MK Dons began the 2018/19 season with 2-1 victory over Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park.
Kieran Agard struck a ninth-minute penalty to put Paul Tisdale’s side ahead before the striker turned provider for Ryan Harley to double the lead.
Oldham responded through Dan Gardner but MK Dons battled through to the final whistle to secure three points, despite losing three players to injury and playing the final few minutes with 10 men as a result.
Tisdale’s first starting XI as MK Dons manager included two debutants - Jordan Moore-Taylor and Jordan Houghton - as well as Alex Gilbey, who feels like a new signing this season having been sidelined since January due to injury.
On the bench, there was a place for Chuks Aneke, who returned to full training earlier this week, and Joe Walsh who, similarly to Gilbey, was back in the squad after seven months out.
Oldham worked their way into the area inside the opening 30 seconds but Ishamel Miller’s pass was intercepted by Harley. He quickly sent Peter Pawlett away down the left and the MK Dons number 11 drove towards the byline before sending in a cross - one aimed towards Kieran Agard - that was claimed by Daniel Iversen.
Referee Neil Hair, however, spotted a foul on Pawlett and awarded MK Dons a free-kick. Lewington delivered the set-piece over to Moore-Taylor but he headed above the crossbar with the game’s first shot.
A foul by Moore-Taylor on five minutes presented the Latics with a chance to test Lee Nicholls from a free-kick of their own. Instead of going for goal, the hosts tried a clever routine and that was quickly snuffed out by the men in red and gold.
Agard, playing up front on his own, won his side a corner in the seventh minute and from that set-piece, MK Dons were awarded a penalty courtesy of blatant pull on the shirt of George Williams.
Agard stepped up to take the spot kick and confidently fired the ball past Iversen to give Tisdale’s side an early lead. 0-1.
MK Dons earned themselves another corner soon after but weren’t able to create a scoring chance. Oldham then responded by winning their own corner but that was dealt with by Moore-Taylor.
It was a positive opening quarter of an hour for Tisdale but he suffered a blow when Pawlett was forced off with an injury. The midfielder appeared to pick up the knock early in the game and wasn’t able to shake it off, so was replaced by Robbie Simpson.
The visitors didn’t let the substitute affect them and they went straight on the attack, producing a chance for Conor McGrandles, who had made his way into the area. The midfielder, though, saw his shot blocked.
Nicholls was tested for the first time 60 seconds later when Dan Gardner sent a fierce drive his way from 20-yards out - the MK Dons goalkeeper stepped across his line to claim the effort.
Moore-Taylor then produced a stunning bit of defending to keep the hosts out - first, blocking a shot, then nicking the ball off a striker’s toes and then showing great strength to win possession inside the box.
Those defensive passages proved crucial as just a minute later, MK Dons doubled their lead through Harley.
The move started with Gilbey down the right, who spotted the run of Agard inside of him and picked him out with a neat pass. Agard, unselfishly, sent a ball across goal and Harley was there at the far post to convert - his first goal since returning to the Club. 0-2.
Substitute Simpson had a decent chance to make it three-nil in the 25th minute but he headed wide from Lewington’s in-swinging cross. Oldham responded through Sam Surridge, who fired over from 25-yards a minute after.
Nicholls was then forced into a save to keep out Giles Coke’s curling shot before his midfield teammate Rob Hunt sent one over from similar range.
With 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Simpson met a cross from Brittain but couldn’t direct his header on target. Agard then got behind the Oldham backline but his left-footed effort was blocked by a defender. Harley followed up but shot wide from the edge of the D.
Oldham pulled a goal back five minutes before half-time when MK Dons failed to deal with a ball on the edge of the area and Gardner pounced to fire a fierce right-footed strike past Nicholls. 1-2.
MK Dons tried to restore their two-goal advantage before half-time but Williams wasn’t able to send his volley towards goal from a Lewington free-kick.
In stoppage time, a vital touch from Williams inside his six-yard box prevented anybody in an Oldham shirt connecting with Miller’s low cross. Williams then got in the way of another drive from goalscorer Gardner.
MK Dons saw their lead through to the break and within 90 seconds of the re-start they almost extended it but McGrandles couldn’t beat Iversen after running free onto Agard’s cross. Credit to the Oldham goalkeeper for his save.
Ten minutes later, Latics substitute Gevaro Nepomuceno sent a left-footed effort wide of Nicholls’ left-hand post. It then took a crucial block from Williams to deny Surridge, who did well to meet Chris O’Grady’s cross, before Nepomuceno threatened once again with a drive which sailed just over.
Williams was at it again in the 64th minute, sweeping across well to prevent Surridge finding a wide open O’Grady on a Latics counter.
Tisdale made his second substitution shortly afterwards, replacing Gilbey with Walsh as MK Dons moved to a back five. The Welshmen was straight into the action, booked almost immediately for a foul on Oldham striker Surridge.
Walsh later made amends with a crucial clearance from an Oldham corner which was followed by a surging run forward - a run which resulted in a free-kick to MK Dons. Moore-Taylor went close to meeting the delivery from Lewington but the Latics cleared.
On 78 minutes, MK Dons almosted added a third goal following a quick breakaway forwards. Harley drove to the edge of the box and timed his lay-off for Brittain perfectly but the defender’s first-time strike was well saved by Iversen.
Nicholls didn’t have too much to do in the second half but he was there when called upon in the 83rd minute to gather a header from Surridge. MK Dons were then put under real pressure by their hosts but managed to weather the storm.
Simpson was forced off with five minutes to play due to cramp which saw Ousseynou Cisse enter the field to help MK Dons see out the remainder of the contest.
Oldham kept pushing and Moore-Taylor denied Surridge in the 88nd minute with a stunning slide tackle.
Four minutes of stoppage time were awarded by referee Hair and MK Dons were forced to play those additional minutes with 10 men after McGrandles was forced off on a stretcher due to an eye injury - the third MK Dons player to be withdrawn from the match.
The hosts tried to take advantage of their superior numbers and went close with a Nepomceno strike in the 97th minute. Nicholls, though, saved for MK Dons.
Oldham then had two late corners which saw goalkeeper Iversen come up from his net. However, the brilliant MK Dons defence saw out the set-pieces and were then able to celebrate the referee’s final whistle. Job done.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Brittain, Williams, Moore-Taylor, Lewington (c); Houghton; McGrandles, Harley; Gilbey (Walsh 66); Pawlett (Simpson 15 (Cisse 86)), Agard.
Unused subs: Sietsma, Hancox, Watson, Aneke.
Goals: Agard (pen 9), Harley (22)
Attendance: 4,764 (397 away)
Referee: N Hair