Comeback hero Lee Frecklington has revealed bungling referee Mark Brown was glad to see Rotherham United grab a winner in their crucial Championship clash with Brentford.
The Millers triumphed 2-1 to close the gap between them and safety to three points, but only after the official had handed the Bees a way back into the match following Matt Derbyshire’s opener by wrongly awarding a penalty.
Danny Ward struck the decisive goal in the 71st minute when the score was 1-1 to spare Brown’s blushes.
“There was no way it was a penalty,” said Frecklington who played a part in both Rotherham goals and turned in a man-of-the-match display in his first game after a hamstring injury sustained on january 2.
“The ref even said to me when the second half was on: ‘I’m so pleased Danny Ward scored because I’ve made a cock-up.’”
Frecklington cleared the ball out of the penalty area in the 43rd minute at AESSEAL New York Stadium only for Sergi Canos to tumble and Brown point to the spot. Even Bees boss Dean Smith described the decision as “harsh”.
Alan Judge’s first effort was saved by Lee Camp but the Brentford man put the rebound away.
“If the ref openly admitted he’d made a mistake, then that’s fair play to him,” Frecklington added. “But I was disappointed because I knew I had touched the ball.
“We always feel that we never get the rub of the green here. We felt we had done well in the first half and wanted to come in at half-time leading.
“I felt maybe a little bit let-down, a little bit disappointed. One or two of the lads were angry.
“The gaffer (Neil Warnock) came in and said: ‘It’s gone now, you can’t do anything about it. We just have to go and win it in the second half.’ We pushed and pushed and eventually we did it.”
The skipper was brought into the side as new boss Warnock, now a fortnight into the job, looked to a halt a run of seven matches without a win and revealed the reason behind his star performance before being brought off in the 81st minute.
“It’s probably just hunger and frustration at not playing in so long,” he said. “You just think ‘I need to get back’ and you keep pushing yourself and pushing yourself.
“When you’re out there, you don’t even think about whether you’re tired or your hamstring hurts, you’ve just got to keep going. You get sucked into the atmosphere.
“I probably could have lasted the full 90 minutes, if I’m honest. Neil wanted to take me off.
“He said it was a little bit precautionary. I was just pleased that we won. That’s the only thing that matters.”
Warnock also threw caution to the wind by giving starts to striker Leon Best and left winger Jerome Thomas, even though he knew their fitness levels weren’t high enough for them to see out the match.
“It worked out. I thought everybody played well. It was a good team performance,” Frecklington added.
“Everyone played their part. Me, Besty and Jerome, we’ve not played much football this year.
“Sometimes, you can protect people as much as you want but you never know if they’re going to get injured until you try them.
“We have 12 games to go. We need to field the best team that we can. I think the gamble paid off.”
MK Dons are now only three points above the third-bottom Millers who go into next Saturday’s derby with Sheffield Wednesday with renewed survival hope after a vociferous crowd, galvanised by the spot-kick injustice, roared them to victory against the Bees.
“We stuck together and did what Rotherham always do - we keep going,” Frecklington said. “To win is one of the best feelings of the season.
“It was probably the loudest I’ve known it at New York Stadium. It was a really good atmosphere.
“It was enjoyable to play in and the fans played their part definitely.
“We knew this was a big game for us, a home game and one we could get something out of. It was crucially important we got that result leading into the derby next weekend.”