First-half goals from Chuks Aneke and Kieran Agard saw MK Dons return to winning ways in Sky Bet League Two with a dominant 2-0 victory over Port Vale.
Aneke put Paul Tisdale’s side ahead on 22 minutes, sweeping home from Baily Cargill’s pinpoint low cross for his fifth goal of the campaign. Agard then added a second nine minutes later - a fine solo finish into the bottom left corner of the net, which took his goal tally for the season to four.
The Dons saw out the remainder of the contest with relative ease to seal the points and move up to sixth in the Sky Bet League Two table.
Boss Tisdale made three changes to his side as he brought Joe Walsh, Jordan Houghton and Agard back into the starting XI, with Callum Brittain, Ousseynou Cisse and Rhys Healey making way for the trio.
It was Port Vale, though, who made the better start and Lee Nicholls was forced into a save just two minutes in - the MK Dons goalkeeper did well to keep out Mitchell Clark’s close-range effort.
Nicholls was called into action again soon after, this time to save a dipping shot from Manny Oyeleke. His defence then did well to deal with a deep delivery from a free-kick as the Valiants maintained their dominant start.
MK Dons offered their first threat in the 10th minute when Agard teed up Ryan Watson 15-yards from goal. The number 7’s curling strike was blocked by a defender and despite appeals for a handball, referee Ross Joyce waved play on.
Aneke then attempted to link up with Agard but put too much on his lofted through ball. Moments later, Agard met a low cross from George Williams but saw his goal-bound flick blocked by a Valiants man.
Agard had another opportunity on 13 minutes but his low, left-footed effort lacked the power to really trouble goalkeeper Scott Brown.
Port Vale responded a minute later through Tom Pope, who went close to an opening goal with a glancing header from Clark’s cross which landed an inch or two wide of Nicholls’ left-hand upright.
When the Dons were going forward, most of their attacks were going through Watson, who was finding good pockets between the Valiants midfield and defence.
He and his team were beginning to turn the screw on their opponents as the game moved past the 20-minute mark and they threatened with several corners which were delivered into the box.
In the 22nd minute, they were able to take advantage of their dominance and break the deadlock, courtesy of their talisman Aneke. Cargill, up from the back, played a one-two with Jordan Houghton before delivering a low cross right to the feet of Aneke, who swept home the opener from seven yards out. 0-1.
Aneke almost had an opportunity to bag a second shortly after the re-start but he wasn’t able to fashion a chance after collecting a ball inside the Port Vale box. The hosts then countered but MK Dons raced back in numbers to deal with the attack.
On 26 minutes, Aneke was involved again, this time dinking a neat pass through for Gilbey who drove into the area and forced a save out of Brown with a left-footed drive.
MK Dons kept their foot on the gas and they were rewarded with a second goal on the half-hour mark. Agard brought down a lobbed pass from Watson on his chest but was then nudged to the floor by his marker. The striker picked himself up quickly, moved into space inside the area and then found the bottom corner of the net with a left-footed drive. 0-2.
Two minutes later, Watson came within an inch of adding a third MK Dons goal but, despite his best efforts, he couldn’t connect with Williams’ low cross. Watson then forced a fine save out of Brown with a curling shot towards the bottom right corner.
Port Vale almost pulled one back but Ricky Miller couldn’t direct his near post header towards goal. At the other end, Gilbey sent a right-footed curler just wide of goal as MK Dons searched for an extension to their lead.
With five minutes left to play in the half, Moore-Taylor did brilliantly to deny Pope. Tom Conlon then blazed over the crossbar with the final chance before the interval.
Port Vale, who were forced into an early change because of an injury to Oyeleke, made a double substitution at the break in an attempt to salvage something from the game.
MK Dons almost made their efforts tougher directly from the re-start when they were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Watson. Aneke took the well-placed set-piece but his effort was blocked by the wall.
On 55 minutes, Aneke met a deep cross from Lewington but wasn’t able to covert at the far post. Aneke was involved in another attack five minutes later, teeing up Agard after a free run into the box only for his strike partner to see a shot saved by Brown.
MK Dons' number 10 then went close to connecting with a Watson cross as he looked to put the game out of sight for his side. Their job was made easier in the 65th minute when half-time addition Cristian Montano was forced off the field with an injury leaving his team, who were out of substitutes, down to 10 men.
Tisdale’s side almost made their man advantage count right away but neither Watson nor Aneke could turn home from Williams’ teasing delivery. The MK Dons manager then made his first substitution of the evening as he introduced Healey in place of Aneke.
Moments after the change, Watson went agonisingly close to scoring with a looping header which Brown did well to tip over the bar. Healey was then almost able to link up with Agard but Brown gathered ahead of the latter.
Healey almost found the elusive third goal himself with a quarter of an hour to play but, after being set up by Gilbey, his strike was deflected wide of goal.
MK Dons piled on the pressure late on and Williams almost grabbed himself a stunning goal with a fierce 20-yard volley which rattled the crossbar.
Cargill also went close in the final stages but, in the end, he and his side weren’t able to add to their lead - not that they would mind too much, with the points safely in the bag and on the way back to Milton Keynes.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Walsh, Moore-Taylor, Cargill; Williams, Houghton, Gilbey, Lewington; Watson; Aneke (Healey 69), Agard.
Unused subs: Moore, Hancox, Brittain, Cisse, Simpson, Thomas-Asante.
Goals: Aneke (22), Agard (31)
Referee: R Joyce
Attendance: 3,399 (124 away)