Hartlepool United 0 MK Dons 2
MK Dons kept their faint hopes of reaching the play-offs alive with a 2-0 win at lowly Hartlepool United on Good Friday.
A superb Patrick Bamford goal in the seventh minute and a second-half curler from Dean Bowditch were enough to see the Dons pick up three points, for only the fifth time on their travels in League 1 this season.
Hartlepool, who had to play with 10-men for the best part of 40 minutes following the dismissal of Simon Walton, endured a miserable day with injuries on top of the defeat and it was a result that further cemented their place at the foot of the table while casting doubt over their League 1 status next year.
The victory moved the Dons up to 11th place in the table and to within nine points of the play-offs with two games in hand over sixth-placed Tranmere Rovers.
The Dons, who had not been in action for over a week due following the post match against Colchester, made two changes to the side which lost at Crewe with the suspended Antony Kay making way for
Mathias Kouo-Doumbe and Alan Smith stepped into the support striker role as Chris Lines dropped to the bench.
Hartlepool were dealt a blow before the game when influential midfielder Ritchie Humpreys was injured in the warm up and John Hughes was forced to replace him with Jack Baldwin.
Victoria Park was a cold backdrop to the Good Friday fixture and recent weather conditions had done little to improve the pitch, which the Dons spent the opening phases passing the ball around trying to get a feel of the surface. As the ball was sprayed around Smith found himself in acres of space and tried his luck from distance but the shot fell wide.
It took just seven minutes for the Dons to break the deadlock when some of their fine passing allowed an avenue to open up and when Stephen Gleeson played the perfect ball through to Bamford the young striker had to shift his balance to get through the bodies in defence, he rounded the keeper and tucked the ball home virtue of the post.
For the total football they had shown, the Dons almost doubled their lead in route one style when Ian McLoughlin made a textbook save from a free-kick and launched the ball up field for Ryan Lowe, but the forward could find the power as he tucked his volley into the welcoming arms of Scott Flinders.
Hartlepool would have been cursing their luck, or rather lack of it, when in the 25th minute they lost midfielder Antony Sweeney to injury, but it did offer the chance to introduce youngster Luke James, who won Apprentice of the Year at the Football League Awards and scored a hat-trick for the Pool reserves in midweek.
For the early dominance that the Dons had possessed, they only carried a single-goal lead and the Pool had enough energy and fight in their side to make a fist of things. Hartlepool were finding a lot of joy with crosses into the box which kept both McLoughlin and Kouo-Doumbe on their toes.
The match was scrappy, error-strewn and largely interrupted by fouls which made the sound of the half-time whistle a welcome relief. Upon the resumption Jack Baldwin fired a long-range effort goal-bound but
McLoughlin showed a safe pair of hands as he collected well.
The attention turned to the centre of the pitch when a collision between Pamford and Walton resulted in the Hartlepool man kicking out at the Dons goalscorer and referee Jeremy Simpson showed a straight red card.
The match started to boil over with Bamford soon involved in another incident as a coming together with Peter Hartley resulted in a caution for the Chelsea loanee and Robinson quickly subbed him to keep him out of the firing line.
Soon after the Dons found the second goal they needed to add a little more assurance to the score line. Stephen Gleeson played an excellent ball from deep in midfield for Lowe to hold up. The forward was unselfish as he cut back for Bowditch and the winger curled a delightful shot into the bottom corner.
With a spring in his step, Bowditch was almost the catalyst for a third goal when a superb break caught the Pools defence cold and Powell was able to pick up the ball on the right-hand side yet somehow Flinders, who was unsighted, managed to make a block.
There was a late cameo for Academy midfielder Brendan Galloway, who filled in at left-back in the place of Adam Chicksen.
Hartlepool, despite being two-goals and a man down, did not give up hope and six minutes from time they provided a scare when Hartley was able to find the space inside the Dons’ box to turn a low shot against the far post.
The performance had been patchy in places, but ultimately the result was an important one for the Dons and one they will look to build on when the host high-flying Brentford on Easter Monday.
Hartlepool United: Flinders, Collins, Hartley (c), Horwood (Holden 46), Walton, Sweeney (James 26), Baldwin, Franks, Monkhouse, Wyke.
Subs not used: McHugh, Rowbotham, Rutherford, Hawkins, Boagey.
Booked: Horwood, Monkhouse
Sent-off: Walton 52
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Otsemobor, Kouo-Doumbe, Williams, Chicksen (Galloway 73); Potter, Gleeson; Bamford (Chadwick 59), Smith (Powell 57); Lowe.
Subs: Baldock, Lines.
Goal: Bamford 7, Bowditch 62
Referee: J Simpson
Attendance: 3,269 (157 away)