After this final home league game, the Millers players went on a lap of appreciation. I clapped with the rest but perhaps I could show mine now by saying “thanks, lads” for this season, writes Les Payne.
Thanks for some great entertainment; some thrilling Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings at New York Stadium.
Thanks for some wonderful football and loads of goals (only Wolves have scored more at home than your 44).
Thanks for all those goals in stoppage time that brought wins or saved points and so often lifted the roof off your smashing little ground.
Thanks for going 990 minutes since the last home defeat on New Year’s Day.
Thanks for compelling me to clap you off at half-time against Gillingham after 45 minutes of the finest football I’ve seen anywhere this season (I’ve been to all our other local clubs and not seen anything to better that 45 minutes).
Thanks for getting me off my seat in spontaneous reaction when that last-minute winner went in against Leyton Orient.
Thanks for beating Wednesday. And United. In the same season too (it’s happened only once before and that some 60 years since).
Thanks for the never-say-die spirit and refusing to give in.
Thanks for giving all Millers followers something to be proud of and something to look forward to when the next home game came around.
Thanks for surprising us by doing better than we all expected and getting into the play-offs.
Thanks to Kari Arnason for being pure class and so often a joy to watch; thanks to Alex Revell for flogging his guts out; thanks to Ben Pringle for those quality crosses; thanks to Kieran Agard for keeping scoring goals; thanks to Lee Frecklington for being the all-round midfielder; thanks to Craig Morgan for being Mr Dependable; thanks to James Tavernier for being the best attacking right-back since Gerry Forrest; thanks to Richie Smallwood for winning people over as the ultimate team man. Thanks to the unsung ones who don’t get much limelight. In fact, thanks to the lot of you.
And thanks for scoring right at the end here and not losing, so keeping the unbeaten home run going - even though you were rubbish in the second half and, if you play like that, then you might as well not bother turning up for the play-offs.
But thanks for putting Wembley in view, and it’s anybody’s when you dip into the play-off lottery.
And all this without thanking anybody for the astonishing away form, with only Championship champs Leicester and League One kings Wolves winning more away games than their 13. Only Wolves have scored more away goals.
Yes, quite a season and who knows what’s to come?
After the midweek 10-man gamble with 3-3-3, the Millers began this one 3-4-1-2, switched after 20-odd minutes to 4-4-2 and ended up with goodness knows what except lots of men forward and three strikers down the middle, none of them the 25-goal top scorer but he was in the vicinity. The first half was feisty, ill-tempered, niggly - and that was just on the sidelines, with clearly no love lost between the respective management teams considering the verbals and gestures being exchanged.
The MK Dons’ touchline duo included ex-Millers striker Richie Barker, recently sacked at Portsmouth but previously Steve Evans’ successor at Crawley, and the pair don’t spend too much time being complimentary to each other.
The visitors fed off the ninth-minute lead from Matthew Kennedy but were extremely fortunate not to be down to 10 men when talented 18-year-old Dele Alli, excellent otherwise, produced a naughty, follow-through challenge which may have been the rashness of youth but which caught Tavernier late. He was lucky the ref wasn’t the one who sent off Richie Smallwood for much less last Monday. Alli got yellow.
The Millers decided that if they were to revert to two wide players then one of them may as well be a winger so Rob Milsom was sacrificed for Nicky Adams after half an hour.
Frecklington, Michael O’Connor and Arnason whistled shots wide while Kieran Agard, had he managed a more measured response, might have found the target from distance with the keeper stranded ten seconds into the second half.
A few minutes later left-back Brendan Galloway - who played here recently for England Under-18s - got a second yellow and dismissal for hauling down Agard.
Having lost right-back George Baldock earlier after being knocked unconscious - the reason for 11 minutes of first-half stoppage time - MK Dons reshuffled.
This included putting former Millers loanee Mark Randall at right-back. Defending certainly wasn’t the midfielder’s strong point for Rotherham and they really should have exposed him more, not least through switching Adams across.
Adams and Frecklington missed chances before Izale McLeod made it 2-0 on the break with 18 minutes left.
A stream of balls went into the visiting box, not always convincingly, but makeshift Dons survived until O’Connor slotted home a Revell knockdown with 11 minutes to go.
As late goals go, Revell’s header from Arnason’s long throw in the fourth minute of stoppage time was the latest yet because it was about five past five. Thanks for that!