MK Dons staged an impressive second-half fightback to come from behind and beat Norwich City at stadiummk. Paul Ince's men put on an excellent display in front of the Sky cameras to go fifth in the League 1 table, having got off to the worst possible start.
Ince had barely taken his seat in the directors' boss when Chris Martin put his team behind with Norwich's opener after just 17 seconds. But a brilliant free-kick from the outstanding Jason Puncheon and a contentious penalty - dispatched by substitute Peter Leven after Martin's foul on Lewis Gobern - gave the Dons a fourth win of the season. Without leading scorer Jermaine Easter and full-back Danny Woodards, it's a result that will surely please Ince, whose team is continuing to develop into one he hopes can make an impact on the division.
The Dons boss can also take satisfaction from seeing his side overcome a familiar problem at home - how to break down a team protecting an early lead. As early leads go, you'll rarely find a quicker one than Martin's, which came almost straight from the kick-off through a succession of Dons errors.
Jabo Ibehre, in for the injured Easter up front, coughed up possession down the left and when Dean Lewington went in strongly for the loose ball, he succeeded only in sending the ball straight into Martin's path. Mathias Doumbe, filling in at right-back due to Woodards' absence, allowed the former Luton winger to step inside him and the unsighted Willy Gueret could do nothing to prevent his 18-yard shot nestling in the corner.
It should have got worse for the home side on 13 minutes when Martin got on the end of Jon Otsemobor's right-wing cross, but the Canaries youngster was unable to repeat his early heroics. The visitors' momentum stalled somewhat when they lost midfielder Stephen Hughes to injury after just 19 minutes, and when left-back Adam Drury followed him seven minutes later, Paul Lambert's men looked hamstrung already.
Dons, and more specifically Puncheon, seized on the initiative within minutes and started to weave some influence - Puncheon and Jemal Johnson both going close with long-range efforts before half-time. That momentum continued after half-time as Ince's men began to turn the screw on a Norwich team looking set on holding what they had.
The pressure started to mount and when Gobern was bundled over by two defenders just outside the box, Puncheon seized his moment. It was a free-kick the little magician would have taken a thousand times on the training pitch - a little less than 25 yards out and a few yards right of centre - and as his wand of a left foot conjured up every bit of magic within, to negotiate the wall and find the top corner. Having picked up an injury a few minutes before, defender Michael Nelson became the latest man in yellow to hobble off straight after the goal and Norwich's options were gone.
Though skipper Grant Holt forced Gueret to tip over on 59 minutes, there only looked one winner from that point. Leven's introduction, along with the long-awaited return of striker Aaron Wilbraham, only served to underline the Dons' advantage off the bench at that stage. Though Leven's slip almost allowed Norwich speedster Luke Daley to get away within minutes of his entrance, there was a sense that the fresh legs and different minds in the Dons attack would give them a chance before too long.
Gobern again showed good invention inside the box, skipping round Simon Lappin before drawing Martin in a stretching challenge he did need to make. And with the taking responsibility up for grabs in Easter's absence, Leven was first with his hand out and showed just why with the coolest of conversions. Norwich rallied late in the day with Martin and Lappin both failing with free-kicks that would have made it a dramatic finish. If they'd had a Jason Puncheon playing for them, there's every chance they might have.
MK Dons (4-4-1-1): Gueret; Doumbe, Darren Powell, McCracken, Lewington (c); Gobern (Partridge 91), Gleeson, Puncheon, Chadwick (Leven 69); Johnson; Ibehre (Wilbraham 69).
Subs not used: Searle, Davis, Carrington, Swailes. Goals: Puncheon 57, Leven 76 (pen). Booked: Chadwick
Norwich City (4-5-1): Forster; Otsemobor, Nelson (Spillane 57), Berthel-Askou, Drury (Adeyemi 26); Daley, Hughes (McVeigh 19), Smith, Lappin, Martin; Holt (c).
Subs not used: Rudd, Cureton, Whaley, McDonald.
Goal: Martin 1 Attendance: 10,354 (1,525 away)
Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire)