Wimbledon suffered a second successive away defeat this afternoon that leaves them with work still to do in the League 2 survival stakes.
The Dons paid the price for failing to defend a corner in the 76th minute and that allowed Alex Revell a chance to head home from close-range and earn a 1-0 win for Rotherham.
Though Neal Ardley’s men defended resolutely in their first visit to the New York Stadium, there was not enough attacking thrust from Wimbledon in the final third.
Neal Ardley made just two changes to the side which started against Morecambe with Pim Balkestein returning to the heart of Wimbledon’s defence instead of Will Antwi and Jonathan Meades was handed a midfield role in place of Kevin Sainte-Luce.
It was a frenetic start with both sides attempting to go for it early on, but the best early chance fell to the hosts when Johnny Mullins blazed over from close range. Wimbledon defended resolutely though with Balkestein and Mat Mitchel-King both summing up the collective effort by making crucial blocks. However, Wimbledon goalkeeper John Sullivan was forced into his first save in the 25th minute when he dived to his near post to turn away a shot from former Crawley defender Claude Davis after the visitors had only half cleared a David Noble corner.
The hosts had dominated the first half an hour in terms of possession and though Wimbledon had provided stubborn resistance so far, they had struggled to create anything as an attacking force. Then when Wimbledon finally put together a few promising moves, they were caught out on the break and it needed Sullivan to make an even better save than his previous effort. Lee Frecklington was the man denied as Sullivan sprang to his right to produce an excellent fingertip save that earned the adulation of the 480 Wimbledon fans behind the goal.
Wimbledon fashioned their best chance of the first-half when Alexander and Mitchel-King combined on the right and a superb cross from the Dons captain was headed just over the bar by Balkestein. There had not been enough of such attacking play from Wimbledon and that was perhaps the only criticism of a solid display from the visitors against play-off chasing Rotherham.
The hosts put together their first spell of sustained pressure after the interval and they were almost rewarded when Frecklington shot just wide. With Wimbledon struggling to get out of their own half, Neal Ardley decided to make a double substitution in the 56th minute with the pace of Kevin Sainte-Luce and Jesse Darko introduced. Alexander and Yussuff were the men to make way with Wimbledon aiming for more drive in attack. The changes did have an effect and Harry Pell (pictured) forced Rotherham goalkeeper Scott Shearer into action for the first time with a 20-yard drive after Luke Moore’s smart dummy from a Chris Hussey cross. Substitute Darko then fired over from 10 yards after making space for himself in the box.
Rotherham missed the best chance of the match so far in the 66th minute and Wimbledon would only have had themselves to blame if the hosts had taken their opportunity. The visitors were again caught napping from another short corner routine and Daniel Kearns sent over a teasing cross that Mullins should have nodded into an empty net, but he headed over from close-range. Wimbledon responded well to that let-off though and they had had a great chance to take the lead when Midson put Luke Moore through, but his shot from an acute angle was blocked by Shearer.
However, just when Wimbledon appeared to have weathered the storm and were making an impact in attack, they failed to defend a routine corner and Rotherham had an opening goal they merited on the balance of play. Lionel Ainsworth’s cross was headed on at the near post by Kari Arnason and Alex Revell had a simple task to nod into an empty net.
Though Wimbledon struggled to make an impact after that setback, they had a great chance in the third minute of injury time when Luke Moore sent over a teasing cross that Jack Midson should have done better with, but he headed over from close-range. That was Wimbledon's final chance gone and the defeat means that the Easter Monday clash at home to Barnet now has added significance.
AFC Wimbledon: John Sullivan, Mat Mitchel-King, Pim Balkestein, Alan Bennett, Chris Hussey, Rashid Yussuff, Harry Pell, Jonathan Meades, Luke Moore (Rashid Yussuff), Gary Alexander (Jesse Darko), Jack Midson.