MK Dons secured their maiden win of the Sky Bet League One campaign with a 2-1 triumph over Port Vale at Stadium MK.
Bradley Johnson scored twice either side of the break to earn Liam Manning’s men their first three points of the 2022/23 campaign, even despite a late consolation from Ellis Harrison.
Manning made two changes from the weekend defeat to Ipswich Town, with Henry Lawrence and Dan Kemp replacing Daniel Oyegoke and Conor Grant.
A quiet opening 10 minutes saw neither goalkeeper tested, though Port Vale did have two early free-kicks, and a corner, which the Dons defence dealt with. Manning’s men also got in down the left early on but Louie Barry’s cross went over the crowd of bodies in the area.
With a quarter of an hour played, Barry and Matt Smith combined to win the ball deep inside the Valiants half. That provided an opportunity for the latter to drive towards goal and shoot but his effort was blocked by a defender.
It took an important block from Jack Tucker to prevent Sammy Robinson testing Jamie Cumming midway through the first half, then a superb sliding tackle from Dean Lewington to deny Rory Holden.
The game, though, sparked to life with 34 minutes on the clock when MK Dons took the lead in style.
Collecting a pass from Matt Smith 25-yards from goal, Johnson was urged to shoot by the MK Dons supporters and he obliged, curling a left-footed shot around the outstretched arm of Jack Stevens and into the bottom corner. 1-0.
A well-worked free-kick almost led to another opportunity for the Dons but Tucker’s header back into the mix was blocked by a defender. At the other end, O’Hora got himself in the way of a threatening effort from Chris Hussey.
With three minutes to play in the half, there was a first chance for Matthew Dennis but, after lathing onto a through pass and cutting onto his left foot, he had his shot saved. Shortly after, Cumming was forced into a save from Ben Garrity.
MK Dons returned from the half-time break with a change to their side – Oyegoke on for Barry in a move which saw Manning’s men revert to a back three with Oyegoke and Lawrence operating as wing backs.
Vale had an early second-half opportunity from a free-kick but it was blocked by the wall. The Dons broke forward soon after and Smith had a bending effort deflected past the post from 18 yards out.
Lawrence did well down the right to provide an opportunity for Robson with 54 minutes but his effort, too, was blocked by a defender, which allowed Stevens a comfortable claim.
MK Dons’ Chelsea loanee was involved in a defensive capacity soon after, hacking an Ellis Harrison effort off the goal-line. Port Vale kept the pressure on after that but Cumming saved from an eventual attempt by Holden.
The visitors went dangerously close to an equaliser just past the hour but, from a teasing free-kick delivery, they weren’t able to test Cumming.
Hussey, moments later, volleyed into the side netting after pouncing on a loose clearance. Will Forrester did the same from the opposite flank with Vale’s next attack.
MK Dons responded with a quick break down the left which resulted in penalty appeals for what appeared to be a foul on Dennis in the area. Referee Tom Nield, however, adjudged the sliding defender to have won the ball.
Grant replaced Smith as Manning went to his bench for a second time on 72 minutes. He was involved in a move which saw Lawrence try his luck on goal and while he stung the palms of Stevens, he wasn’t able to beat him.
The Dons then went agonisingly close to a second through Dennis, whose curling attempt looked destined for the net until a fingertip save from Stevens diverted it wide. They didn’t have to wait to much longer to double their lead, however – and it came from the same source as the opener.
Awarded a free-kick for a foul on Kemp inside the D, Johnson stepped up to take the set-piece, opting to drill it low towards Stevens and beat him with power – which is what he did to complete a brace and make it 2-0.
Manning handed Dawson Devoy his league debut shortly after the goal. He looked lively in his debut but spent most of his first appearance forced into defensive positions by the visitors, who pushed for a way back into the game.
They did find a goal deep into six minutes of stoppage time – a Harrison touch beating Cumming from an in-swinging free-kick – but it proved too little too late to prevent the Dons celebrating their first league victory of the season.
MK Dons: Cumming, Lewington, Tucker, O’Hora, Smith (Grant 72), Robson, Johnson, Kemp (Devoy 88), Barry (Oyegoke 46) Lawrence, Dennis.
Subs: Ravizzoli, Burns, Ilunga, Jules.
Goals: Johnson (34, 86)
Port Vale: Stevens, Hall, Smith, Garrity, Conlon, Ojo (Walker 81) Forrester (Charsley 81) Hussey (Small 67), Holden (Proctor 63), Harrison, Robinson (Jones 82).
Subs: Stone, Pett.
Goal: Harrison (90+3)
Referee: T Nield
Attendance: 7,011 (728 away)