Rotherham United: Festive feelings and who got that first goal? Millers 2 MK Dons 1

Will Vaulks celebrates his goal. Pictures: Chris Etchells
Will Vaulks celebrates his goal. Pictures: Chris Etchells

It was a puzzle fit for the inside of a Christmas cracker.

Who scored Rotherham United’s equaliser in the final home game of 2017?

There was a case for Lee Nicholls and an own goal as the MK Dons goalkeeper diverted the ball into the net. Millers centre-half Semi Ajayi insisted he got the last touch. Striker Jerry Yates was adamant it should be awarded to him.

With Rotherham trailing to Chuk Aneke’s ninth-minute free-kick, Yates hooked the ball over his head from just inside the box 12 minutes later and somehow it went in.

“It’s definitely my goal, of course it is,” the centre-forward said. “I’ve flicked it back over my shoulder and the keeper has been put off and punched it into his own net.

“I got the last touch other than the keeper. It’s my goal. I asked Semi if he’s touched it and he’s tried to claim he did, but I’ve watched it back and he definitely hasn’t!”

Semi Ajayi does his best impression of a scorer

Semi Ajayi does his best impression of a scorer

Suddenly, it became clearer why Ajayi was so keen to take the credit.

Boss Paul Warne, having seen his side claim their seventh point out of a possible nine, revealed: “I said to Semi that if he scored from any set-pieces I’d give him a day off.

“He’s claimed it like you would not believe! It was very ugly. I don’t know if it was a keeper error. When Semi told me at half-time it was his, the lads all laughed.”

Yates’ goal.

Jerry Yates

Jerry Yates

There was no confusion about the winner. The Dons cleared a 29th-minute corner only for Will Vaulks, the midfielder playing in central defence, to send a 22-yard volley screaming past the flailing Nicholls.

Vaulks was moved by Warne to cover for the banned Richard Wood. Other than rashly conceding the foul which brought the Dons their opener, he responded by being the game’s best performer.

“That’s obviously a top managerial decision! We’re all in agreement, aren’t we?” Warne said. “Will was excellent. His ‘springs’ are the best in the club. He does love giving a free-kick away, though, which makes me very cross.”

The Millers could have added to their advantage after the break. Ryan Williams made a searing break and Yates met the cross perfectly only for Nicholls to pull off a superb save.

MK offered sporadic threats, but the margin of Millers victory would have been greater had Anthony Forde, a provider of quality set-piece service throughout the game, and substitute Joe Newell not fluffed their lines.

“The lads have got really good character,” Warne said. “They stood up to the challenge really well. We didn’t take enough opportunities.

“It’s a good result going into Christmas. My kids can have turkey without me sulking.”

For the third match in a row, Rotherham came from behind to either win or draw. The halfway stage of the League One campaign sees them in ninth spot, three points shy of the play-off places and with plenty of momentum going into the festive period following the end of that seven-match winless run.

No-one was merrier than Vaulks as the players headed to tonight’s Chairman’s Ball at AESSEAL New York Stadium where a debate between Yates and Ajayi no doubt featured on the menu.

“Get in there! I’ll take the tap-in,” the match-winner tweeted.

“He deserved to be named Man of the Match,” said Warne.

Of course he did. After all, it is the season of good Will.

Rotherham (4-4-2): Rodak 6; Emmanuel 6, Ajayi 7, Vaulks 8, Mattock 7; Forde 7, Frecklington 7, Towell 6, Williams 7 (Newell 72); Ball 7 (Ihiekwe 90+7), Yates 7 (Clarke-Harris 89). Subs not used: O’Donnell, Cummings, Purrington, Wiles.

MK (4-4-2): Nicholls 6; Williams 7, Ebanks-Landell 6, Wootton 6 (Thomas-Asante 90+3), Walsh 5; Agard 5, McGrandles 5, Upson 5 (Gilbey 58, 6), Pawlett 4; Aneke 6, Sow 6 (Ariyibi 66, 4). Subs not used: Sietsma, Cisse, Seager, Muirhead.

Goals: Yates 21, Vaulks 29 (Rotherham); Aneke 9 (MK Dons).

Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire) 4.

Attendance: 8,333 (243).

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