Laura Mills scored twice to ensure MK Dons Ladies secured the win against local rivals Luton Town.
Mills put the Dons ahead within 11 minutes, after Abbie Roberts played her through on goal with an accurate pass which bypassed Luton’s defence.
Anna Loftus created Mills’ second goal with a long pass from midfield, which Mills took one touch of before firing it past a charging goalkeeper.
Luton mounted their comeback in the second-half, winning a penalty six minutes after the restart. Joanne Rutherford stepped up and calmly slotted the penalty home, to shorten the Dons’ lead to only one goal.
The Dons, though, withstood heavy pressure from the Hatters to stay in the lead. Mills nearly sealed the win early by grabbing her hat-trick, but her shot from inside the box with under 10 minutes to go was denied by the post.
Despite not grabbing the third goal, the Dons earned all three points ahead of their next league game away to Norwich City.
It was a physical start to the game, with both sides trying to dominate possession in the early stages.
The first chance fell to the Hatters, after they won the first corner of the game. Sav Smith was able to get a hand to the ball, allowing time for Alice Hughes to clear the danger.
The Dons then went ahead shortly after thanks to an accurate through ball by Roberts which found Mills. Mills ran the ball into the box, before blasting the ball into the top right corner.
After the goal, the Dons had a couple of chances to double their lead quickly through Loftus. First, Amelia Hazard found Mills on the wing who crossed it to Loftus, where she won the header but could not direct it towards goal. Loftus was then played through on goal by a pinpoint Charley Clarke pass, but could not get her effort on target.
The Hatters followed up with two good opportunities of their own. Smith was called into action to deny a shot from close range by narrowing the angle successfully. The Hatters then had a free-kick from 30-yards out, which only just whizzed past the left post.
From the resulting goal kick, Smith cleared the ball up the field and it found its way to Loftus. Loftus accurately knocked the ball into the path of Mills, who took one touch before firing it home to make it 2-0 at half-time.
Luton came out for the second-half determined to turn the game around, winning several corners in a matter of minutes. The Dons successfully dealt with those dangers, but Burgess was deemed to have committed a foul inside the box within six minutes of the restart. Rutherford took the penalty for the Hatters, and calmly made the most of the opportunity, firing the ball into the goal.
The Hatters pushed for the equaliser which forced Roberts, Vicky Holland and Sasha Newsome into some last ditch defending.
Mills could have made it comfortable for the Dons, after her side successfully played her through on goal from a counter-attack. However, she attempted to curl the ball into the top left corner of the goal from just inside the box – instead it smacked the left post and was cleared.
The Dons were limited to shots from distance, with Hughes and Dawn Mallett trying their luck but not really testing Luton’s keeper.
Despite the heavy pressure from the Hatters, the Dons’ defence stood firm and they held on for a 2-1 win.
Speaking after the game, James Honeyman was happy with the three points against such a tough opponent. He said: “First-half we were absolutely fantastic, we executed everything we wanted to do.
“In the second-half we kind of let it slip a little bit and they came back into the game. We knew they would come out in the second-half firing, but to be 2-0 up against a good side is really great.”
Honeyman thinks Luton grabbing an early second-half goal through a penalty affected the way his side played. He explained: “It kind of sparked them into action a little bit.
“We were okay managing the game. We knew and said at half-time, if they get one back before 70th or 80th minute, this was going to be a very long half and that’s exactly what they did.
“It may not have changed the game, but it spurred them on, meaning we had to drop deeper.”
The win means the Dons stay second in the league, four points behind current leaders AFC Wimbledon.
Starting XI: Smith, Newsome, Roberts, Holland, Burgess (Naylor78), Wright (Gillings 86), Hughes (c), Clarke, Hazard, Loftus (Mallett 72), Mills.
Unused subs: McDonnell, Doyle.
Goals: Mills (11, 32).