MK Dons got both their first win under Dan Micciche and their first League One win of 2018 as they beat Rotherham United 3-2 at stadium:mk.
Rotherham took the lead when Semi Ajayi bundled the ball over the line after 11 minutes. But two goals in 7 minutes from Robbie Muirhead and Peter Pawlett gave the home side the lead as the game approached half-time.
Muirhead then struck a second goal for the home side, and although Jon Taylor pulled one back, some stellar stops from Lee Nicholls helped the Dons end their respective winless runs and move to within four points of safety in the League One table.
With the previous weekend’s meeting with Bradford unable to take place due to a waterlogged pitch, the Dons’ first game in 10 days saw them host a Rotherham side that sat in the top 6 but were beaten by the Dons’ fellow strugglers Rochdale in their last game.
That win meant the Dons began the day second bottom. To get a much needed boost in the form of a first win, Dan Micciche made changes, with Osman Sow and Pawlett returning after injuries.
The game’s first half-chance saw the returning Sow head wide, while at the other end, Michael Smith and Caolan Lavery just missed a cross before Smith had a header easily saved by Lee Nicholls.
Rotherham began to impose themselves on the game, and went in front just after the opening ten minutes. A short corner allowed the ball to be crossed for Lavery at the back post, and Ajayi bundled the ball over the line from close range.
It was the Dons who would have the game’s next major chance, as the ball was played through for Sow and the striker’s effort dipped at the wrong moment and went into the crowd.
The home side did begin to apply pressure, with corners won, but the visiting keeper Marek Rodak was primarily troubled by crosses rather than shots. As the game surpassed the 20 minute mark, the best chance saw Aneke head over at a corner.
Rotherham began to regain footing, although their best chance saw Richie Towell’s long-range attempt hit straight at the keeper. A golden chance then came from the Dons, but from close range, Chuks Aneke failed to turn Robbie Muirhead’s cross on target.
The Dons were still pressing, with Rodak forced into a stop to keep out Sow. A few minutes later and it would be the home side who levelled.
Visiting winger Anthony Forde lost out in a challenge with Aneke just inside the Dons half, and from there, the attacker and Muirhead broke at pace. The ball was laid off to the Scot, who was able to place a low shot into the bottom corner to bring the hosts level.
It was quickly followed by a second goal for the home side. The ball was worked into the path of Aneke, who held the ball up from an accompanying crowd of Rotherham players, before he played in Pawlett to flick the ball over the line.
The lead was nearly wiped out instantly, but when well placed, Smith headed over the top, and the Dons got to the break ahead.
The second half began in a tight fashion, but after a period of attrition, Muirhead bagged a second of his night. The ball was sprayed out wide to Muirhead, who advanced down the left flank and then fired a powerful low strike across Rodak and into the bottom corner.
The goal gave the Dons a two goal lead, and it was soon tested by the visitors. An excellent save from Nicholls from virtually on the goal-line prevented an Ajayi header from finding the back of the net, and the keeper also denied visiting sub Jerry Yates.
Rotherham then cut the lead to one as the game approached the final quarter of an hour of normal time, as a move down the right flank teed up sub Taylor. After having a first attempt blocked, Taylor’s second attempt saw him flick the ball into the bottom corner.
A flying stop from Nicholls then kept out Joe Newell from equalising within seconds of the restart, as nerves began to be shredded. But the Dons weren’t far off re-establishing their two goal lead, with a couple of shots blocked in dangerous positions.
The game entered its final stages and the Dons did still have chances to kill the game, with sub Ousseynou Cisse having an effort deflected wide and Aneke hitting wide.
The game then moved into six minutes of stoppage time, but the Dons were able to hold out and picked up a vital win in their fight to preserve their League One status.
MK Dons: Nicholls – Wootton, Ward, Lewington, Williams, Brittain (Cisse 73), Upson, Muirhead – Sow (Ugbo 45), Aneke, Pawlett (Thomas-Asante 59)
Subs not used: Sietsma, Agard, McGrandles, Nesbitt
Goal: Muirhead (35, 57), Pawlett (42)
Rotherham: Rodak – Cummings, Ajayi, Wood (Palmer 66), Mattock – Forde (Taylor 59), Towell, Vaulks, Newell – Smith, Lavery (Yates 59)
Subs not used: Price, Ball, Ihiekwe, Williams
Goal: Ajayi (11), Taylor (75)