Patrick Bamford's 12th goal of the season rescued three points for MK Dons, in a five-goal thriller at stadiummk
The Dons led 2-0 heading into the final 27 minutes, courtesy of goals from Shaun Williams and Ben Reeves, but Rotherham United set up a nervy finish with two goals in as many minutes. However, with 90 seconds remaining the much-talked about forward swept home a stunning effort to give the Dons their first victory in four and pull them back to within a point of the play-off places.
Karl Robinson recalled David Martin to the starting XI after the goalkeeper was passed fit following a calf injury. Martin was joined by winger Jason Banton and Ben Reeves in returning to the side, with Ian McLoughlin, Samir Carruthers and the injured Luke Chadwick making way for the trio.
The Dons line-up, of course, also included in-form striker Patrick Bamford and the Chelsea man had an early opportunity to put his side ahead but after Banton’s pass was deflected through to him, he failed to beat Scott Shearer when one-on-one.
After seeing his counterpart do well at the other end, it was Martin’s turn to impress five minutes later, after Alex Revell had been played through by Ben Pringle. The Dons’ number 1 showed no signs of rust from his recent spell on the sidelines as he rushed off his line and took the ball off the Rotherham forward’s feet with a perfectly-timed dive low to his left.
The Dons, keen to banish any memories of their recent defeats, were looking dangerous on the attack and had Daniel Powell’s touch been a little bit lighter on 26 minutes, he may have unlocked the door on the Rotherham defence.
Powell did really well to knock the ball past a helpless Joe Skarz and set-up a two versus one situation in the Dons’ favour, but the winger couldn’t quite beat Shearer to the ball and lay on for Stephen Gleeson, who had the whole goal to aim at.
Two minutes later, Powell had another chance to test Shearer but this time he shot into the side netting, while at the other end Martin pulled off another strong save to deny Revell when clean through on goal.
Banton, somewhat of a surprise inclusion in the starting XI, was evidently keen to impress early on for the Dons having been left out of the side in recent weeks but the Crystal Palace loanee appeared to do just a little too much on 36 minutes, opting to shoot from a tight-angle instead of trying to pick out one of the five Dons players in the box.
Banton’s fellow wide-man Powell then had the best chance of the game so far after being played through on goal by Dean Lewington but the winger’s low shot was blocked by the out-stretched arm of Shearer. Bamford appeared to be there on the follow-up however he was denied a simple tap-in by a sliding Craig Morgan.
Then, just as it appeared the game was heading into the break without a goal, the Dons were handed the perfect opportunity to take the lead after Stephen Gleeson was tripped up by Michael O’Connor as he looked to turn the Millers’ midfielder deep inside the penalty area.
Referee Robert Madley immediately awarded the Dons a penalty for the foul before dismissing Rotherham’s number 10, who had denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
After O’Connor had made his way off the field of play, Williams confidently stepped up to the plate and just managed to sneak his low spot-kick underneath Shearer to give hand the Dons the advantage with his fifth goal of the season.
Robinson’s men, however, suffered a blow during the break with goalkeeper Martin having to be replaced by Ian McLoughlin at the start of the second half. - Martin’s recent injury troubles giving an indication as to the reasoning behind the change.
The Dons, though, were keen not to allow the change to affect them and they went close to doubling their lead through Bamford and Banton, who both had shots saved by Shearer, and Gleeson, who saw a fierce long-range effort deflected just wide of the right-hand upright, all inside the opening 10 minutes of the half.
With a bumper Family Dons Day crowd behind them, the men from MK1 continued to control the tempo of the match as they searched for the all-important second goal and they found it just after the hour-mark courtesy of Reeves' first League goal for the Club.
The former Southampton man, who had only made one League start for the Dons prior to this afternoon, was in the right place at the right time to tap home after Shearer could only parry Powell's fizzing cross from the right .
Reeves' afternoon could have got a whole lot better soon after but after finding himself one-on-one with Shearer, he hurriedly poked the ball well wide of the target.
And that miss proved extremely costly for the Dons as in the space of two minutes, the visitors somehow pulled themselves level. Firstly, Frecklington latched onto a deep cross to guide home at the far post. Frecklington, who had a number of chances in the first half, wasn't going to be denied unmarked from close range.
Then, despite still looking in total control of the game, the men from MK1 let their lead slip completely in bizarre fashion. A high ball into the box from the Shearer was met by the head of Flanagan but instead of bouncing out to safety, it looped over McLoughlin and into the empty net.
However, with Patrick Bamford still on the field, there was always hope the Dons would manage to salvage another goal and spare their blushes, and on 88 minutes the Chelsea man did it again.
After McLeod did excellently to control a chipped ball forward, Bamford turned on the spot and fired a superb strike beyond Shearer and into the top corner to extend his record of scoring every home game this season and claim the points for the Dons on a memorable afternoon at stadiummk.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin (McLoughlin 46); Otsemobor (Baldock 81), Flanagan, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Powell, Reeves (McLeod 81), Banton; Bamford.
Subs: Hodson, Smith, Rasulo, Carruthers.
Goals: Williams 45, Reeves 65, Bamford 88.
Booked: Potter, Williams
Sent off: None
Rotherham United: Shearer, Brindley, Skarz, Arnason, Frecklington, Revell (Eaves 46), O'Connor, Milsom, Pringle, Morgan (c), Agard.
Subs: Collin (GK), Mills, Bradley, Tubbs, Nardiello, Tidser.
Goals: Frecklington 73, Flanagan O.G. 75
Booked: O’Connor, Brindley, Frecklington
Sent off: O’Connor 45