Alice Hughes rose above the Cambridge United’s defence to head home Abbie Roberts’ cross and earn MK Dons another three points last Wednesday evening.
The Dons had to wait for their opportunity, as Hughes only gave the Dons’ the lead in the 84th minute due to United’s solid defensive display throughout the game.
The victory, though, sees the Dons move up to second place after five games, putting them level with current league leaders Ipswich Town on points.
James Honeyman’s side started the game on the front foot, but were only able to create opportunities for themselves from distance. Charley Clarke was the first player to go close, but her shot went wide of the right post.
Set-piece specialist Charly Wright followed Clarke’s effort by stepping up to take a free-kick 35-yards from goal that Dawn Mallett won, but she was also unable to get her shot on target.
The Dons matched Cambridge’s resiliency, in only allowing them to also have shots from distance in the first-half, all of which Sav Smith comfortably dealt with in the Dons’ goal.
With both sides putting in solid defensive displays, the first-half ended with no goals being scored.
The second-half continued where the first-half left off, with both sides putting in shifts to ensure the other didn’t create a clear-cut chance.
Amy Gooderham found the ball at her feet twice within a 10 minute period, but every time she went to pull the trigger on a shot, a U’s player was there to make the block.
The Dons thought they had finally created the clear-cut chance needed to win in the 76th minute when Roberts and Laura Mills combined to play-in Amelia Hazard. However, Hazard fired her shot narrowly past the left hand post.
Then, the 84th minute, the Dons finally made their possession count through Hughes. She played it to Hazard who knocked it onto to Roberts on the right-wing. Roberts then played in the inch-perfect cross needed for Hughes to be able to head the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
After taking the lead with minutes remaining, the Dons kept a determined Cambridge at bay to hold on to the victory.
Speaking afterwards, captain Leanna Doyle was “buzzing” to help her side earn all three points and described the feeling about achieving the win through a late goal as like one you get from a cup final.
She said: “Absolutely buzzing, it’s exciting when it’s late. We’ve only won 1-0, but it’s almost like a cup final, when you leave it that late against a good team.
“It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take the three points because it was good resilience shown by the girls. The fact it makes it three wins on the trot – it’s a good feeling.”
James Honeyman was similar in his positivity about earning the three points against a previously unbeaten U’s side.
He said: “It feels fantastic. We really dug our heels in there and I felt we were going to be the team who won the game.
“Cambridge were very good, they were very stout so there weren’t many chances – I felt that was our only clear-cut chance of the game.”
Honeyman referred to the team playing music at the half-time break to deal with frustration of not getting a goal in the first-half, but said you couldn’t predict how late his side would leave it.
He explained: “We did a little bit of talking at the break but then we just put music on to chill because we didn’t need to change much.
“I don’t think we thought we would score in the 84th minute to win the game but we know we can do that.
“Alice had been dogged in there for us. She gave it to Amelia who plays it to Abbie Roberts who is just 16-years-old but she whips it in there for us to win the header.”
The Dons now have a break in their fixtures after two games in four days, with them next in action against Luton Town on Tuesday 10th October.
Starting XI: Smith, Doyle (c) (Roberts 68), Burgess, Naylor, Newsome, Wright, Clarke, Hughes, Hazard, Mallett (Loftus 77), Gooderham (Mills 56)
Unused subs: Goodier, Newman
Goals: Hughes (84)