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Match Report


Posted Thu 16 Sep 10 at 01:37 AM


MK Dons finally broke their Southampton hoodoo as second-half goals from Angelo Balanta and Peter Leven secured a memorable victory at stadiummk.

Substitute Balanta broke the deadlock 18 minutes from the end of a brilliantly-entertaining encounter when he guided home Dean Lewington's pass from a tight angle. And Leven secured a fifth win in five home games this season when he found the net at the second attempt from a Jermaine Easter cross, lifting the Dons level with the League 1 leaders and giving them their first ever win over the south coast club.

It was a long-awaited victory for the Dons faithful, who watched their side beaten four times by the Saints last season, and one that ruined Nigel Adkins' first game in charge of the St Mary's outfit. The former Scunthorpe boss clearly has his work cut out to lift the spirits of a side that were supposed to sweep all before them this season, but have instead stalled at the starting line. More star-struck that star-studded, this was the Saints' fourth consecutive defeat in what has been a wretched start to the season.

But this was the Dons' night. Redemption following those painful results at the hands of last season's chief tormentors. Back then they were bullied. This time, under Karl Robinson, they were bullish. Leven was imperious in the middle of the park - hustling, passing and setting the tempo. When Southampton had it he hurried them. When the ball was at the Scot's feet, he made time for himself. The game's outstanding performer, ably supported by the intelligence of Didi Hamann, the industry of Luke Chadwick and the willingness of Lewis Guy.

Southampton's big players, by contrast, flattered to deceive. Rickie Lambert, last season's 37-goal leading scorer, was anonymous after a dipping 20th-minute volley that was tipped over by David Martin, silenced by the power of Sean O'Hanlon. Jason Puncheon, for all the wondrous ability that saw him win so many games on his stage in a Dons shirt, seemingly short on confidence. Morgan Schneiderlin was the pick of their first-half performers - cracking a brilliant volley just wide on 23 minutes and denied by Martin with a deflected effort shortly after.

Jabo Ibehre unsettles Saints defender Dan Harding.   It was an end-to-end first period with chances freely created. Southampton probably edged it in terms of openings, but the arrival of Jabo Ibehre for the injured Sam Baldock unsettled a defence that last season had looked bullet-proof. Guy's crashing volley brought a wonderful save from Kelvin Davis after the winger had lifting Chadwick's cross over Dan Searborne on 26 minutes. Mathias Kouo-Doumbé should have done better when he headed Leven's devilish free-kick over six before the break.

But to that point, Saints had given as good as they got - Lambert denied by the sliding Danny Woodards and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wasteful with the goal in sight. After the break, they could barely string an attack together. Robinson turned 30 on Monday. He's still the youngest manager in the Football League, but his grasp on tactical situations defies one of such tender years. He sensed a chance to change the game and had the clarity of thought to make it happen.

The supply to Lambert was cut off, Puncheon became isolated and, once Hamann's departure saw the legs of Chadwick aiding Leven centrally, Schneiderlin's influence waned. Hamann was replaced by the dancing feet of Balanta - the Colombian on loan from QPR providing a new threat to Saints full-back Danny Butterfield, who had little protection from either Puncheon or the attack-minded Oxlade-Chamberlain. He would play down his role in proceedings after the game, but Robinson had seen the opening.

Balanta's first effort, a swerving, dipping drive on 61 minutes, narrowly missed the top of Davis' left-hand post. His next brought the house down. Chadwick started the move, switching play masterfully to find his skipper in acres down the left, and Lewington quickly clipped an equally-impressive ball past the outstretched leg of Jose Fonte. Peter Leven lifts the Dons' second over Kelvin Davis.   Balanta reeled it in, sorting his feet out quickly before jabbing in off the inside of the right-hand upright. His first goal in a Dons shirt.

The near-1,500 travelling supporters waited for their team to lay siege to the Dons goal. It simply didn't happen. Instead they watched the Dons go in search of knockout blow. O'Hanlon almost provided it, bursting through a crowd of bodies to head Leven's left-wing corner against the crossbar, but would be Leven himself who would provide the breathing space.

Showing wonderful energy to burst forward two minutes from time, the former Rangers midfielder saw his initial shot from Easter's cross superbly blocked by Davis. But the rebound would not escape him - spun upon and dispatched with Davis helpless on the ground. A belated birthday present for the boss and a night the fans will remember for some time.

MK Dons (4-4-2): Martin; Woodards, O'Hanlon (Wilbraham 83), Kouo-Doumbé, Lewington (c); Guy, Hamann (Balanta 56), Leven, Chadwick; Easter, Baldock (Ibehre 11).
Subs not used: Carrington, Searle, Chicksen, Flanagan.
Goals: Balanta 72, Leven 88 Booked: Chadwick
Southampton (4-4-2): Davis; Butterfield, Fonte, Seaborne, Harding; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Holmes 90), Hammond, Schneiderlin, Puncheon; Lambert, Connolly (Mills 65).
Subs not used: Bialkowski, Jaidi, Wotton, Dickson, Do Prado.
Booked: Schneiderlin
Attendance: 8,133 (1,495 away)
Referee: Fred Graham (Essex)

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