MK Dons moved to within eight points of the League 1 play-offs with six games remaining as they beat promotion-hopefuls Brentford 2-0 at stadiummk.
Dean Bowditch’s 12th goal of the season put the Dons in front in the 14th minute but they had to dig their heels in battle for every second against a hungry Bees side before Stephen Gleeson made sure of the victory five minutes from time.
A resolute Dons defence remained firm to deny Brentford time after time with Harry Forrester seeing efforts saved by Ian McLoughlin and both Marcello Trotta and Bradley Wright-Phillips seeing efforts in front of goal fall off-target.
It was a huge effort from the hosts to claim all three points and keep Brentford out of the game. The result ensures the Dons’ play-offs hopes remain in place with six huge games ahead of them.
The Dons made one change to the side which won at Hartlepool on Good Friday with Alan Smith making way for Chris Lines. In Brentford, the Dons faced an opposition who were aiming to build on their run of three victories at home and push into an automatic promotion place.
The visitors came to stadiummk to play attacking football, and the Dons were soon on the back foot when Clayton Donaldson ran at the defence and, following a clearance from Shaun Williams, looped a high ball into the box which was met by Jonathan Douglas but Ian McLoughlin, after an initial block, was able to collect.
Brentford were quick at getting players forward to weave their way through the Dons’ defence all too easily. However, it was the hosts who broke the deadlock in the 14th minute when Bowditch created a moment of magic out of very little.
The forward ran with the ball at his feet before cutting inside before sweetly striking a curling a swerving thunderbolt over the Bees defence. Brentford goalie Simon Moore appeared to see the ball very late and was left to watch as it nestled into the net.
Despite Brentford starting the livelier, it was the Dons who carried the lead and it sparked end-to-end play at stadiummk. The fast-paced nature of the game made excellent viewing for supporters, with both sides clearly desperate not to drop points.
Harry Forrester, whose younger brother Remy is a Dons youth team player, did well to find space at the edge of the box yet could do little more than drill a low effort straight into the grateful arms of McLoughlin.
The midfielder stung McLoughlin’s palms once more on the half-an-hour mark when another quick break from the Bees saw Forrester flash a point-blank shot which the Irishman’s fingertips lifted over the bar.
The Dons had their backs against the wall with Chicksen, Shaun Williams, Mathias Kouo-Doumbe and Jon Otsemobor being kept particularly busy. When they had the chance to break though, the Dons were not afraid to get men forward and when Chicksen popped up on the left wing he was able to cross the ball in for Bamford, but the forward could only guide his header inches over the bar.
Back down the other end, Brentford should have found themselves level five minutes before the break when Marcello Trotta found himself in acres of space down the right-hand side only to wasteful blaze his shot well-wide.
As half-time approached it was the Dons’ turn to have a go at goal when Lines, playing in a more attacking role in the middle of the three supporting players, drove from deep in midfielder to pick out Bamford on the right of the box who, after beating two defenders, turned his shot against the post and wide.
Uwe Rosler decided to shake his team up at half-time by bringing on Bradley Wright-Phillips, son of Dons’ part-time first team coach Ian Wright, in place of Trotta. The former Charlton striker should have levelled the score when he was found a yard-out but lifted his header straight over the bar.
The Dons had to pack men behind the ball in an attempt to stop the Bees’ continuous threat in front of goal. It meant Lowe was isolated up front at times so Robinson brought the Liverpudlian off in place of Daniel Powell and Bamford, with bags of pace, moved into the lone striker role.
Moments after the switch Brentford found themselves in shooting distance of the Dons’ goal once more and it was Toumani Diagouraga who watched his shot fly wide.
The Dons needed a second goal to make the scoreline more comfortable but chances were few and far between. When Powell threaded a fantastic ball to release Bamford in the box the striker weaved his way past two defenders only to turn his effort into the body of Moore.
At the opposite end substitute Antonio German beat the offside trap on the edge of the area, but an excellent tackle by Otsemobor denied the forward a one-on-one opportunity at goal.
To see out the final 10 minutes, the Dons made their final substitution of the game with Smith replacing Bamford in an attempt to add the extra steel they needed to keep the scoreline intact.
It was set to be a mammoth effort from the home side though as the visitors kept their belief in finding an equaliser and piled men forward when the opportunity came.
But, the Dons still had fuel in their own tank and when the opportunity to break arose Potter found Gleeson on the edge of the box and the midfielder unleashed a screamer to give the hosts the much-needed second and with it the Dons ensure the three points stayed at MK1.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Otsemobor, Kouo-Doumbe, Williams, Chicksen; Potter, Gleeson (c); Bamford (Smith 79), Lines, Bowditch (Chadwick 62); Lowe (Powell 59).
Subs not used:Baldock, Alli, Galloway.
Goals: Bowditch 14, Gleeson 85
Brentford: Moore, Forshaw, Craig, Dean, Douglas (c), Donaldson (German 67), Trotta (Wright-Phillips 46), Logan, Forrester (Saunders 71), Diagouraga, Bidwell.
Subs not used: Gounet (GK), Adeyemi, Hodson, Reeves.
Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 10,455 (2,030 away)
Goal-Don Goal times: 1st goal - 13.58; 2nd goal - 84.34