MK Dons began their pre-season with a solid 2-0 win over St. James’ Gate in Dublin.
The Dons were rarely out of second gear as they returned to match action for the first time in over two months. A Shaun Williams penalty in the first half combined with Jabo Ibehre’s composed effort in the second half saw the Dons get their preparations for the 2012/13 underway in a winning style.
Karl Robinson ensured his players were all given the opportunity to get match minutes as he fielded two separate sides in each half.
The first got underway in a 4-3-3 formation with Shaun Williams, Darren Potter and Stephen Gleeson all fitting into midfield – just as Robinson plans to do in the season. There was also an opportunity for trialist Deon Burton to impress up front alongside Charlie MacDonald and Dean Bowditch.
The Dons were lively from the offset with Jon Otsemobor looking particularly sharp in his right-back position as he linked up well down the flank, as well as in a new-look back four with Tom Flanagan, Mathias Kouo-Doumbe and Dean Lewington.
In truth the defence were kept relatively quiet as St. James’ Gate failed to test Ian McLoughlin. The Republic of Ireland Under-21 international would have been chomping at the bit to be in more of the action, but was rarely allowed the chance. He did, however, command the box well and could be heard from the crowd barking confidently at the back four.
The St. James’ Gate goalie though, was in the thick of the action as he denied MacDonald and Potter in the early stages. Burton then went close when good play between MacDonald and Bowditch allowed him to run into space, only to be denied by the post.
The one-way traffic soon paid dividends as a tricky run by Bowditch caught the St. James’ defender in a spin and a trip on the forward earned the Dons a penalty. Up stepped Williams who continued where he left off last season with bags of confidence from the spot as he fired the Dons into the lead after 23 minutes.
St James’ Gate’s possession was kept to a minimum as the Dons passed the ball around at ease. The key threat came from the right channel thanks to the speed and skill of Otsemobor who fizzed a ball into the box that was drilled goal-bound by Bowditch, but the ‘keeper made yet another excellent stop. Williams and Flanagan both went close late in the first half, but the Dons had to settle for a single-goal lead at the break.
The second half brought 10 changes, with only Williams remaining as he dropped back to centreback as cover for Gary MacKenzie who missed the game due to illness. Malaga striker Juanfri, currently on trial with the Club, was introduced in the second half to form a three-pronged attack with Ibehre and Daniel Powell. The top three were in constant rotation system to aid their fluid style of play.
Alan Smith took up a more defensive role in front of the back four and looked confident in the role as his workrate reached impressive levels.
Ibehre and Williams both had efforts on target, but the St. James’ Gate goalie kept up his strong display. Midway through the second half Dele Alli, Mason Spence and Brendan Galloway were all brought into proceedings, and not one of the youth team apprentices looked out of place alongside first teamers such as Dean Lewington and Jay O’Shea.
A huge positive for the Dons was the sight of Luke Chadwick coming through 45 minutes unscathed just two months after undergoing knee surgery. The Dons’ pressure was relentless and their play finally got the second goal they deserved when Ibehre stole possession in midfield and powered through into the box, with the keeper to beat the big forward to a second to pick his spot and applied a composed finish to double the lead.
In truth it could have been more, but with the cobwebs dusted away and more game time to come before the season kicks off, the Dons will be pleased with the exercise.
MK Dons first half: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Flanagan, Kouo-Doumbe, Chicksen, Potter, Gleeson, Williams, MacDonald, Bowditch, Burton.
MK Dons second half: Martin, Alli, Ivey-Ward (Spence 80), Williams (Galloway 60), Lewington, Smith, Chadwick, O'Shea, Juanfri, Ibehre, Powell.