Dean Bowditch bagged a hat-trick as MK Dons disposed of bottom-of-the-table Bury with a dominant 4-1 win at Gigg Lane.
Bowditch opened his League account in the 33rd minute with a superb volley before adding two cool finishes in the second half to clinch his second career treble and seal a comfortable three points for the Dons.
A late loss of concentration allowed Lenell John-Lewis to deny the Dons a clean sheet when he took advantage of David Martin’s bold decision to leave the area for a collection, but resulted in the Dons goalie fishing the ball out of the net. Yet it was the Dons who ended the game on a high as Luke Chadwick, who had covered every inch of grass, side-footed an injury-time fourth for the visitors.
It was a minor blemish on a strong run out ahead of the Capital One Cup encounter with Premier League Sunderland on Tuesday.
On paper it always should have been an easy three points for Karl Robinson’s men as they came up against managerless Bury, who are still searching for their first win of the season. But with the Dons also hunting their first away League win of the campaign and recent struggles for goals, the Dons could not afford to approach the game in a relaxed manner.
In short spells the Shakers put up a fight, but in truth the Dons always appeared comfortable in the game and once Bowditch netted his first there seemed to be a slim chance of Bury clawing their way back.
Dons made two changes to the side which drew 1-1 with Notts County in midweek with Dean Bowditch and Jay O’Shea coming in for Daniel Powell and Gary MacKenzie, who failed a late fitness test. Charlie MacDonald was given the nod to start up front ahead of former Shakers striker Ryan Lowe.
The home quickly pressed the Dons, hoping a bright start would bode well in their attempts to find their first win of the season. Their first opportunity to test their visitors came in the sixth minute when Peter Sweeney’s free-kick was superbly met by Mark Hughes, but the defender almost caught the ball too well as he powered a header off-target when a glancing header would have potentially beaten David Martin.
The Dons’ passing completion in the opening phases was impressive as they played around their hosts who were quick draft a wall of bodies in front of goal to keep the Dons at bay.
After a string of corners the Dons were still not able to find a way through the Bury defence, and Bury were gifted a route through to the Dons’ penalty area moments later. Shaun Williams tried to nod the ball away from the pressing Tom Hooper yet found himself backtracking as the ball fell into his path and it was left to a sliding challenge from Jon Otsemobor to deny the striker a shot at goal.
It was an all-too-familiar story for Karl Robinson’s side as the dominated possession, had their hosts on the back-foot but continued to find life in front of goal nothing but frustrating.
O’Shea’s movement was impressive as he linked up with his teammates, playing in and around the box as Luke Chadwick kept the ball in at the left byline, before Dean Lewington produced a fine pass to O’Shea, stood in a similar position to where he scored against Notts County, the winger rolled the ball into the grateful arms of Trevor Carson.
In the flick of a switch, Hooper burst free from the Dons defence to rifle a fierce effort at goal which Martin was able to tip over at the last second.
At the half-an-hour mark there appeared to be slight frustrations creeping into the side, but all it took was a moment of magic from Bowditch to ease the pressure on the Dons were placing on themselves.
The move started with Lewington on the left who brought O’Shea into play, and in turn the winger found Chadwick running at the left of the Dons’ box. The former Manchester United midfielder delivered the perfect cross for Bowditch to turn a first-time, left-footed volley into the back of the net.
It was a superb display of technique from Bowditch, who almost had a second five minutes later when his effort from Lewington’s cross was pushed onto the post by Carson. In the melee both MacDonald and Shakers defender Adam Lockwood appeared to suffer knocks to the head and after treatment both players were substituted.
With MacDonald off the pitch it allowed former Shakers goal-hero Lowe to be introduced and he received a warm reception from the home fans as he entered the pitch.
Dons were dealt a further blow before the break when Otsemobor pulled up and Robinson was forced into his second substitution of the game with Mathias Kouo-Doumbe taking up the right-back position.
Bury came out of the traps in the second half with a little more fizz about their play, which encouraged a more vocal reaction from their fans. However, the Dons were, at times, too good for their hosts.
When the ball found Lowe on the right Bury fans were fearing the worst from their old striker, and rightly so. Lowe chipped an excellent cross to Chadwick on the left of the box, but he was denied by a fine save from Carson. The pressure did not end their though as O’Shea saw his follow-up blocked before Bowditch finally tucked a low shot beyond the despairing Shakers’ keeper.
Lowe looked desperate to get on the score sheet himself and when he picked up a long ball just outside the area he took a number of steps before sending his shot against the right post.
A third came the Dons’ way though, when a quick free-kick caught Bury off-guard and allowed Bowditch to ghost through the backline to race onto the ball. Bowditch cut his way through the box and cooly chipped his hat-trick strike into the back of the net.
Bowditch was given a standing ovation from the travelling fans as he came off for Daniel Powell for a well-earned rest.
The Dons continued to press for more goals but by doing so left themselves dangerously exposed at the back and when Shakers thumped a long, hopeful ball down field Martin took the risky decision to race out of his area.
Martin was too late to the ball and John-Lewis, despite the pressure from the Dons goalie, lobbed a consolation from 20-yards which Antony Kay could not clear in time. The Dons were under a period of pressure in the closing stages, but still had the last word when Lowe squared the ball for Chadwick to tuck home, a deserved return for a fine performance.
The Dons would have been disappointed to drop their guard but ultimately pleased to see their travel sickness cured.
Bury: Carson, Skarz, Lockwood (Marshall 39), Sweeney (Worrall 59), Schumacher (c), Carrington, Sodje, Hughes, Jones, Healy, Hopper.
Subs not used: Byrne, John-Lewis, Elford-Alliyu, Cullen, Belford.
Goal: John-Lewis 81
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Otsemobor (Kouo-Doumbe 45), Kay, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch (Powell 71), Chadwick, O’Shea; MacDonald (Lowe 41).
Subs not used: McLoughin, Smith, Chicksen.
Goals: Bowditch 33, 55, 67, Chadwick 90
Referee: Mark Haywood
Attendance: 2,321 (179 away)