MK Dons’ three-game goal drought came to an emphatic end as they brushed aside struggling Scunthorpe United with a 3-0 win at Glanford Park.
Luke Chadwick was the man to put an end to the Dons’ woes in front of goal as he bagged a first half brace – the second of which was a stunning curling strike from outside the box. And Alan Smith, who turns 32 on Sunday, joined in on the action in the second half as the Dons eased to victory.
Chadwick was denied his first hat-trick for the Dons when Iron goalkeeper Sam Slocombe saved his penalty in the 82nd minute.
The result had far more positives than just three points as the Dons picked up confidence in front of goal, kept a clean sheet and ensured they head into the break for the FA Cup with a victory.
The Dons made two changes to the side which lost at Crawley Town in midweek with Alan Smith coming into the starting XI to lead the line and Stephen Gleeson returning into midfield, which resulted in Shaun Williams moving back to centreback alongside Antony Kay.
Under-pressure Scunthorpe boss Alan Knill was without his leading goal scorer Leon Clarke who failed to make the matchday squad due to illness.
In the murkiness of the relegation zone, the Iron would have been hoping to take advantage of the Dons’ recent dip in form. However, it was the visitors who looked more likely to score in the opening ten minutes with Luke Chadwick racing through the left flank before cutting back to Darren Potter.
The midfielder had acres of space but his hurried shot dragged well wide and let the Iron off the ropes. Angelo Balanta and Chadwick were the Dons’ liveliest threats in the early stages yet little came in the way of clear-cut chances in front of goal.
The Iron had their own spell of pressure but a lack of confidence in the side appeared evident before Mark Duffy tried to grab the game by the scruff of the neck when he made his way through the Dons defence and forced an excellent point-blank save from David Martin.
In the 17th minute though, the deadlock was broken at Glanford Park and with it the Dons’ drought in front of goal – which had lasted three games – was also brought to an end. Scunthorpe were hesitant as Dean Lewington pushed on from his left-back position and the skipper was able to fire in a deep cross.
Iron goalie Sam Slocombe was caught in two minutes, eventually parrying the ball into the path of Chadwick, who was unchallenged by the defence as he tucked the ball into the far corner. The sense of relief was evident from the players and fans alike in the resulting celebration.
However, the Iron were quick to try and hit back with Martin forced to concede a corner after a long lob at the re-start. The Dons were still in clear control though, as Antony Kay and Williams looks at ease in defence and the visitors’ looked a threat when they broke forward.
And like buses, once the Dons had scored one goal a second wasn’t too far away with Chadwick causing problems for the home side. The winger’s movement allowed him to pick up the ball from 20-yards to curl a superb shot beyond Slocombe.
Iron could have been even further down had their goalkeeper not been alert when Powell was released and forced two solid stops from Slocombe. The Dons winger was then forced off after appearing to pick up a knock, which meant Adam Chicksen
came on to take up a role on the left of midfield while Balanta shuffled to the right.
The important thing for Robinson’s men was not to feel complacent with the scoreline in the second half, especially against a side who are desperate for three points. Josh Walker tried to initiate the fight back for the hosts shortly after the break when he tested Martin with an ambitious long-range shot.
The Iron looked dangerous in the early phases of the second half; David Mirfin sent a header over the bar before Walker sent a free-kick over in a strong period for the home side.
Walker was the brightest spark on claret and blue, causing the Dons a number of problems. Another 20-yard effort at goal caused a moment of panic for the Dons as Martin, at full stretch, turned the ball away.
The Dons though, had more in the tank and when Scunthorpe failed to clear a Balanta corner from the left they quickly paid the price as Lewington whipped the ball back into the six-yard box for Smith to turn in his first goal of the season.
Robinson’s men were taking the game in their stride; with the shackles off they were able to play without the pressure that has being weighing them down in recent weeks and as a result looked comfortable and confident.
Chadwick appeared focused on finding his third of the match as he fired a shot across goal, which fell just wide.
Dons were knocking on the door for a fourth with Chicksen seeing a close-range shot blocked, Jon Otsemobor unable to connect with a header at the far post and Potter blasting wide as they upped the ante.
A chance for the hat-trick came late on for Chadwick when Mirfin’s trip on Balanta was deemed worthy of a penalty by referee Dean Whitestone. The vote went in the favour of Chadwick to take the spot-kick, but unfortunately for the midfielder keeper Slocombe guessed correctly and pushed the ball around his left post.
It didn’t stop the Dons looking for a fourth though as Stephen Gleeson unleashed a well-drilled shot wide and both Ryan Lowe and Williams forced saved from the Iron goalie.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Ribeiro, Walker, Mirfin, Reid (c), Jennings (Ryan 71), Duffy, Collins, Newey, Hawley, Prutton (Grella 64).
Subs not used: Severn, Kennedy, Gibbons, Canavan, Keegan.
MK Dons: Martin; Otsemobor, Kay, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Powell (Chicksen 37), Chadwick (O’Shea 84), Balanta; Smith (Lowe 75).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, MacDonald, Alli.
Booked: Kay, Smith
Goals: Chadwick 17, 30, Smith 60
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 2,737 (164 away)