Why Rotherham United's Angus MacDonald wouldn't be fazed by taking a penalty at Wembley

Angus MacDonaldAngus MacDonald
Angus MacDonald
IT was a sell-out semi-final, a live TV audience was watching on, a full house was holding its breath as the penalty shoot-out reached its climactic moments.

Rotherham United’s Angus MacDonald had to score to keep his team in the Papa John’s Trophy.

While Hartlepool United’s Victoria Park stadium was losing its cool, the defender was keeping his.

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MacDonald is the player who beat cancer earlier in his career, the centre-half who spent eight months with the Millers sidelined by undisclosed health issues before making his first-team return in February.

Pressure? What pressure? He buried his spot-kick.

“That’s all I thought about before I took the penalty,” he says. “I just said to myself: ‘I’ve overcome worse.’

“I walked up to the spot with no nerves. The ball went where I wanted it to. Happy days! If I hadn’t been through what I’ve been through, I’d have probably been a bit more tense.”

A few minutes later on that March 9 Wednesday night on the north-east coast, Mickel Miller fired Rotherham into this Sunday’s Wembley final.

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MacDonald has since been sent off in a League One clash with Shrewsbury Town and must serve a three-match ban after an appeal by the division’s leaders to have the suspension overturned fell on deaf ears at the FA.

However, he’s hoping to be selected for the weekend Papa John’s showdown with Sutton United as his punishment applies only to fixtures in the third tier.

“Things like this are why I put my body through what I did, put myself through what I did,” he says. “It’s what dreams are made of.

“I allowed myself to dream while I was out. That’s why I’m fit now and fighting to get on the pitch after everything that’s happened.

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“It would be a massive achievement to play at Wembley but it’s about the whole team, the whole squad. All the players have helped to get us there. The lads are buzzing.”

Back on March 9, MacDonald and his teammates enjoyed the coach journey home then parked any thoughts of success at the national stadium until this week.

The 29-year-old is taking inspiration from the team talk manager Paul Warne delivered before the squad made the short trip from their pre-match hotel to the scene of the Hartlepool battle.

“The gaffer spoke about not doing it just for the people in the dressing but also for the families behind us,” he says. “We know who we’re doing it for and hopefully we can help them make some Wembley memories.”

His main victory this season has already been won.

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“It was emotionally and mentally draining being out,” he says. “It took a little bit longer than I expected but I’m back now at the right end of the season to push for promotion and Papa John’s silverware.

“Right the way through it all, the manager, staff and players have been there for me; family and friends have as well. You’ve got to rely on everyone, you’ve got to keep talking to people when times are hard.

“I’ve put myself through the worst of it and now I’m at the other end.”

MacDonald in a Wembley shoot-out anyone?

He’s overcome worse.