MK Dons bounced back from last weekend's disappointment in emphatic style, beating Stevanage 4-1 at stadiummk on Saturday afternoon.
A brace from Chelsea loanee Patrick Bamford, followed by a first career League goal from Dele Alli and a penalty from Shaun Williams, saw Karl Robinson's side return to winning ways and extend their unbeaten run at home to six games. Darren Potter did give the visitors a lifeline in the first half with an unfortunate own goal but it didn't prevent the Dons from climbing back into the play-off places on goal difference.
The Dons made two changes to the side which lost 2-1 to Peterborough United last weekend with 17-year-old Alli returning to the starting XI along with Lee Hodson. Alli, who will link up with England Under-18s next month, took the place of the injured Samir Carruthers on the left-hand side of the attacking trio while Hodson came in for Jon Otsemobor in a straight swap at right-back.
It was the visitors, who had only won once in their opening eight League games, who had the first glimpse of goal inside of two minutes but after controlling a high ball, Michael Doughty volleyed harmlessly over David Martin’s crossbar.
Alli then had the Dons’ opening chance of the match in his first League start for six weeks, a low shot coming off the left-hand wing which was smothered by Chris Day at his near post, before Bamford headed Williams’ dinked cross just wide of the post.
Bamford came into the game looking to extend his impressive run of scoring in every home game this season and when he was presented with a similar opportunity just ten minutes later, he wasn’t going to be denied a second time.
Again from a Williams cross, the Chelsea loanee climbed above his marker at the far post to guide the ball home, via the post, to add another to his goal tally and put the Dons in front.
With last week’s disappointing result, no doubt, still fresh in the memory of Robinson’s side, they looked eager to put this game to bed as early as possible and they all but did that in the space of a 60 seconds.
Firstly, 11 minutes after his opener, Bamford doubled the Dons’ advantage with a cool finish after Luke Chadwick’s perfect cutback. Chadwick did well down the left to get to the by-line before picking out Bamford who slotted home his second of the afternoon.
Then straight from the restart the Dons stole possession from their opponents and added a third courtesy of Alli, who showed great improvisation to sweep the ball past Day from Bamford’s pass to put Robinson’s men firmly in the driving seat.
Obviously keen to inflict even more damage on their frustrated opponents, the hosts continued to great chances and Chadwick could have added his name to the scoresheet five minutes before half-time had Peter Hartley not got back to clear after Bamford’s nod down.
Many could have been forgiven for the Dons if they had decided to sit back on their lead but the importance of adding another became evident when Stevenage were handed a lifeline just before the interval.
After Luke Freeman got the better of Hodson down the left, he drilled a low cross into the box and it was inadvertently turned into the net by Darren Potter, who left Martin with no chance of stopping it.
Keen not to allow their opponents any more opportunities to reduce the deficit further, the Dons began the second half on the front foot and they enjoyed plenty of possession deep in enemy territory inside the first five minutes. Stevenage looked content to soak up the pressure and try their luck on the counter and it almost worked when Tansey got a sight of goal on 50 minutes but, fortunately for the Dons, he fired his 25-yard shot off target.
Bamford was having plenty of luck in the air against the two Stevenage centre-halves from crosses and he went close to netting his hat-trick in a similar fashion to how he scored his first, only to see his try bounce just wide of the upright with Day beaten. Boro skipper Jon Ashton then missed a header of his own minutes later, after deep Michael Doughty's free-kick.
However, any nerves inside stadiummk vanished on the hour when the Dons were given the perfect opportunity to seal the victory after Alli was upended by Sam Wedgbury inside the Stevenage box. Referee Andy Woolmer didn't hesitate in pointing the spot and Williams duly converted to reinstate the three-goal advantage.
The comfortable lead allowed Robinson to introduce winger Daniel Powell, who was yet to feature this season prior to today. The 22-year-old suffered an ankle injury in training during the summer and has been forced to watch from the sidelines so far in 2013/14.
Alli, who looked a class above out on the left for the Dons, was forced off late-on after finding himself on the receiving end of a heavy tackle from Tansey but he received a standing ovation from the MK Dons supporters who didn't stop singing the entire second half.
It took until the 83rd minute for the visitors to have their first shot on target in the second half - a low drive from the bright Luke Freeman which could only find the post. Freeman then stung the hands of Martin with a powerful strike soon after but the Dons 'keeper gathered comfortably.
And comfortable would be a good word to describe the way in which the Dons saw out the rest of the game, although Tounkara will be kicking himself for not making it 4-2 after being played through one-on-one with David Martin.
MK Dons: Martin; Hodson, Kay, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter (Reeves 82), Gleeson; Green, Chadwick (Powell 69), Alli (McLeod 79); Bamford.
Subs not used: McLoughlin (GK), Otsemobor, Smith, Baldock.
Goals: Bamford 12, 22, Alli 23, Williams (pen) 61
Sent off: None
Stevenage: Day, Wedgbury, Hills (Cowan 46), Ashton (c), Dunne, Freeman, Tansey, Smith (Tounkara 69), Doughty (Shroot 90), Hartley, Deacon.
Subs not used: Arnold (GK), Jones, Heslop, Lopez.
Goals: Potter (O.G) 42
Sent off: None