MK Dons 1 Walsall 0
mk.stadiumA Shaun Williams free-kick ensured MK Dons returned to winning ways as they beat Walsall 1-0 at
The Dons produced a controlled performance, with limited clear cut chances, to claim three important points thanks to Williams’ excellent set-piece in the second half. The victory moved the Dons back up to eighth place and within one point of the League 1 play-offs.
Robinson welcomed back goalkeeper David Martin as he returned from a calf injury to replace Ian McLoughlin while the only other change saw Lee Hodson brought in at right-back as Jon Otsemobor dropped to the bench.
The Dons were looking to put to bed a bad October, a month in which they won game and lost five, by getting a good result against Walsall. The record against the Saddlers at MK1 though would not have inspired even the most faithful MK Dons fan, with the home side having only won once in the last five meetings at stadiummk.
The hosts though started the match brightly with Daniel Powell, who had a few breaks in the opening 10 minutes but with no end production, finding his way through to the box however both Patrick Bamford and Luke Chadwick failed to apply the finish which would have taken the ball beyond the reach of Richard O’Donnell.
Walsall showed the threat they possessed at the other end as Craig Westcarr headed a cross wide before Martin was called into action in the 13th minute. Sam Mantom went unnoticed by the Dons defence as he breached the box and fired a strong effort which was excellently blocked by the leg of Martin.
The flow of the game stuttered slightly but the Dons went close to finding the opener when Lee Hodson’s cross was nodded on by Patrick Bamford, who had O’Donnell jumping up alongside him to apply pressure, but the ball rose over the bar.
There was plenty of good football from the Dons to wax lyrical about with Dean Lewington and Hodson pushing forwards and applying pressure on the Saddlers. Unfortunately, there was a lack of sharpness and cutting edge in the final third so Bamford tried to go over the top of the Walsall defence instead with a lobbed effort which, again, went over the bar.
As half-time approached Ben Reeves showed great awareness as he threaded through a smart ball from the edge of the D which only Darren Potter picked up but midfielder failed to connect.
Although Walsall had created the better chance in the game, when Mantom brought a save from Martin, they were on the back foot in the match. The Dons though needed more bite in their attacking third and only eight minutes into the second half Robinson introduced Izale McLeod into the proceedings.
When Bamford was brought down on the edge of the box the Dons had a sight a goal with defender Shaun Williams stepping up for the free-kick. The Irishman struck the ball well but couldn’t get his shot on target.
Ten minutes later Williams had a second chance, this time from the right-hand side and 25-yards out. The midfielder-turned-defender went for placement over power as he picked out the bottom corner with his sixth goal of the season.
Shortly after the Dons felt they should have had a penalty when McLeod ran in front of the Walsall defender and went to ground, but referee Dean Whitestone waved away the home side’s appeals.
The visitors went close to hitting back when Jordan Spence’s tackle on James Baxendale helped the ball pop p to Mantom whose fierce shot fizzed just inches wide of the post.
Just as Robinson’s side were looking to push on and extend their lead they were dealt a blow as their defence, which had looked back to its resolute best, suffered another shake-up. As play moved in the Walsall half the Dons’ goalie Martin slumped to the floor and thumped the pitch in frustration as he withdrew from the game with what appeared to be a reoccurrence of his calf injury.
With replacement goalie Ian McLoughlin new to the game the ambitious Baxendale attempted to catch the ‘keeper out with a wild effort which never looked like troubling the hosts.
Walsall had further chances to find a late equaliser with two corners in quick succession causing panic in the backline before the ball was frantically cleared.
As four minutes added time were announced the Dons had to desperately cling on to their lead with Hodson making a last-ditch challenge on Mantom to prevent a one-on-one with McLoughlin. They had to hang on in the end, but the hosts would have been delighted to get back to winning ways.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Hodson, Spence, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Reeves (Smith 75); Powell, Chadwick (McLeod 53), Banton, Bamford.
Subs not used: Otsemobor, Flanagan, Baldock, Carruthers.
Walsall: O'Donnell, Taylor, Butler (c), Featherstone (Sawyers 62), A Chambers, Mantom, Westcarr, Hemmings (Lalkovic 73), Downing, J Chambers, Baxendale (Hewitt 87).
Subs not used: Lewis (GK), Purkiss, Benning, Gray.
Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire)