MK Dons returned to winning ways with a crucial 1-0 victory over Cambridge United at Stadium MK.
Only goal difference separated the two sides prior to kick-off but, courtesy of Mo Eisa’s terrific first-half free-kick, Mark Jackson’s men moved three points clear of their opponents and to within two points of safety in Sky Bet League One.
Dean Lewington returned to the starting XI as Head Coach Jackson made three changes to his starting XI. Conor Grant and Nathan Holland also came in while Josh McEachran was fit enough to be amongst the substitutes.
Grant was involved as the Dons threatened for the first time on six minutes, playing one-two with Kaikai, whose low cross in towards Holland was intercepted.
The U’s then went close through Jack Lankester, but he was denied by a combination of Jamie Cumming and Tennai Watson – the latter of which did brilliantly to race back and put the Cambridge man under pressure inside the box.
Jackson’s men worked themselves into the penalty area again on the quarter-hour, with Grant playing in Holland. Holland, in turn, found Dawson Devoy but he was unable to fashion a shot on goal.
A minute later, Devoy was able to get a shot away but, from 20-yards, he fired over. Then, some good one-touch football involving Holland and Mo Eisa almost led to an opportunity for Grant, but his touch let him down inside the box.
Grant was involved in a lot of MK Dons’ attacking moments and on 27 minutes he went down in the area under a challenge from a U’s defender. Referee Keith Stroud, though, was unmoved despite his appeals for a penalty.
A last-ditch tackle prevented Eisa from breaking free from Grant’s pass just prior to the half-hour. Lewington then tried his luck from range and wasn’t too far away with his left-footed drive.
Tucker did brilliantly to prevent Shilow Tracey from testing Cumming as the visitors offered a reminder of their threat on 31 minutes. Jack Lankester then had the ball in the net moments later but the goal was chalked off by the linesman, who adjudged an offside Sam Smith to be impacting on Cumming’s ability to keep out the shot.
The Dons had an opportunity to respond immediately when Grant was tripped five yards from the edge of the penalty area and they did – EISA curling his free-kick over the wall and into the top left-hand corner. A terrific finish. 1-0.
Eisa tried to double his, and the Dons’ tally with an improvised – and acrobatic – effort on 40 minutes, though it landed wide of the target. Kaikai then delivered a cross in from the right but it was above the head of Holland at the far post.
Jackson’s side went into the break in front but had to defend an early free-kick from their visitors at the start of the second – Lewington heading away two deliveries into the area.
Cambridge had another free-kick in the 50th minute, this one right on the apex of the Dons’ penalty area. Former Don Conor McGrandles took it but his attempt was watched over the bar by Cumming.
Cumming was forced into a save from Smith two minutes later, though the striker’s header provided a simple claim for the MK Dons goalkeeper. Tucker then got in the way of a strike from Tracey which appeared to be heading on target.
The Dons first shot of the second half came courtesy of Paris Maghoma on 55 minutes – a 20-yard try which failed to trouble Dimitar Mitov. There was then an opportunity for Kaikai, but his goal-bound drive was diverted wide by the body of a Cambridge defender.
A last-ditch tackle from Brophy prevented Kaikai from being able to deliver a cross for Eisa, who was alone inside the U’s area. That attack did lead to a corner from which Harvie went close with a volleyed effort which looped just over the frame of the goal.
On the hour, a Kaikai cross eventually fell for Eisa but his curling try was deflected wide of the post. The Dons then went to the bench for the first time, replacing Holland with Will Grigg in attack.
Grigg almost got on the end of a Harvie ball soon after his introduction but the left-back’s delivery was above his head. Later, Grant teed up Kaikai but he sent his first-time effort over the bar.
Jackson made two more substitutions with 66 minutes on the clock, as Lewington and Devoy were withdrawn for Henry Lawrence and McEachran. His side almost doubled their lead on 72 minutes but Eisa couldn’t keep his shot down after cutting onto his right foot 15 yards from goal.
Cumming was forced to tip a Luke O'Neil ball around his post after the Cambridge substitute’s cross made it through towards his goal untouched. The Dons’ number 1 then gratefully claimed a close-range header by Morrison from the resulting corner.
Bradley Johnson and Max Dean were Jackson’s final two changes, replacing Grant and Eisa with 12 minutes left to play.
Looking for a second to secure all three points, Grigg teed up Lawrence but his drive was inadvertently deflected wide by Dean. At the other end, a superb sliding tackle from Kaikai halted a promising U’s attack and earned his side a goal kick.
Cambridge put the Dons under pressure in the five-plus minutes of stoppage time that were played at the end of the 90. Jackson’s men survived, however, securing what they hope will be a vital result in their season.
MK Dons: Cumming, Watson, Lewington (Lawrence 66), Tucker, Eisa (Dean 78), Holland (Grigg 61), Grant (Johnson 78), Harvie, Kaikai, Devoy (McEachran 66), Maghoma.
Subs: Ravizzoli, Robson.
Goal: Eisa (35)
Cambridge United: Mitov, Digby, Jones, Brophy, Smith, Lankester (O’Neil 59), Tracey (Ironside 59), R Bennett (Seddon 70), Morrison, McGrandles (Knibbs 59), L Bennett (Williams 70).
Subs: Mannion, Worman.
Booked: Jones, Smith, Seddon, O’Neil
Referee: K Stroud
Attendance: 11,291 (2,186 away)
Live commentary of this match has not yet started.
There are currently no key moments to display.