The tributes, the sadness, the frustration and Paul Warne's tears for Millers fan Andrew Wilson-Storey ... the story of Rotherham United 1 MK Dons 1

Rest in peace, Andrew Wilson-StoreyRest in peace, Andrew Wilson-Storey
Rest in peace, Andrew Wilson-Storey
THE tribute before kick-off was silent and total, the ovation as half-time approached an explosion of applause and support.

Rotherham United were mourning and celebrating one of their own.

Andrew Wilson-Storey, the fan who had collapsed at the Accrington Stanley match a week earlier, had passed away, aged 42, in a Blackburn hospital on the morning of the MK Dons game.

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Manager Paul Warne cried and his weren't the only tears on a day when winter brought its cold, grey bite to AESSEAL New York Stadium and the Millers' home was cloaked in a sense of loss.

With members of Andrew's family standing pitchside, a minute's silence was immaculately observed. In the 42nd minute, all four sides of the ground rose to applaud a man so tragically taken.

Rotherham, who went into the clash top of League One, frustratingly drew 1-1 with 18th-placed visitors as the race for automatic promotion grows ever tighter. Andrew was a dad of three. Everyone knew what really mattered on this particular afternoon.

"It's pretty heartbreaking," said Warne when the after-match press conference took a sombre turn. "I got a phone call yesterday and then today with the updates.

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"I walked on to the pitch and Sam (media officer Todd) told me that that was Andrew's family on the touchline. I didn't know what to say to them. I hugged as many as I could. Not that that makes any difference."

"I think it does, Mate," I told him, and it all became too much.

"Does it?" the boss earnestly replied. "Good. I was a bit ... oh God ..." There was a long pause.

"Sorry. I always get emotional. I can't help it," he went on, his voice breaking. "I stood there thinking about him, thinking how sad it is, how sad it is for his family."

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As New York had fallen quiet, the Millers' bench had linked arms, a symbol of solidarity, of sharing, of this club's great bond.


IT all came down to the hit and the miss.

Freddie is fizzing lately and Ladapo needed only ten minutes to open the scoring, cutting inside from the left to drill a low effort past Lee Nicholls after Jamie Lindsay had pretended he was the absent Dan Barlaser and delivered a perfect long pass.

Following the striker's 17th goal of the season, number 18 looked certain when Chiedozie Ogbene - not for the first or last time - burst brilliantly down the right just before the hour-mark and supplied the cross.

Ready, aim, only Freddie wasn't firing this time and he grazed the post of a gaping net in front of a disbelieving North Stand.

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A goal then would have put the Millers 2-1 ahead and surely on their way to victory.

"Freddie will be disappointed he hasn't scored but he got us the goal that got us the point," Warne said.

Rotherham had chances, so many chances, to win the game but in the end had their title aspirations hit by Rhys Healey's wonderful 22nd-minute equaliser when the MK attacker took advantage of Matt Olosunde's slip to tease and turn the home defence before emphatically beating Dan Iversen with a quality shot.

"It's disappointing we haven't won it but I can't really criticise the performance," Warne said. "I thought we were really good and put enough entries into the box to win a game comfortably.

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"This season, whenever we've got a second goal we've usually gone on to win handsomely. We didn't get a second goal today."

In the first half, Lindsay's shot, from Ben Wiles' clever set-up, was saved, Michael Smith headed Wiles' corner wastefully wide, Ladapo's header from Wiles' cross was off target and Smith's next header was clawed away at point-blank range by Nicholls.

After the break, Ladapo had his moment to forget, a good shout for a penalty for handball went unheeded, Smith headed Ogbene's cross over the bar and Wiles bending attempt from 20 yards wasn't far away.

Ironically, after so much Rotherham pressure, Iversen twice had to come to the rescue late on, saving well from Ben Gladwin and then superbly from the clean-through Alex Gilbey to leave the Millers with only one defeat in 15 matches but three draws in their last four outings.

Freddie Ladapo about to score against MK Dons

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Warne was troubled by other things. The boss cries easily, and that is not meant flippantly. He is a man in touch with his feelings and blessed with the openness to show them.

He was talking family again, Andrew's family. Still choking up, he said: "You don't go to a football game and take your kids to a football game and don't come home.

"I can't imagine how they feel. It's a sad loss for them and I hope the respect that both teams and both sets of fans and everybody in the ground showed them gives them some ... I don't know, not peace, that's not the right word ... some comfort."

At half-time, the Millers had been told to keep pressing, keep probing, keep getting the ball to Ogbene.

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"I think MK Dons are a really good team. Their league position doesn't show how good they are," Warne said. "I said to the lads: 'Just keeping going in the same way. Don't lose confidence.'

"I thought we'd get a goal. Chieo put some unbelievable crosses in. He was unplayable. We had a couple of gilt-edged chances. We had loads of one-v-ones in the box where I'm thinking: 'A little ricochet here or there and we get an easy tap-in.'

"The lads give me everything every week. If it makes us finish in the top two, great. If it makes us finish seventh, I'll be disappointed. But if they're the best they can be every week then what more can we ask? There is no criticism from me. They're really trying to do well for the town.

"Chieo was brilliant. We try to play football the way I think the fans want us to play. We're playing 4-4-2 and we're guns out.

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"We can get done on the counter-attack because that's how we play. Dan's kept us in the game with a good save right at the end. It doesn't feel like a good point at the moment. We need to turn draws into wins."


Less than 24 hours later, Rotherham would slip into second place as Coventry City overtook them with a 1-0 home win over another promotion-contending side, Sunderland.

Warne had already been looking beyond that game, to the ten-match run-in that will decide the final pecking order.

"The lads are disappointed," he said of the MK stalemate. "They see it as a wasted opportunity but at the end of the season that might be the point that does it for us.

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"They're exhausted. I'll let them have Monday off. They can have a couple of days away from my voice. They'll come in on Tuesday refreshed then we'll try to get them ready for the Rochdale game."

He reflected finally on the fan who won't be there yet, in some way, will still be with them.

"It's really sad what's happened," the manager said. "I speak to the lads about it all the time. I tell them: 'Be the best you can be today because you don't know what tomorrow is.' None us know, do we?

"I'm sorry we didn't win for him but the lads gave everything they could in his memory and will continue to do that for the next ten games."

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Warne's message was heartfelt and eloquent, just like the last words from the stadium announcer before New York descended into the reverential hush that summed up why Saturday was about football but wasn't about the result:

'Rest in peace, Andrew. Once a Miller, always a Miller.'

Rotherham (4-4-2): Dan Iversen; Matt Olosunde (Shaun MacDonald 90), Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Joe Mattock; Chiedozie Ogbene, Matt Crooks, Jamie Lindsay (Josh Koroma 73), Ben Wiles; Freddie Ladapo, Michael Smith (Kyle Vassell 73). Subs not used: Lewis Price, Adam Thompson, Curtis Tilt, Hakeeb Adelakun.

MK Dons (4-1-2-3): Lee Nicholls; Regan Poole, Joe Walsh, Jordan Moore-Taylor, George Williams; Jordan Houghton; Louis Thompson (David Kasumu 67), Alex Gilbey; Callum Brittain (Ben Gladwin 67), Sam Nombe (Joe Mason 81), Rhys Healey. Subs not used: Andrew Fisher, Baily Cargill, Ben Reeves, Conor McGrandles.

Goals: Ladapo 10 (Rotherham); Healey 22 (MK Dons).

Referee: Leigh Doughty (Lancashire).

Attendance: 8,883 (353).