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Rotherham United: Night of worry as Millers go down 3-2 at MK Dons

Paul Warne
Paul Warne

For the second time in three days, a referee called Salisbury presided over a game of desperate disappointment for Rotherham United.

Last Saturday, Graham Salisbury played a large contributing role in the Millers’ first League One defeat in 15 matches.

Son Michael stepped up to take charge of the Millers’ clash at MK Dons, but was in no way to blame for a shock defeat which poses huge questions about fourth-placed Rotherham’s promotion credentials.

Paul Warne’s fourth-placed men looked a shadow of the side that didn’t lose for more than three months until last weekend as they took a 10th-minute lead but then surrendered three goals to a struggling side.

Substitute Jon Taylor pulled one back with 15 minutes to go to give Rotherham hope, but they deservedly went down to team that had started the match second bottom of the table and hadn’t won a League One game in 2018.

Salisbury Senior had ruled out a perfectly good headed goal by Richard Wood as the Millers slipped up 1-0 at home to Rochdale last Saturday. In Buckinghamshire, the damage to Rotherham was self-inflicted as they turned in a horribly disjointed, mistake-ridden performance full of calamitous defending.

Semi Ajayi put the visitors into a 10th-minute but Robbie Muirhead, twice dancing down the left before finishing emphatically, and Peter Pawlett put the home side in control.

Taylor’s goal sparked brief life into Rotherham and Joe Newell and Will Vaulks had shots saved, but MK had chances to add to their lead in an end-to-end finish.

The Millers didn’t drop any places, but confidence and momentum has been hit in the last 72 hours.

Rotherham had a sight of goal after just two minutes when Joe Mattock crossed from the left and the lurking Caolan Lavery was denied a chance only by Elliott Ward clipping the ball over his own bar for a corner.

Five minutes later, Lavery was only a whisker away from connecting right in front of goal with a low, curling cross from right-back Shaun Cummings.

The Millers needed only another five minutes to go in front as Lavery headed down Forde’s cross and Ajayi poked the ball home from close range.

In the 18th minute MK reminded Rotherham they were in a game as Osman Sow sent a fierce 20-yard effort just wide, before Chuks Aneke headed over for the home side.

Warne’s team had a huge let-off just past the half-hour mark when Aneke somehow managed to head wide of an open goal and, soon after, Marek Rodak had to produce a decent save to push out Sow’s low shot.

The visitors had been second best since going in front and MK scored a deserved equaliser on 36 minutes as Aneke dispossed Anthony Forde and released Muirhead who scampered down the lift before firing across Rodak and in.

Worse was to come three minutes before the break when poor defending allowed Aneke time and space to tee upPawlett for an MK tap-in.

A minute later, Michael Smith should have equalised but steered his header over the bar.

Rotherham were the first side to show in the second half, with Joe Newell looping his header over the target.

But the Dons were 3-1 in front in the 57th minute as they bagged a carbon copy of their first goal. Muirhead raced down the left, Cummings was nowhere near him and the shot was buried.

Taylor’s strike, as he bundled home the ball at the second attempt, not long after Ajayi had hit the bar with an header, proved to be too little, too late.

This was a worrying night for Rotherham who committed Warne’s cardinal sin.

As the manager had said in the build-up to the clash: “You never want to lose two games in a row.”

MK Dons (3-4-3): Nicholls; Wootton, Ward, Lewington; Williams, Upson, Brittain (Cisse 73), Muirhead; Sow (Ugbo H-T), Aneke, Pawlett (Thomas-Asante 59). Subs not used: Sietsma, Agard, McGrandles, Nesbitt.

Rotherham (4-4-2): Rodak; Cummings, Ajayi, Wood (Palmer 66), Mattock; Forde (Taylor 59), Towell, Vaulks, Newell; Smith, Lavery (Yates 59). Subs not used: Price, Ihiekwe, Williams, Ball.

Goals: Muirhead 36, 57, Pawlett 42 (MK Dons); Ajayi 10, Taylor 75 (Rotherham).

Referee: Michael Salisbury (Lancashire).

Attendance: 7,327.

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