A Patrick Bamford rocket four minutes from time saved Tom Flanagan’s blushes as Dons saw off 10-man Rotherham 3-2 at stadium:mk.
In a balanced first 45 minutes, Michael O’Connor picked up his second yellow card of the afternoon in time added on as he clipped Stephen Gleeson’s heels in the box. Shaun Williams converted the penalty to give Dons the lead. Ben Reeves doubled the lead after 65 minutes, but two minutes of madness appeared to give Rotherham a share of the points.
Lee Frecklington’s header gave them a glimmer of hope with 20 minutes to go before Flanagan lobbed his own keeper after a long ball up from Rotherham keeper Scott Shearer.
But Bamford’s screamer from the edge of the area earned Dons all three points late in the day.
Karl Robinson made a host of changes to his line-up after three consecutive defeats. David Martin returned from injury to start in goal, Ben Reeves replaced the injured Luke Chadwick and Jason Banton started on the left wing as Izale McLeod dropped to the bench.
Keen to put the string of defeats behind them, Dons started brightly. Reeves started in behind Patrick Bamford and the pair immediately clicked. After just five minutes, a clever one-two between the pair had Bamford skipping past the last defender. But Rotherham keeper Scott Shearer was quick off his line, and he got a knee to Bamford’s dink over the top, deflecting it onto the roof of the net.
After Dons’ early dominance, Rotherham began to edge themselves into the game though, coming close when Alex Revell raced clear one-on-one with Martin. The keeper though showed of signs of the injury which kept him out of the Leyton Orient game though, diving at the feet of the striker to kill the attack.
Lee Frecklington twice got in good positions to trouble the keeper from range, but his fierce strikes were both well off target.
Jason Banton, who has shown precious little in his time with Dons so far, should have fired Dons into the lead after 21 minutes when he picked up Bamford’s lay-off to go clean through, but his shot didn’t bend back enough, sailing wide of Shearer’s far post.
Rotherham really should have been in the lead after half an hour, but Martin once again came to Dons’ rescue. Darren Potter was caught dawdling on the ball on the edge of the box and had the ball pinched from under his foot by Revell. But with just the keeper, the striker couldn’t find the back of the net, with Martin sticking out a vital arm to spare Potter’s blushes.
The match was being played on a knife edge with both sides looking capable of scoring the opener in the build-up to half time. First, Michael O’Connor’s shot appeared to hit Tom Flanagan’s arm on its way through, but with nothing given, Dons countered. Powell squared up defender Joe Skarz before firing in low, but his shot was saved by Shearer. The rebound came to Bamford a bit too quick though, and the striker could only loft it back into the keeper’s arms.
The game wasn’t a particularly nasty one in terms of the tackles that were flying in, but referee Robert Madley dished out five bookings in the opening 45 minutes. But the decisive card was flashed in first half stoppage time when Bamford’s chipped ball into the box looked made for Stephen Gleeson to tap in. But he had his heels clipped by Michael O’Connor who tracked his run. Madley pointed straight to the spot, and gave O’Connor his second yellow of the afternoon. It wasn’t Shaun Williams’ best penalty of the season, but it just squirmed under keeper Shearer to give Dons the lead going in at the break.
Revell’s lack of confidence in front of goal was done no favours just a minute later when, through on goal again, he inexplicably opted to try and pass around Martin, who rushed out to close the angle. But rather than picking out a grey shirt, he played it nicely for Tom Flanagan to mop up.
For all Martin’s heroics in the first half, he was replaced by Ian McLoughlin at the break, while Revell’s confidence was done no favours as he was replaced by Tom Eaves. Rotherham’s cause was dealt another blow when Madley sent manager Steve Evans to the stand during the interval.
Bamford wasted no time in blowing off the half-time cobwebs, forcing Shearer into a good, low stop after racing clear of defender Skarz just seconds after the restart.
Despite their man disadvantage, Rotherham had the better of the early exchanges in the second half. Rather than the usual, patient approach along the floor, Dons, particularly down the right, looked to go more direct to Bamford and it wasn’t working. Bamford’s frustration was clear to see - arms out wide, shaking his head as he watched balls fly wide and over his head to the Rotherham defence.
But Dons were gifted a second goal after 65 minutes though. Daniel Powell, who had been hit and miss all afternoon, put in a low ball across the face of goal which looked bread and butter for Shearer. But he palmed the ball into the path of Reeves who completed the simple task of tapping into the empty net from six yards out.
He should have had another less than 30 seconds later when former Dons defender Craig Morgan misjudged a long ball over the top, allowing Reeves in behind, but in a moment of panic, he stabbed the ball wide when he had plenty of time to bring it down.
Just when it looked like an easy remaining 20 minutes for Dons, Frecklington headed Rotherham right back into contention, meeting Morgan’s cross from the right.
And the 10 men were sensationally level two minutes later when Shearer’s long ball forward looked a comfortable take for McLoughlin, but Flanagan met it in the air, lobbing the keeper and nestling into his own net.
It all became a little desperate for Dons after that. Knowing they’d squandered their two-goal lead, they were too eager to get back in front and their play was rushed.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man and Patrick Bamford is turning out to be that man for MK Dons. With four minutes to go Powell cut in from the right, he laid off to Gleeson, who in turn fed substitute Izale McLeod on the edge of the area. Teeing it beautifully for Bamford, his shot rocketed into the top corner to give Dons all three points.
The result moves Dons up to seventh in the table.
Referee: Robert Madley
Attendance: 11,564 (1,406)
MK Dons: Martin (McLoughlin 46), Otsemobor (Baldock 80), Lewington, Flanagan, Williams, Gleeson, Potter, Reeves (McLeod 80), Powell , Banton, Bamford
Subs not used: Hodson, Smith, Rasulo, Carruthers
Rotherham: Shearer, Brindley, Skarz, Arnason, Frecklington, Revell (Eaves 46), O’Connor, Milsom, Pringle (Nardiello 89), Morgan, Agard
Subs not used: Collin, Mills, Bradley, Tubbs, Tidser
Booked: O’Connor, Potter, Brindley, Williams, Frecklington, Bamford
Sent off: O’Connor