MK Dons 3 Doncaster 0
Goals from Izale McLeod, Daniel Powell and Stephen Gleeson helped MK Dons topple League leaders Doncaster Rovers and re-ignite their hunt for a place in the League 1 play-offs.
The Dons recorded their first League win since New Year’s Day as they outplayed and outclassed their Rovers visitors and in the process, they climbed up to 11th place in the table.
In an incredible game at stadiummk McLeod netted his first goal since returning to the Club in the January transfer window before Powell celebrated a new contract with a superb effort in the second half.
However, the biggest cheer of the night came when the returning Gleeson smashed home a screamer within a minute of coming off the bench.
The Dons were at their scintillating best, they had the creative spark which had been absent all too often in recent months and rightfully deserved the riches that came their way.
The Dons made one change with the ill Jon Otsemobor missing out completely meaning Adam Chicksen moved to right-back and Dean Bowditch slotted in on the left of midfield. Ian McLoughlin continued to deputise in goal with David Martin still out of action with a back complaint.
The biggest news for the Dons though was inclusion of Stephen Gleeson on the bench and on the pitch for the final nine minutes, after almost three months on the sidelines with a broken foot.
The two sides met each other just three weeks earlier at the Keepmoat Stadium and on that occasion it was a bruising stalemate. The set-up of the Dons was to ensure they played their usual style of football despite coming up against the team sat at the top of the table.
Prior to the match Daniel Powell inked a new two-year deal with the Dons and he almost had a big impact in the opening 10 minutes when a fine drive through midfield offered him the chance to play a delightful ball into the path of Luke Chadwick, only for his cross to eventually be cleared in the Rovers box.
It was the visitors who had the ball in the back of the net in the 15th minute when the Dons’ backline was in disarray as James Harper stabbed the ball home. Fortunately for the Dons though, referee Keith Stroud had spotted a foul on Powell in the build up and the goal was duly denied.
The Dons were able to boss the play through midfield and looked dangerous as they advanced forward. Chris Lines had goalie Gary Woods in action with a swirling shot which forced a good stop from the Doncaster ‘keeper, while Darren Potter was threaded through to goal only for a heavy touch to let the chance slip away.
The forward movement of the Dons was free-flowing and positive with the players not afraid to try a shot from anywhere on the pitch. Bowditch, who was an energetic bundle at the top end of the field, saw his cross fizz across the goalmouth with Powell unable to turn in at the far post and soon after saw a curling shot fall wide of the post.
In the 32nd minute the Dons were left to wonder just how they had not taken the lead when a superb free-kick from the boot of Bowditch hit the inside of the left post before hitting Woods and coming off the post again.
The Dons were cursing their luck once more when Lowe, who was later flagged offside, saw his diving header come off the underside of the bar. Only moments later the home side then lost one of their key players when Chadwick limped off with an injury to be replaced by McLeod.
While the substitution may have been forced, it certainly paid dividends only two minutes later. McLeod took up the lone-striker role as Lowe dropped into the supporting role.
From deep Lowe opted for a long-range drive which was parried by Woods and McLeod was on hand to bundle the ball home for his first goal since returning to the Club in January, and his 61st in a Dons shirt.
After the break McLeod continued to cause the Doncaster defence an array of problems as he breached through the left of the box before finding Bowditch in a better position on the edge of the area, but once again the wide man fired inches wide.
The visitors had more urgency about them in the second half – a telling sign that Brian Flynn’s half-time team talk may have included a few honest words.
However, the Rovers game plan needed a re-work some 11 minutes after the re-start when Powell marked his new contract with a stunning strike from 18-yards. The ball was bouncing up as Powell turned and picked out the back of the net with a fierce left-footed finish.
The Dons had more than deserved their two-goal cushion in the game having outplayed their table-topping opponents throughout, but Robinson’s men needed to ensure they had the steel to keep Rovers quiet.
McLoughlin was called into action, on a rare occasion in the game, when James Coppering lashed a shot through the box and the Dons goalie smothered the ball.
Rovers’ chances had been limited to a handful, while the Dons were nothing but a handful for the visitors’ defence. When Darren Potter won the ball with a challenge in midfield, Lowe was able to release McLeod but a tame finish from the striker failed to cause Woods any problems.
Arguably, the Dons should have had a penalty 15 minutes from time when McLeod ran on to a Potter free-kick and was brought down by McCombe, but the hosts were denied by the officials.
The best was yet to come though, for the Dons fans as Gleeson was introduced in the latter stages. Many would have just hoped the midfielder made it through unscathed, but the Irishman had other plans as he ran into the path of a ball held up by McLeod and drilled home a right-footed pile driver to extend the Dons’ lead even further.
It was almost the perfect evening for MK Dons and potentially the ideal catalyst to help propel the Dons back up the table.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Chicksen, Kay, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Lines; Powell, Chadwick (McLeod 37), Bowditch (Kouo-Doumbe 74); Lowe (Gleeson 82).
Subs not used: McLeod, Flanagan, Baldock, Rasulo.
Goal: McLeod 40
Doncaster Rovers (4-4-2): Woods; Quinn, McCombe, Jones (c) (Griffin 46), Spurr; Cotterill, Harper, Lundstram, Husband (Bennett 63); Coppinger, Hume (Paynter 67).
Subs not used: Maxted (GK), Wakefield, Sinclair, Howieson, Bennett.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
Attendance: 6,804 (453 away)
Goal-Don Goal times: 1st goal - 39.16, 2nd goal - 55.38; 3rd goal - 82.03