Experienced full-back Joe Mattock admits that his Rotherham United side cannot afford to dwell on Saturday’s draw with Milton Keynes Dons, with their Sky Bet League One fate still very much within their own hands.
Paul Warne’s side raced into an early lead thanks to Freddie Ladapo’s 17th goal of the campaign, but after Rhys Healey equalised for the MK Dons soon after, the hosts were left to rue a host of missed second-half chances despite being on top for large parts of the AESSEAL New York Stadium clash.
Speaking afterwards, Mattock acknowledged that the result was a “missed opportunity” to consolidate their position at the top of the Sky Bet League One standings, but he was quick to dispel the notion that it could derail their automatic promotion hopes.
“It’s a disappointing one for the lads,” Mattock conceded.
“It was a good performance, no two ways about it. We needed to go up a notch in the second half. We did so, but we just couldn’t find the back of the net for a second time unfortunately.
“Luckily the other results have gone for us but it’s another opportunity missed because if we had won today, we would have pulled ahead by two or three points but we can’t dwell on it. We have to move on.”
The Millers had the perfect start when Ladapo latched onto Jamie Lindsay’s through ball before showing his predatory instincts to drill home from a tight angle. However, Rotherham’s joy proved short-lived when MK Dons levelled matters in their first foray of note, when Rhys Healey showed clever footwork to burst into the Millers box before firing home.
Despite the setback, Rotherham went on to dominate large periods of the game without earning just reward. A lack of killer instinct in front of goal as well as dogged resistance from the visitors, meant that Warne’s side had to settle for a point despite their best efforts. It could have been worse for the hosts, as the MK Dons came close to earning an unlikely victory near the end when Daniel Iversen was called upon to deny Alex Gilbey, in a one-on-one situation.
Home frustration was summed up when top scorer Ladapo, who has been so lethal in recent weeks,smashed a close-range effort against the woodwork, when his recent form would have suggested he would bulge the net. It was a head in hands moment for all those of a Rotherham United persuasion, but Mattock refused to point the finger at his team mate by backing him to shrug off the miss the next time he is in front of goal.
“At the end of the day, that’s football.” Mattock said philosophically.
“Freddie has scored plenty of goals this season. He has contributed endless times. He’s not one to take things to heart too much. The lads will put an arm around his shoulder. He knows not to dwell on it and the team are not going to dwell on it. It is what it is and we are just going to look forward to the next game.”
Following Saturday’s result and ahead of second-placed Coventry City’s hosting of Sunderland, the Millers were hanging onto top spot by their fingertips. With no team taking charge at the top of the League One pecking order, Mattock acknowledges that the division has concertinaed, to a large extent – with a multitude of teams, possibly down to Fleetwood Town in eighth place, still fancying themselves of being in the promotion shake-up at the beginning of May.
“It’s down to us and down to what Rotherham United do.” Mattock stressed.
“It’s very tight at the top. It’s not usually like this, at this stage, but it’s football for you and it’s entertainment for the fans.”
Next up on the Millers menu is a trip over the Pennines to face Rochdale next Saturday. With Warne’s side going into the Roses clash on the back of just one defeat in 15 league games – with their preceding loss, ironically, being at the hands of the Lancastrians in the reverse fixture, Mattock expects his side to be firing on all cylinders at the Crown Oil Arena, especially with a large travelling contingent expected to make the journey.
“We have got to pick ourselves up and move on from the MK Dons result.” Mattock added.
“The next game is a big one for us, especially with just 10 games to go. Our away form speaks for itself. We are good away from home. I don’t know what it is. We just seem to pull out the sixth gear.
“I would like to be 10 points clear, at the top, but it’s not to be. To get back into the Championship, we have to be relentless. We have got to be on top form, week-in, week-out.”