Report: Southend United 1-2 MK Dons9,009 (529 Dons fans).Attendance:
Walsh (53), Reeves (62). Goals:
Martin, Downing, Rasulo, Thomas-Asante. Unused subs:
Nicholls; Brittain (Baldock 84), Williams, Walsh, Lewington; Potter, Upson, O’Keefe; Reeves (Tilney 90+3), Barnes, Agard (Muirhead 73). Starting XI:
Substitute George Baldock was adjudged to have fouled Marc-Antoine Fortune in the dying embers of the game and Cox scored from the spot but that proved to be a consolation as the Dons held on for an impressive victory on the road.
Reeves hit the wall with a free-kick and Barnes fired narrowly wide as the Dons went close to extending their lead as the game ticked towards its conclusion.
The arrears were almost reduced on 76 minutes but Ferdinand’s low drive came back off the base of the post.
Walton had to be alert to superbly save from Barnes on 72 minutes before Brittain, looking impressive at right-back, shot over after bursting forward.
Agard was again denied with just over 20 minutes remaining when his fierce drive was kept out by Walton, who then watched Reeves’ rebound go wide of his right-hand post.
The advantage was doubled on 62 minutes when Reeves finished from close range against his former club after O’Keefe had done well to find Agard, who saw his shot saved.
In fact, the men from MK1 could have, and probably should have, gone 2-0 up but Walsh and O’Keefe saw close-range efforts blocked – there was a far greater offensive threat.
The advantage was almost short-lived but Anthony Wordsworth’s free-kick came back off the post before Dean Lewington did brilliantly to deny Adam Thompson, as the Dons remained firm.
Walsh went one better on 53 minutes, getting above his man and heading home Reeves’ corner from the right-hand side to give the Dons the lead.
Neilson’s side started the second half well and enjoyed a couple of corners, one of which saw Walsh force Ranger into an important clearance.
With just over a minute to go until the break, the Dons almost hit the front but Barnes’ effort was cleared off the line after Agard had initially capitalised on a poor back-pass by Anton Ferdinand and found the Leicester City loanee.
Cox then had two chances in as many minutes for the hosts – the first he headed wide before he arrowed a drive off target from 25 yards.
Neilson’s men went extremely close to taking the lead on 38 minutes when Ed Upson headed inches wide of the right-hand post after meeting Reeves’ teasing cross.
Shortly afterwards, Jason Demetriou flashed an effort wide before the Dons hit back through Barnes, who forced a save from Christian Walton.
At the other end, Lee Nicholls pushed away Leonard’s long-range effort before Stephen McLaughlin couldn’t pick out a team-mate on the counter.
A purposeful 30-yard run from Harvey Barnes then created a chance for Agard, who cut inside and fired just over from the edge of the box.
However, the best chance of the opening 20 minutes fell to the men from MK1 and Stuart O’Keefe, whose brave header under pressure was saved after good work by Brittain, Reeves and Agard.
George Williams was in the right place at the right time on 15 minutes to clear away Nile Ranger’s flick-down before Ryan Leonard shot off target from distance.
The Dons were forced to defend for the opening exchanges but they stood firm, with the hosts’ only real chance seeing Simon Cox fire a shot wide of the far post.
Callum Brittain retained his place in the starting XI although he began at right-back on this occasion while Darren Potter, Reeves and Kieran Agard came in.
Goals from Joe Walsh and Ben Reeves secured the impressive triumph, which never really looked in doubt despite Simon Cox’s injury-time penalty.
MK Dons enjoyed a superb success by the seaside on Easter Monday as they beat play-off contenders Southend United 2-1.