Charlie MacDonald’s second goal of the season ensured MK Dons maintained their unbeaten home League record as they beat Crewe Alexandra 1-0 at stadiummk.
It was the narrowest of victories in terms of score line for the Dons, but in reality Karl Robinson’s men should have had the three points wrapped up by half-time.
The Dons, who are now up to third in the table, were at their footballing best in the first half as they dominated the opening 45 minutes, limiting their opponents to touches, let alone chances. Yet, the never managed to kill off the Railwaymen which set up a nervy second half.
Crewe had more fight in them after the break and would have been disappointed to leave Milton Keynes without a share of the points, but the Dons will look forward to a big week with games against Coventry and Portsmouth on the horizon.
The Dons made three changes to the side which bowed out of the Capital One Cup in midweek with David Martin returning to goal after a bout of illness, while Charlie MacDonald and Jay O’Shea also found a place in the starting XI.
There was room on the bench for Scotland Under-21 international Scott Allan, who completed a loan signing from West Bromwich Albion in time to be eligible for the match.
The tradition of Crewe’s style of football, added with the Dons’ slick style of play indicated that stadiummk would be treated to an open and attractive game between the two sides.
Robinson’s men showed their class in the opening phases with their fluid on-the-deck passing carving open the Alexandra defence with ease. Their dominance was for all to see, with Crewe seeing very little of the ball, as Dean Bowditch strolled down the flank to drive a low cross into the box and with the slightest of touches poacher MacDonald turned the ball home.
It was total football from the Dons and the home side fully deserved their eighth minute lead.
In fact, the Dons could and should have extended their lead further when Stephen Gleeson chipped a fine ball over the defence but Luke Chadwick struggled to control the ball and the chance was gone.
Dean Lewington, shortly after receiving treatment for a knock to the head, then flashed a cross into the box for MacDonald, yet Crewe defender Harry Davis did well cut out the delivery before the Dons striker could get there.
Slowly Alexandra found their feet and stepped up to the pace of the game but struggled to battle beyond the Dons’ defence. When Byron Moore won a free-kick to the left of the Dons box it appeared to be their first chance to call on David Martin, but the Dons were quick to deal with the threat.
For all of their possession and dominance in the game, the Dons still only possessed a one-goal cushion. Bowditch did his best to change that when he linked up with Potter outside the area and forced a low save from Alan Martin. Meanwhile MacDonald’s long-range shot bounced inches wide.
Dons were sloppy at the re-start with Ajay Leitch-Smith found Max Clayton in the box but he couldn’t get the connection needed to trouble David Martin and just moments later Luke Murphy threaded the ball through the Dons defence for Leitch-Smith.
A deft touch took him past David Martin, but on this occasion the post rescued the Dons as the ball bounced off the upright and the defence were able to clear.
Crewe created more chances in the early phases of the second half than they had in the entire first half – this time Moore picked up the ball and cut inside to shoot, but Antony Kay made the block to deflect the effort out for a corner.
The Dons’ passing almost played them into to trouble on the hour-mark when a sloppy back pass by fell straight into the path of Moore, who looked certain to score with only the ‘keeper t beat. David Martin, however, had other plans as he bravely left his line, made himself a big presence and the Crewe man struck his effort directly at the Dons goalie.
A second goal was needed for the Dons to ease the pressure, and when Daniel Powell was brought on he added a new dimension to their attack. The winger powered through the right to play a low cross into the box, unfortunately for the Dons though it evaded both MacDonald and Bowditch, who both desperately tried to tap-in from close range.
In the 71st minute, still looking to double their lead, the Dons introduced their newest recruit Allan to inject something new to the game which had suffered a dip in tempo and excitement.
The West Brom midfielder had an early impact as, within minutes, he hassled for the ball from Crewe’s Kelvin Mellor and quickly broke into the box and fired a strong shot at Alan Martin. Soon after, he had a second chance when he reached the 20-yard mark and sent a dipping shot just over the bar.
The tense atmosphere showed no sign of lifting as Crewe broke on the counter-attack through Moore and Mathias Pogba was afforded the space to ghost into the box to meet the cross from the right, but the Crewe man hit his effort first-time, when controlling it first would have been the wiser option, and blasted wide.
Chances were being created at either end, the Alexandra defence failed to clear Bowditch’s corner as Lewington header was pushed away by Alan Martin on the line. At the opposite end, David Martin’s attempts to prevent Pogba from scoring resulted in a clash of bodies, and the effort falling wide.
It should have been easier for the Dons, but having climbed up the table the victory alone will be the most pleasing aspect for the men from MK1.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): D Martin; Chicksen, Kay, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch, Chadwick (Allan 71), O’Shea (Powell 61); MacDonald (Lowe 82).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Kouo-Doumbe, Smith.
Crewe Alexandra : A Martin, Tootle (Turton 79), Davis, Ellis, Clayton (Colclough 68), Murphy (c), Leitch-Smith (Pogba 63), Moore, Mellor, Robertson, Bond.
Subs not used: Garratt, Guthrie, Ray, Daniels.
Attendance: 11, 037 (768 away)
Referee: James Adcock (Nottinghamshire)
Goal-Don Goal times: 1st goal – 07:43