MK Dons made it four wins from five in Sky Bet League Two courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Doncaster Rovers at Stadium MK.
Graham Alexander’s men did the damage in the first 33 minutes, scoring twice through Daniel Harvie and Warren O’Hora, and those goals proved to be enough even despite Luke Molyneux’s second-half strike.
The triumph, the Dons’ second in a row at Stadium MK, also saw them move back to the summit of the Sky Bet League Two table, ahead of last week’s leaders, Gillingham, on goal difference.
Alexander named an unchanged starting XI from the side that beat Colchester United seven days ago, though there was an addition to the bench in the form of MJ Williams – back from injury and amongst the substitutes in place of the departed Nathan Holland.
The Dons made a fast start, working the ball into the Doncaster penalty area after only 10 seconds. Eventually, Mo Eisa was able to flash a ball across the face of goal but Cameron Norman, sliding in at the far post, wasn’t able to convert.
Doncaster then saw an early chance of their own go begging as Modou Faal couldn’t direct Tommy Rowe’s cross goal-wards when well placed. Faal had a second opportunity moments later but his low shot was comfortably dealt with by Craig MacGillivray.
MacGillivray was called into action again on nine minutes, forced to keep out an effort stabbed towards goal by the left boot of James Maxwell. Harvie was then on hand to sweep up the loose ball in front of Faal.
It took some time for the Dons to gain a foothold on the contest and when they did, they made it count, opening the scoring with 16 minutes on the clock.
A patient build-up led to a cross-field pass from Tucker out right to Norman, whose header made its way to Jonathan Leko. He turned, drove into the area and then saw a deflected effort on goal spin kindly into the path of an untracked HARVIE, who kept his composure to beat Ian Lawler with a first-time finish from just outside the six-yard area. 1-0.
The Dons almost had a second moments later, as Gilbey forced a save out of Lawlor with an improvised volleyed effort from the edge of the area. MK Dons’ captain then turned provider for Leko, who went agonisingly close with a right-footed strike which flashed just past the post.
Faal offered a reminder of Doncaster’s early threat when he worked his way to the edge of the Dons penalty area – his shot, however, was watched wide by MacGillivray. The MK Dons goalkeeper had a save to make from Faal’s next attempt and he got across well to keep the low strike out.
Leko worked a shooting chance for the Dons just past the half-hour mark but his attempt was blocked by a defender. That led to a corner from which Alexander’s men doubled their lead.
The corner, over on the right-hand side, was taken short to Dawson Devoy, whose curling delivery into the area was met by the head of O’HORA and he directed his effort beyond the outstretched arm of Lawlor and into the bottom corner. 2-0.
In search of a third, Eisa was bundled to the floor by a Donny defender which presented an opportunity for him to score from the free-kick. His strike was on target but saved by Lawlor in the centre of his goal.
Eisa was again denied by Lawlor, this time spectacularly, when he broke through Norman’s header on 42 minutes. The striker’s effort looked all set for the back of the net, until Lawlor’s right boot managed to divert it wide of the target. Norman had a try from the corner that followed but his 18-yard drive sailed over the crossbar.
The Dons started the second period on the front foot, eager to add to their two-goal advantage. Nevertheless, it was Doncaster, who made two changes at the break, who offered the first threat of the half – Norman, though, denied Tommy Rowe inside the area.
They then got themselves back into the match with 55 minutes on the clock, finding a way past MacGillivray courtesy of a fierce strike from substitute MOLYNEUX, cutting in from the Dons’ left flank. 2-1.
Alexander made a double change to his side with a little over an hour played, replacing Devoy and Leko with Williams and Matthew Dennis respectively.
It took a vital block from Norman to prevent Maxwell from sending a ball dangerously back into the mix from a deep cross on 70 minutes. Doncaster then saw a header fall wide of the post from the corner that followed.
Faal sent an 18-yard strike wide of the target a minute later as the visitors pushed forward again in search of an equaliser. In response, the Dons worked the ball forward to Gilbey, via the head of Norman, but Eisa wasn’t able to work a shot from his cutback.
Ashley Hunter came off the bench for the final quarter of an hour in place of Smith as Alexander shuffled his pack. His side had their heart in their mouth moments later when Ironside headed into the net – but the Dons were spared by the linesman’s offside flag.
On 80 minutes, MacGillivray was alert to gather a loose ball ahead of Ironside after Norman’s attempted clearance was blocked. The Dons then made their final change of the game, swapping Eisa out for Brooklyn Ilunga.
Ilunga was involved in an attack which left the Dons irate at not being awarded a penalty. The Academy graduate’s flick on was met by Dennis, who appeared to be dragged down by Richard Wood after spinning the defender inside the box. Referee Andrew Kitchen, however, was unmoved despite the appeals from the home players and supporters.
Doncaster worked an opportunity for Faal with three minutes remaining in the 90 but his header was saved by MacGillivray. Rowe, shortly after, fired a bouncing ball well wide from the edge of the area.
MacGillivray produced an excellent stop to keep Molyneux’s volley from sneaking in at his near post in the first of eight additional minutes. Harvie was then called upon to head clear after the same man had beaten MacGillivray inside the box.
In the 94th minute, Hunter threw himself in the way of George Broadbent’s strike, sending it into the side netting. The Dons' resilience continued to be tested for the remaining four minutes but Alexander's men stood firm to secure all three points and maintain their excellent start to the 2023/24 season.
MK Dons: MacGillivray, Norman, Tucker, O’Hora, Leko (Dennis 62), Gilbey, Eisa (Ilunga 81), Smith (Hunter 76), Robson, Harvie, Devoy (Williams 62).
Subs: Harness, Grant, Dean.
Goals: Harvie (16), O’Hora (33)
Doncaster Rovers: Lawlor, Maxwell (Roberts 81), Olowu (Westbrooke 46), Wood, Broadbent, Rowe, Goodman (90+4), Bailey, Sotona (Molyneux 46), Ironside, Senior, Faal.
Subs: Jones, Long, Faulkner.
Goal: Molyneux (56)
Referee: A Kitchen
Attendance: 5,697 (535 away)