MK Dons recorded their first win away from home since the end of August as they recorded a solid 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux Stadium.
Goals from Patrick Bamford and Ben Reeves lifted the Dons from their recent slump in the League – which saw them win just one in six games – and stunned automatic promotion hunters Wolves on their own turf.
There were so many positives for the Dons to take from the match; not only did they get the result they so desperately needed but a strong performance came too. From David Martin, through the defence, the two cogs in Stephen Gleeson and Darren Potter and the attacking four, the Dons were finally on their A-Game.
It was the Dons of old who were strong in defence, dominant in midfield and creative going forward. Karl Robinson will have been delighted with his players’ determination and will hope to see more of the same over the coming weeks.
The Dons made two changes to the side which beat Dover Athletic in the FA Cup a week earlier with former Wolves midfielder Potter returning from suspension and Dale Jennings back after missing out through being Cup-tied, which meant Alan Smith and Jason Banton dropped to the bench.
The two clubs went into the game in contrasting fortunes with the Dons looking for their first League win in over a month. Robinson’s side started brightly with both Patrick Bamford and Jennings calling on Carl Ikeme in the opening five minutes, albeit with tame efforts.
David Martin, on the other hand, was given a sterner test as 10 minutes registered on the clock when Bakary Sako ghosted into space on the left-hand side to carve open an opportunity for the hosts. Sako cut inside to find James Henry who duly sent a swerving effort goal-bound only for Martin to expertly tip around the post.
It was a stark warning sign for the Dons that even a momentary concentration slip could cause a whole host of problems for the visitors.
When Sako was found with the ball back at his feet he turned Lee Hodson inside out as he breached the Dons’ box only to fail to deliver the end product with a rash shot which flew several yards wide.
The Dons had to weather a tame storm from Wolves which offered a lot in midfield before the threat dried up in the final third. However, a mistake by Jordan Spence on the edge of the box gift-wrapped a shot at goal for the hosts but Kevin Doyle’s low strike was well-blocked by Martin.
Wolves’ composure in front of goal would have caused some concern for manager Kenny Jackett when Scott Golbourne’s superb work to tear down the left wing was wasted when the inch-perfect delivery was met by a snatch-effort by Leigh Griffiths and the air-kick was quickly cleared by the Dons.
Robinson’s men had been patiently soaking up the play and hitting their hosts on the counter-attack. The best opportunity to note came when Bamford’s race to the byline drew the defender in and left space for Ben Reeves, who the ball was cut back to, to lay the ball on for Potter but the former Wolves man couldn’t prevent his shot from rising over.
Soon after, though, the Dons did find a way to breach the Wolves backline when Carruthers’ through ball was calmed rolled under the body of Ikeme by Bamford, who netted his 14th goal of the season in the process of giving the men from MK1 the lead.
Taking a lead in at half-time would have been a huge boost for the Dons but they almost didn’t make it that far when Sako showed a clean pair of heels once again to get away from Gleeson at whip the ball into acres of space in the box. Fortunately for the Dons Shaun Williams made it back in time to make a superb interception to get on the ball before Griffiths could bundle it past Martin.
The hosts began the second half with a double substitution seeing Sako and Griffiths replaced by Michael Jacobs and Liam McAlinden. The Dons found themselves defending after the interval when Spence made a great tackle only for the ball to stay in the box for Doyle to send a striker inches over the bar.
However, it was the Dons who were celebrating after five minutes when Reeves was afforded time and space on the ball and from 20-yards the former Southampton midfielder, who seems to relish life as a number 10, found a superb Christmas cracker of a goal as he picked out the top corner for his fourth goal of the season.
The Molineux crowd grew increasingly frustrated with mis-placed paces from their side and for allowing the Dons the opportunity to play the creative football they have desperately lacked for a number of weeks.
In fact, Robinson’s men should have extended their lead further when Bamford twisted his way into space only to lack the firepower needed to truly test Ikeme.
When Carruthers was caught on the ball in midfield it gave Wolves an opportunity to turn defence into attack but once more their touch in the final third proved the downfall as McAlinden fired wde rather than placing an effort on target. Dave Edwards was also left infuriated when he turned a good cross straight at Martin in goal.
As expected, the hosts tried to bite back with strong period of dominance in the match and they did have the ball in the back of the net thanks to McAlinden in the 69th minute, only to be ruled out by the lineman’s flag.
McAlinden had the impact Jackett had intended with a host of chances to pull the home side back into the game yet once again Martin was on hand to make the block needed to keep a two-goal lead intact.
The clean sheet will have meant as much to the Dons as the three points on the board and Dons fans will hope the result will act as a spring board to get the side back into the play-off hunt.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Ikeme, Ricketts (c), Batth, Stearman, Golbourne, Henry, McDonald (Cassidy 89), Edwards, Sako (Jacobs 46), Doyle, Griffiths (McAlinden 46).
Subs not used: Hennessey (GK), Ebanks-Landell, Davis, Price.
Booked: McDonald, Bako
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Hodson, Spence, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Carruthers (Smith 78), Reeves (Galloway 90), Jennings (Baldock 56); Bamford.
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Banton, Kay.
Goals: Bamford 31, Reeves 50
Attendance: 17,142 (away 755)