MK Dons ended their 2012/13 campaign on a high with a 2-0 win over local rivals Stevenage.
Chelsea-loanee Patrick Bamford put the Dons in the first half with a glancing header and Ryan Lowe confirmed all three points would head back to MK1 12 minutes from time when he pounced on a defensive mix-up.
At times, the Dons rode their luck and Ian McLoughlin was called up on to make a number of blocks but clinical finishing from Karl Robinson’s side proved the difference on the day.
The Dons ended the season in an unfamiliar position as they were able to name an unchanged side to take on Stevenage, who also had nothing but pride to play for.
It meant another shift out of position for Shaun Williams as he filled in at left-back in the absence of injured duo Adam Chicksen
and Dean Lewington.
In his final game of his loan appearance, Patrick Bamford could have fired the visitors into the lead inside the opening three minutes when he broke free down the right wing to fire a tame shot at Chris Day. The goalie recovered after an initial spill but Boro defender Bonz N’Gala was injured in the melee and Stevenage were forced into their first substation after four minutes.
Soon after, Ian McLoughlin was called into action when Matt Ball drilled a low shot from 18-yards, yet the Irishman’s outstretched hands were able to prevent the hosts from gaining an early advantage.
While neither side had anything to play for, the game was competitive in the opening 15 minutes. The Dons tried their best to play their passing football around a strong Stevenage side, while the Boro showed more threat going forward in the early stages.
The Dons tried to find space across the pitch to play their football and when the ball was played through Luke Chadwick they looked a much more threatening prospect. A darting run from midfield allowed the playmaker to reach the edge of the area but the former Manchester United winger struggled to prevent his shot from rising over.
Robinson’s side were in control of proceedings but had to find the goal to make their possession count. Some excellent football from the Dons saw the ball pass through Chadwick, Bowditch, Potter and out to Williams on the wing before the Irishman whipped in an excellent delivery which Bamford was able to glance into the top corner.
The Dons’ lead should have been blown a matter of minutes later when Marcus Haber picked off a mistake by McLoughlin to feed Ball, but his snap-shot from 10-yards was straight at the goalie.
A phase of pressure came from Stevenage with Lucas Akins turning a header from Luke Freeman’s corner wide before McLoughlin blocked a close-range shot from Mark Roberts. The loose ball quickly found its way back to the Stevenage captain and from 10-yards he drove an effort woefully wide.
The half-time interval allowed the Dons to re-gather their composure and they were the brighter side in a scrappy second half. Although the visitors were in control they needed to up the tempo to cause their hosts more problems as the match began to have that ‘end of season’ feel about it.
Stevenage looked dangerous from their set-pieces and the Dons survived a huge scare when the ball was turned goal-bound from a corner, but Potter was able to clear on the line.
At the other end, Gleeson turned a low driver from distance at Day, the Boro goalie allowed the ball to bounce off his chest and it was left to Roberts to make a last-ditch clearance to prevent Bamford from scoring his second of the game.
Robinson took the opportunity to freshen up his side by introducing the experienced Ryan Lowe along with the inexperienced academy midfielder Dele Alli.
The substitutions provided more impetuous for the visitors and they went close to doubling their lead with 15 minutes from time when a Williams corner was met by Antony Kay, but the defender’s header was denied by a superb one-handed block by Day.
A mix-up between Day and Roberts, who had been off for treatment with a bloodied nose, allowed Lowe to pick up the ball inside the area before cutting in on his left foot and finishing in a composed fashion to double their lead.
Giorgio Rasulo was also brought on to see out the closing 10 minutes – and to pick up his League debut.
In injury time Rasulo almost capped his first League appearance off with a goal but the ball flashed passed the post.
In the end though, two goals proved the difference between the two sides and ensured that a disappointing season in the League was put to bed with a solid win and sealed a eighth place finish for the Dons.
Stevenage: Day, Gray, Charles, Dunne, Haber, Akins (N'Guessan 58), Roberts (c), Freeman, Ball (Tansey 69), Mahon, N'Gala.
Subs: Arnold (GK), Grant, Hoskins, Ehmer, Smith.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Otsemobor, Kouo-Doumbe, Kay, Williams; Potter, Gleeson (c) (Rasulo 80); Powell, Chadwick (Lowe 66), Bowditch; Bamford (Alli 71)
Subs: Smith, McLeod, Galloway, Lines.
Booked: Gleeson, Kay
Goal: Bamford 34, Lowe 77
Attendance: 3,801(843 away)