MK Dons' New Year's celebrations came 24 hours late as they began 2012 with victory over League 1 rivals Colchester United to maintain their hold on fourth place in the table.
Gary MacKenzie was the unlikely hero as he netted the decisive goal on a day that the Dons' promotion rivals Sheffield United and Huddersfield Town slipped up.
MacKenzie had not registered a solitary goal this season and in his interview in the reddot matchday programme the big Scotsman stated his New Year's resolution was to score more goals. The defender stuck to his word with a tap-in to set the Dons on their way in the new calendar year.
It has been a scrappy encounter at stadiummk, especially in the opening 45 minutes which were at best forgettable, but that will not matter as the Dons, who had manager Karl Robinson sent to the stands at half-time, got the resulted they wanted and needed.
The Dons were forced into two changes with Angelo Balanta returning to QPR and Adam Smith suspended Robinson called Luke Chadwick back, who had served his own one-match ban which resulted in him missing the draw at Brentford, and Shaun Williams who was able to slot in at centre-back as Mathias Kouo-Doumbe moved to the right.Colchester were without their own star in Anthony Wordsworth after he picked up a bout of chicken pox.
The two sides met only six weeks ago and on that occasion the Dons ran out comfortable winner with a 5-1 score line, but Colchester's early setup showed an intent to make amends for that result.
John Ward's men had been beaten 6-1 by Stevenage but that was the only blemish on their recent record having won three of their last four games heading to stadiummk. Steven Gillespie and Kayode Odejayi were the men with the responsibility of getting the goals for the U's.
The opening quarter of an hour had glimpses of sloppiness from both sides as the 48 hour break perhaps resulted in a slow start. There was poor passing, lack of communication and unforced errors went against the hosts and the visitors.
It was the Dons who had the best of the action with a header from Charlie MacDonald being nodded away by Brian Wilson, and a burst down the right of midfield from Jabo Ibehre invited Luke Chadwick to make a run into the left of the box but seemed to lack belief as he failed to force a save from Ben Williams.
When the Dons ran with the ball they had the ability to scare the U's - their breaks at pace often found gaping spaces in the Colchester defence. When Dean Bowditch ran at John White the left-back stood off and invited a fierce drive from the right boot of Bowditch, but his effort fell a yard wide.
The game began to open up in terms of distribution of possession, yet neither side showed much bite in the final third.
A free-kick to Colchester in the 35th minute presented the visitors with their best chance in front of goal when the Dons failed to clear the delivery and when the ball was played back in from the left of the box Tom Eastman was at full stretch, but couldn't quite stab the ball beyond David Martin.
The U's defender Magnus Okuonghae was forced off the pitch for a brief spell to be treated for a head injury, during which time the Dons failed to take advantage of the momentary one-man advantage especially when Colchester had to defend Williams' corner without their centreback.
When Okuonghae returned he made a vital interception to cut out a great cross from MacDonald to deny Jabo Ibehre a chance at an open goal.
On the stroke of half-time Lloyd James went down under the challenge of Bowditch at the very edge of the 18-yard box, offering a great chance for the U's to deal a huge blow to the Dons at the break. A five man wall did its job well though to prevent Gillespie's well struck delivery from flying into the top corner.
The half-time whistle would have come as a relief as neither side had managed to get into third gear and the game had struggled to come to life.
The Dons resumed in the second half without their manager Robinson in the dugout to instruct them after he was sent to the stands by referee Carl Berry.
Even without their boss nearby, the Dons did have more urgency about them when Bowditch was able to twist and turn on the right before cutting the ball back to Darren Potter whose deflected shot had to be palmed away at the near post by Williams.
A moment later Chadwick injected some pace into the game with a run down the flank before releasing a dipping strike that went inches over the bar.
The Dons were much brighter in their play and looked all the more energetic in their play. Eight minutes after the restart the deadlock was broken, in a scrappy manner, when Bowditch whipped in a corner from the left into the six-yard box where MacKenzie was able bundle the ball home as he fell to the ground.
They should have extended the lead further when Ibehre fed the ball through to Chadwick and again the midfielder had a sight at goal only to shoot straight at the keeper. On the hour-mark there were suggestions of a hand ball by Eastman when another run by Bowditch saw a deflected shot hit the hand of the defender.
Colchester reshuffled their formation but still struggled to keep tabs on the roaming Dons. A much improved display saw more chances created and when a free-kick was presented to them Shaun Williams rifled the ball through to produce a great block from Ben Williams. The rebound was followed up by Bowditch but his shot was blocked by MacDonald, who was unable to get his body out of the way.
In a flash the Dons broke again causing chaos to the U's backline when Bowditch was able to get a low cross into the box and MacDonald, having made an excellent run to arrive on time, had to hook the ball, which had fallen behind him, but couldn't quite find the net.
Colchester pressed to try and get a way back into the game and when the cross came on from the right Gillespie had the ball in the back of the net. However, the U's striker promptly saw his effort ruled out and was cautioned as the assistant referee had correctly spotted the ball had been placed in the net by his hand.
It was a case of seeing out the remainder of the game for the Dons as the slender lead always had a potential to be damaged by the hosts. Although a speedy break from Gleeson in injury time suggested a second goal could be on its way as he threaded the ball to Daniel Powell, but the forward watched a diving Ben Williams turn the ball away.
However, the sound of the final whistle was greeted by cheers and the Dons now turn their attentions to a huge FA Cup Third Round encounter with Premier League QPR.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Smith, MacKenzie, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch, Ibehre, Chadwick; MacDonald (Powell 81).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Collins, O'Shea.
Booked: Kouo-Doumbe , Potter
Goal: MacKenzie 53
Colchester United: Williams, Okuonghae, Gillispie, Bond, Odejayi (Coker 61), Henderson, Eastman, Wilson, James (Izzet 71), White, Duguid (c).
Subs not used: Rose, Baldwin, O'Toole.
Booked: Okuonghae, Gillespie
Referee: Carl Berry (Surrey)
Attendance: 7, 892 (409 away)