal, from underneath the crossbar and send the Millers fans into ecstasy.
The Millers almost added gloss to the scoreline when Morris almost turned home Vassell’s cross but he agonisingly failed to make connect with an outstretched leg before tempers boiled over near the end when Cargill was sent off for an altercation with the Rotherham coaching staff near the touchline.
The final whistle saw the Millers players take the plaudits of the large hordes of Rotherham fans in the corner of the ground before Warne took his turn to receive their appreciation, in an afternoon to remember for all those from South Yorkshire.
Full-time- MK Dons 2 Rotherham United 3
Milton Keynes Dons 2
Rotherham United 3
Teams:- MK Dons- Nicholls, Lewington, Walsh, Poole, Cargill, Gilbey, Bowery (Dickenson 82), McGrandles (Reeves 76), Mason, Houghton, Brittain (Boateng 69). Unused- Moore, Kasumu, Asonganyi, Sorinola.
Rotherham- Iversen, Jones, Wiles, Barlaser, Morris, Robertson, Crooks (Vassell 46), Ihiekwe, Olosunde, Hastie (Clarke 64), Smith (Ladapo 46). Unused- Price, Thompson, Lindsay, Lamy.
Referee- R Joyce
Attendance- 7811 (983)