Stevenage ended MK Dons’ unbeaten home League record as Lucas Akins produced the only goal of the game at stadiummk.
Akins fired the Boro into the lead in the first half and could have doubled the visitors’ lead within minutes had it not been for a fine block from David Martin. After the break the Dons pushed and pushed to find an equaliser, but failed to find the much-wanted goal.
A string of saves from Scott Arnold brought great frustrations for the Dons as the Boro goalie denied Luke Chadwick, Stephen Gleeson and Scott Allan and prevented the home side from taking a point from the Three Counties rivals.
The Dons made one change to the side who drew with Preston last week with Jay O’Shea coming in for Dean Bowditch, who picked up a knock in training on Friday. With Daniel Powell still out through injury and Gary MacKenzie ruled out for three months following hip surgery, the Dons were unable to name a full bench.
Stevenage travelled to MK1 in second place but only three points clear of the Dons, and with the two teams set-up in the same fluid 4-2-3-1 formation the signs indicated to a tight encounter. It was certainly a
slow burning start at stadiummk with one of the earliest chances falling to Mathias Kouo-Doumbe, with his head bandaged up following the five stitches he received at Preston, glancing Jon Otsemobor’s cross just wide.
Scott Allan, playing behind lone striker Alan Smith, looked lively in midfield as he cut inside to curl a long-range effort into the arms of Steve Arnold. It was the Dons who were dominating the play although Stevenage looked dangerous on the break especially with Akins in their ranks.
Luke Chadwick, who had an early half-hearted penalty appeal turned down by the referee, was working in his usual hassling style and won the ball in midfield thanks to a mistake from James Dunne. The midfielder released his team-mates and the ball eventually fell to the feet of Stephen Gleeson who riffled a fierce shot which was excellently tipped away by Arnold.
It was however, the visitors who broke the deadlock in the 27th minute when Mark Roberts’ hard work to win the ball from Smith paid dividends. The Boro defender muscled his way through midfield to find Akins on the left, the tricky winger then twisted his way through the Dons, turning one way and then the next, before unleashing his shot into the top corner.
Akins could have had a second moments later when a cross from the left wasn’t fully-cleared and he was allowed to sent a low shot goal-bound, which was well-blocked by Martin.
The Dons were hunting for an equaliser, but Allan was left red-faced when his attempt at goal flew wide as he lost his footing. But Chadwick did his best to inspire the Dons as his mazy run allowed him through the Boro defence, but Arnold continued to show his great form as he switched from diving to his right to get low to his left instead and deny the Dons.
The former Manchester United midfielder was at the heart of most of the Dons’ positive play and he looked set to score when he ran on to a lopped the ball over the defence by Gleeson. But as luck, or bad luck would have it Chadwick’s header was parried by Arnold onto his own defender Roberts, who was the amble to scramble back to clear off the line.
Minutes before the break the Dons were applying pressure once more when Chadwick’s high cross was headed over by Smith.
Kicking towards the Cowshed in the second half, the Dons had an early chance when Shaun Williams’ corner found an unmarked Darren Potter, who headed straight down the throat of Arnold.
The Dons were in the ascendancy and pushing forward, when Chadwick whipped the ball into the box Gleeson was just one step ahead and was unable to make contact.
While the Dons were hungry for an equaliser it just wasn’t working for them which prompted a brave and bold decision to make a triple substitution by Robinson.
Adam Chicksen, Ryan Lowe and Charlie MacDonald were all introduced as the Dons went to three at the back with Chicksen taking up a place on the left of midfield and Lowe and MacDonald moving up front.
The impact of Chicksen brought some positivity for the Dons as the fans increased their noise and Stevenage gave away corner after corner trying to clear the defender’s crosses. One of which brought in a fine inswinger from Williams and a diving header from Lewington forced Arnold to save low.
With the Dons pushing men forward they were always in danger of leaving themselves exposed in defence, which is why the Boro looked happy to soak up the pressure. When Stevenage were presented with a free-kick in a central position just 25-yards out the signs were ominous for the Dons but Martin reacted well to save Greg Tansey’s effort and keep alive the Dons’ hopes of getting something from the game.
Chicksen was yet again looked to be a key creator for the Dons as he found Allan on the left of midfielder who put his laces through the ball to force a superb fingertip save from Arnold.
Stevenage hit the Dons on the counterattack looking to deliver the hammer blow with Robbie Rogers breaching the Dons’ defence before Chadwick made an excellent block on the line to deny Akins a second
before Martin made a save on the follow-up.
Time ultimately ran out for the Dons and they were left to lick their wounds as Stevenage brought an end to their home record and their run of seven games without defeat.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Otsemobor (Chicken 62), Kouo-Doumbe, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Chadwick, Allan, O’Shea (MacDonald 62); Smith (Lowe 62).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Kay.
Stevenage (4-2-3-1): Arnold; Gray, N’Gala, Roberts (c), Charles; Tansey, Dunne; Akins, Morais (Rogers82), Freeman (Risser 72); Haber.
Subs not used: Day, Ball, Iro, Lopez, Shroot.
Referee: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire)
Attendance: 9,190 (1,019 away)
Goal-Don Goal times: 1st goal - 26.18