Rotherham United keep calm amid Storm Dennis as promotion rivals close in

THIS may have been a tempestuous match played out amid the howling backdrop of Storm Dennis, but Paul Warne was an oasis of calm afterwards.

After a finale when many a manager would have railed against the perceived injustice of seeing their side concede a controversial stoppage-time penalty to let slip two valuable promotion points, the Rotherham United chief’s philosophical and magnanimous post-match response was mature and reassuring.

The pack may be closing in, but, commendably, Warne took this frustrating draw squarely on the chin, rightfully taking succour in the way his side played, which he felt surpassed their efforts in their previous two matches, which both ended in victories.

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The Millers may have been on the cusp of a ninth league win in 10 games and sixth successive home victory in League One, but you cannot win them all.

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne: Happy with performance.Rotherham United manager Paul Warne: Happy with performance.
Rotherham United manager Paul Warne: Happy with performance.

Circumstances transpire against you. Unpleasant things happen.

In his programme notes, Warne referenced the wise words of the Millers’ new honorary life president, John Breckin.

It pointed to the fact that bumps in the road occur in the run-in, and a puncture or two along the way, with the trick being how quickly you are able to get the repair kit out to fix it.

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The Millers do not look to have much to fix, but expect them to be prompt if they have to do so.

Warne’s side were on the precipice of victory after substitute Freddie Ladapo’s late volley, only for fellow replacement Kwesi Appiah to level from the spot after Adam Thompson was penalised for a foul on Joe Pigott. Warne said: “I like to think I am pretty authentic and if we play bad, I come in here and say I am not happy – even if we win. But I was happy here, I thought we were excellent. I don’t have any regrets.

“It was not to be and I am not going to cry about that.”

A cinema buff, Warne went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks in the week.

Unfortunately, the chief thing of beauty in the first half on a squalling South Yorkshire afternoon arrived from Wimbledon loanee Max Sanders, with his first senior goal – a sublime curler on the half-hour – providing the difference at the interval.

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The other story was a tale of missed chances from the Millers, with Michael Smith being the chief culprit.

He planted a header straight at impressive goalkeeper Joe Day from point-blank range and did not look convincing in spurning a gilt-edged chance after breaking the off-side trap soon after.

Still, the Millers’ ability to create chances and make light of the tough conditions was laudable.

With the artful Dan Barlaser pulling the strings – and delivering some fine set-pieces – and Kyle Vassell softening up the Dons, it looked a case of when and not if United would respond.

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Barlaser almost levelled when Sanders cleared his inswinging corner off the line, and Matt Crooks was an omnipresent goal threat throughout.

It should have represented no big surprise that it was Crooks who would restore parity.

Vassell made a nuisance of himself to unsettle Mads Bech Sorensen and Crooks drilled the loose ball home on the hour.

The Millers did handle a brief scare when Daniel Iversen denied Pigott, but the goalkeeper’s next contribution was even more key.

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His punt forward was headed into the danger zone by Richard Wood and amid the consternation, Ladapo clinically volleyed home his 14th of the campaign.

That looked to be that, but there was a twist to come yet.

Appiah’s strike ensured there was no ‘victory burger’ for Sheffield Steelers fan Warne, who afforded himself that treat after the Millers’ last home win over Burton while attending a game at Sheffield Arena a fortnight earlier.

Given his side’s strong overall display, there was no need for substantial food for thought here.

Rotherham United: Iversen; Thompson, Ikiekwe, Wood, Wiles; Ogbene (Lindsay 90), Crooks, Barlaser, Adelakun (Koroma 71); Smith, Vassell (Ladapo 71). Unused substitutes: Bilboe, Mattock, MacDonald, Olosunde.

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AFC Wimbledon: Day; O’Neill, Thomas, Sorensen, Osew; McLoughlin (Appiah 83), Wagstaff (Pinnock 73), Sanders, Reilly, Rudoni; Pigott. Unused substitutes: Trott, McDonald, Hartigan, Roscrow, Pinnock, Guinness-Walker.

Referee: M Salisbury (Lancashire).