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Match Report


Posted Sat 18 Apr 09 at 20:34 PM


Luke Chadwick's solitary first-half goal gave MK Dons a priceless win over Scunthorpe that keeps them in the automatic promotion race.

Roberto Di Matteo's men recorded a fourth straight victory to move up to third League 1 and keep up their pursuit of second-placed Peterborough. Again having to persevere without some key personnel, the men from MK produced an outstanding display, defending with a resolve not even the Iron could crack.

While Chadwick's winner - swept past 'keeper Joe Murphy from a Jason Puncheon pass on 35 minutes - might have been decisive, it was the defensive resilience of Di Matteo's troops that saw them over the finish line. Each of the 14 players used contributed - were it through Puncheon's work-rate in attack or Sean O'Hanlon's masterful performance in central defence - as the Dons made it a third clean sheet in four.

And to have done that against the two-man wrecking machine that has been Paul Hayes and Gary Hooper this season, made it all the more impressive. Without Aaron Wilbraham and Peter Leven through injury and with Sam Baldock only fit enough for a place on the bench, the Dons were again without their three leading scorers for the campaign.

At the other end, the Iron had the 48-goal combination of Hayes and Hooper. But it was the visitors who started the brighter with Gerba's industry supported by the creativity of Puncheon and Chadwick. Puncheon, a constant thorn in Scunthorpe's side, was the first to work Iron 'keeper Joe Murphy with a powerful drive from Gerba's pass on 17 minutes. He then teased his way past David Mirfin a few minutes later before Murphy bravely punched his cross away from the boot of Mark Wright in the area.

And Miguel Llera, who would later prove a tower of strength alongside O'Hanlon at the other end, should have benefited from Puncheon's invention on 27 minutes when he headed a straight at Murphy. Scunthorpe managed to shake off the shackles briefly as Grant McCann's well-struck free-kick was pushed over by Willy Gueret, and Martyn Woolford fired straight at the Dons 'keeper from distance. But the Dons' breakthrough wasn't far away.

Gerba chased Iron full-back Andrew Wright into the corner flag to force a hurried clearance which Howell managed to divert Puncheon's way, whose touch into Chadwick's path left the winger with just Murphy to beat. The Scunthorpe 'keeper closed the angle quickly, but Chadwick confidently lifted the ball over him to bag his sixth goal of the season.

To that point we had seen little of Scunthorpe's highly-rated front line as Hayes and Hooper failed to spark - O'Hanlon making a timely interception when one cross from Hayes did threaten to find its way through to his strike partner before the break. He made an even better block moments later when McCann's shot was charged down brilliantly after Henri Lansbury's effort had skewed across the box. Though they would have plenty of defending to do as the second half progressed, the Dons might have made life an awful lot easier had they converted their chances straight after the break.

Stephen Gleeson, excellent again alongside Luke Howell in midfield, presented Gerba with the first, but the Canadian saw his shot blocked having opted to ignore the unmarked Puncheon in a better position. Gerba did better moments later when he intelligently chested Carl Regan's pass into Wright's path, but the winger was denied by Murphy from a tight angle.

Scunthorpe finally found some momentum around the hour-mark when McCann saw a dangerous shot blocked by Llera and, from the resulting corner, Hooper headed home only to be denied by the offside flag. It buoyed the home side and their supporters and the Dons were forced to defend frantically for a period - Regan hacking desperately off the line after Gueret had brilliantly kept out Andrew Wright's close-range shot. But the home side had yet to engineer a chance for one of their celebrated front two.

That was until the 73rd minute. Hooper seized on a rare mistake from Howell in midfield, playing a brilliant one-two with Hayes before racing into the box, only for Gueret to save heroically with his feet in battle of wits with the 30-goal hitman. Though they were forced to clear their lines frequently in the closing stages, the Dons were supremely organised as O'Hanlon and co simply refused to be passed.

And had Murphy not been on his toes to twice deny Puncheon as well as substitute Tore Andre Flo in the closing stages, it might have been more comfortable. But having climbed above Millwall and now ready to seize on any late mistakes from the Posh, the Dons look ready to take this race to a photo-finish.

Scunthorpe United (4-4-2): Murphy; Wright, Byrne (c), Mirfin, Mills; Lansbury (Pearce 90), Trotter (Sparrow 70), McCann, Woolford (May 57); Hayes, Hooper.
Subs not used: Lillis, Hurst.
Booked: Hayes.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Gueret; Regan, O'Hanlon, Llera, Lewington (c); Gleeson, Howell; Wright (Cummings 86), Puncheon, Chadwick (Baldock 71); Gerba (Flo 79).
Subs not used: Abbey, Navarro. Goals: Chadwick 35.
Booked: Chadwick, Gueret, Baldock, Gleeson.
Attendance: 4,873
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Greater Manchester)

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