Sat 11 Dec 10
at 18:59 PM
REPORT: NOTTS COUNTY 2 MK DONS 0
Ten-man MK Dons slipped to a third successive defeat at Notts County as two late goals gave former boss Paul Ince a victory over his old side.
The first meeting between Ince and his former assistant and eventual successor Karl Robinson looked set to end in stalemate as a tight encounter headed into its closing stages. But having lost striker Aaron Wilbraham to two cautions 15 minutes from time, the Dons were picked apart late-on - Ince's 18-year-old son Thomas, signed on loan from Liverpool, volleying a spectacular opener four minutes from the end and veteran Lee Hughes expertly tucking home the clincher in injury time. Results elsewhere mean the Dons remain just four points off the League 1 play-off places, but drop to 14th in the table, while County's win lifts them out of the drop zone on goal difference.
Nearly three weeks since his side's last outing - a 4-1 defeat at Huddersfield - Robinson made only necessary changes to his side, the fully-fit-again Wilbraham restored to lead the line and Gary MacKenzie coming in to replace the injured Sean O'Hanlon. Luke Chadwick scraped through a fitness test to take a place on the bench, but Jemal Johnson and Adam Chicksen were not so lucky, leaving the Dons with just six on the bench. Ince was afforded the relative luxury of an unchanged side, opting to leave dangerous striker Hughes on the bench despite his return from injury.
It was a typically even opening spell, both managers, who shared a warm embrace pre-match, clearly familiar with the other's intentions. While both teams looked intent on passing the ball, neither showed too much early cutting edge. Mathias Kouo-Doumbé was forced to make decent block to prevent Alan Judge working David Martin on 15 minutes after good work from the lively Craig Westcarr down the left.
But it was the Dons who settled into their rhythm quicker, the three-man midfield of Peter Leven, Mark Carrington and, in particular, Stephen Gleeson, seeing plenty of the ball in the middle third. Wilbraham showed good feet and great strength of hold off Mike Edwards on 25 minutes, sending Lewis Guy scampering into the final third down the right, and only a scrambling Liam Chilvers prevented the wide-man from providing a telling cutback.
It was turning into a decent spell for the visitors as Wilbraham and Guy again combined through the centre, but Chilvers' trip on the rampant winger prevented him getting clear and a booking seemed ever-so-slightly lenient. Ince managed to stir his side for the quarter-hour building up to the break and at times they threatened to expose a Dons defence robbed of familiarity by injury and suspension this season.
First Westcarr escaped into more good space down the left on 30 minutes, drilling a super ball across goal that Dean Lewington could only backheel out of the goalmouth. Neal Bishop arrived, sights set, and screwed his effort badly wide.
Guy had threatened to invade County territory from the right once again just before that, but it was all County now, sensing their chance to establish the lead. Peter Leven closes down County's Alan Judge. The pick of their openings arrived on 35 minutes - Westcarr dummying Edwards' pass gloriously to send Ben Davies clear, but Martin stood tall to deny him in the one-on-one.
It did little to stem the tide though and Martin was called on twice further before half-time - blocking smartly from Lee Miller at close-quarters and pushing a tasty curler from Alan Judge round a post. Robinson made a tactical change at the break, replacing Kouo-Doumbe with striker Jabo Ibehre and switching to a 4-4-2 formation.
And&nbsp;they emerged on the front foot - Guy seizing on a poor back-header from Stephen Darby and Rob Burch forced into action for the first time in the match. With the home fans urging them on, Notts probed for an opening, but the Dons' threat on the break was considerable and they should have made more of a fine attack on the hour.
Ibehre started it, intercepting a loose pass before finding Michael McIndoe down the left, and was only denied the chance to finish it by Guy's cushioned header that was marginally out of the substitute's reach. County began to look nervous in defence for the first time and Dons were calling for a penalty nine minutes later - Wilbraham convinced he'd been wrestled to the ground as he sought to convert a Lewington cross that MacKenzie steered wide.
But that would not be the end of the Dons striker's frustrations when, having been booked for a similar offence on Chilvers in the first half, he caught Edwards with a stray arm and was duly shown a second caution. Ince Sr saw the chance to go for it and turned to his own flesh and blood to go on and win him the game.
Win it he did, in quite spectacular fashion. Gleeson, switched to right-back in the half-time reshuffle, always looked to be struggling as he backed into his own box to head a high ball away and his clearance only reached the edge of the box, where Ince Jr was arriving to crash past Martin on the volley.
With only ten men to chase the game, it always looked a big ask for the Dons to claw it back, but they threw bodies forward in desperate search of an equaliser. And it gave Hughes just the space he needed, latching onto a clearance two minutes into stoppages, calmly turning inside MacKenzie and curling in off the post from 15 yards.
Notts County (4-4-2): Burch; Darby, Chilvers (Pearce 36), Edwards (c), Harley; Davies, Bishop, Ravenhill, Judge (Ince 81); Westcarr, Miller (Hughes 70).
Subs not used: Nelson, Thompson, Hawley, Woods.
Booked: Ravenhill, Chilvers
Goals: Ince 86, Hughes 90+2
MK Dons (4-3-2-1): Martin; Woodards, MacKenzie, Kouo-Doumbé (Ibehre 46), Lewington (c); Gleeson, Carrington (Powell 88), Leven; Guy (Chadwick 70), McIndoe; Wilbraham
Subs not used: Hamann, Searle, Flanagan.
Booked: Wilbraham, Lewington, Gleeson
Sent off: Wilbraham 75
Attendance: 5,172 (322 away)
Referee: David Phillips (West Sussex)