Jermaine Easter and Mark Carrington were on target for MK Dons as they ended manager-less Colchester's 100 per cent record with a 2-1 win at stadiummk.
Paul Ince's increasingly impressive side maintained their own unbeaten start to the campaign with a second win in four days and a first in front of their own fans. After Easter's first-half penalty, awarded after the striker was pushed in the area by U's skipper Pat Baldwin, and Carrington's smartly-taken second on the hour, Scott Vernon gave the visitors hope when he pulled one back on 69 minutes. But the Dons again showed resilience in defence, just as they had at Tranmere in midweek, to climb to sixth in the table with four games played.
It's a win that may be seen as a statement of intent by Ince's side, who continue to defy a host of high-profile absentees to remain firmly in League 1's early-season pack. Colchester, managed by caretaker boss Joe Dunne, arrived as league leaders on Saturday morning, but could conceivably have been blown away by Ince's team in 35 rampaging opening minutes.
Though the Dons remain without the likes of Aaron Wilbraham and Peter Leven from their attacking arsenal, in Easter, Jemal Johnson and Jason Puncheon they have three players who will give problems to any defence in the division. Relieved of the responsibility of the skipper's armband - passed to David McCracken in the absence of Dean Lewington - Johnson was rampant in the opening stages. From the moment the American surged past Lee Beevers and sent a rising drive just over five minutes in, the U's full-back found Johnson just too much to live with.
Having burrowed round Beevers at every opportunity in the early stages, Johnson was probably deserving of the opening goal he had taken away from him in the build-up to Easter's penalty. Puncheon, Colchester's other prime tormentor early-on, produced a gem of a cross from the right on 20 minutes that Johnson duly smashed home on the volley from beyond the far post.
His joy was cut short though, with referee Keith Stroud having blown his whistle for Baldwin's shove on Easter in the six-yard-box. Had Easter not confidently side-footed the spot-kick past Ben Williams for his second goal of the season, the home side would have felt justifiably aggrieved. But Easter's composure, against a side he spent time on loan with last season, rendered the argument obsolete.
Beevers' latest efforts to prevent Johnson marauding past him shortly afterwards resulted in an unfortunate injury to the U's defender, who left the field with a dislocated shoulder after extensive treatment inside the Dons box. The break in the play looked to have helped the visitors stem the tide and they showed flashes of the attacking prowess that had taken them to three straight wins prior to this game.
Vernon's pass sent the dangerous Kevin Lisbie in the clear on 35 minutes but, when Dons 'keeper Willy Gueret got out to hold the striker up on the left edge of the box, Colchester failed to work round a retreating Dons defence quickly enough and Ashley Vincent fired wide. Puncheon was never far from springing a Dons attack though and when his defence-splitting pass put Easter clean through against Williams, the U's 'keeper just got enough on the shot to prevent the lead being doubled.
Williams made another terrific save just before the break to prevent Magnus Okuonghae turning Johnson's cross into his own net, and Kem Izzet nearly suffered a similar fate in preventing Puncheon tearing through on the counter-attack. Colchester came out with plenty of purpose in the second period, passing the ball well through midfield without creating too much in the final third, but the Dons bullied the initiative from them once more. Puncheon should have made it 2-0 when he and Easter contrived to waste a two-on-one counter on 55 minutes, but Carrington quickly made up for it.
Exchanging passes with Stephen Gleeson in midfield, Carrington got his toe to the return before Okuonghae to scoot clear before rounding Williams with supreme confidence. That should have buried the game, but Colchester came back strongly and Vincent saw his shot from Lisbie's pass repelled by Gueret before Vernon finally breached the Dons' defences. David Fox provided the delivery from the right and the U's striker rose to plant his header home from eight yards.
It brought a predictable spell of U's pressure which saw Fox smash a volley just wide and Vincent almost beat Gueret to substitute Mathias Doumbe's return header. But Ince's men, and Puncheon in particular, managed to control the pace of the game in the closing stages and, a wasteful volley from Izzet aside, looked assured in defence as they closed out the victory.
MK Dons (4-4-1-1): Gueret; Howell, Woodards, McCracken (c), Davis; Chadwick (Doumbe 68), Gleeson, Carrington, Johnson (Ibehre 68); Puncheon; Easter (Baldock85).
Subs not used: Searle, Partridge, Bridges, Chicksen. Goals: Easter 22 (pen), Carrington 58. Booked: Howell, Gleeson, Gueret, Ibehre.
Colchester United (4-4-2); Williams; Beevers (Maybury 28), Okuonghae, Baldwin (c), Tierney; Vincent, Fox, Izzet, Hackney (Perkins 62); Lisbie, Vernon (Thomas 79).
Subs not used: Cousins, Wordsworth, Malton, Lockwood. Goals: Vernon 69. Booked: Vincent.
Attendance: 8,633 (663 away)
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)