MK Dons provided their supporters with a hugely-welcomed Christmas present, courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth at Fratton Park.
Goals in each half from Bradley Johnson and Jack Tucker secured victory for Dean Lewington’s side – their first in the league since October and one which lifts them to within three points of safety in Sky Bet League One.
Interim boss Lewington make seven changes from the midweek defeat to Bristol Rovers in the Papa John’s Trophy, with Johnson, Tucker, Jamie Cumming and Zak Jules the four who retained their place in the starting XI.
A long throw produced the game’s first chance on goal, three minutes in. Cumming made several reaction saves in the melee that came of the Portsmouth delivery, before finally jumping on the ball inside his six-yard box.
Cumming was then forced into another save a minute later, diving to his left to palm away Josh Koroma’s bending effort. MK Dons then had their first effort on goal – an 18-yard strike from Bradley Johnson which was blocked by a Pompey defender.
Lewington’s side settled into contest after that and begin trying to establish their dominance with a prolonged period of possession.
They had another opportunity on 18 minutes, through Johnson again, but his 25-yard free-kick try was denied by the body of a defender. The loose ball fell to Tennai Watson but he, too, saw a Portsmouth man get in the way of his attempt on goal.
After spending time on the back foot, the hosts offered a reminder of their threat midway through the first half when they worked a shooting chance for Denver Hume on the edge of the area. His effort, though, sailed harmlessly over Cumming’s crossbar.
The crossbar came to Cumming’s and the Dons’ rescue with just under half an hour on the clock, denying Clark Robertson from his curling free-kick. The resulting corner led to a chance for Koroma but he saw his shot saved by the MK Dons number 1.
On 34 minutes, Lewington’s men earned themselves another free-kick and that allowed Josh McEachran to deliver a ball into the box. His cross was put behind by a Portsmouth defender which led to a corner, from which the Dons opened the scoring.
The corner was taken quickly to Conor Grant, whose deep cross was met by JOHNSON at the far post and he couldn’t miss with his header from close-range to give the Dons the lead. 0-1.
Portsmouth responded with a corner of their own but Marlon Pack couldn’t keep his header down. Johnson then tried his luck from distance, in search of a second, but he dragged his shot wide of the right post.
Johnson was the target of McEachran’s free-kick on 43 minutes but his header back into the mix was cleared away by Robertson.
The Dons were able to see their lead through until half-time, though Portsmouth threatened an equaliser early in the second period – Koroma, however, headed wide from 10 yards out. Moments later, Tucker did brilliantly to prevent Koroma latching onto a through pass.
Lewington’s side had their first chance of the second half on 54 minutes, following a breakaway down the left. After McEachran won a 50-50, Jules slipped through Nathan Holland but he lifted his effort over the bar.
The hosts were enraged two minutes later when Hackett was denied by the linesman’s flag. Portsmouth were pleading with the referee that the ball had deflected off O’Hora, forgetting the fact that Hackett was offside from the initial pass.
Looking to inflict a double blow, the Dons went up the other end won themselves a free-kick, five yards from the edge of the D. While Johnson saw his strike blocked by the wall, the Dons recycled possession and created a decent chance for Eisa, though, with the angle tight, he was denied by Josh Griffiths. O’Hora fired over on the follow up.
With just over an hour played, Connor Ogilvie had an 18-yard strike blocked. The Dons then went agonisingly close to doubling their lead, on the counter-attack, but Grant wasn’t able to beat Griffiths when one-on-one.
The Dons came away with a corner though and, thanks to a Grant touch, they were able to make it two. The corner was played out to Grant, whose ball into the mix wasn’t dealt with by Portsmouth, allowing the opportunity for TUCKER to poke home his first MK Dons goal. 0-2.
Awarded another free-kick with 20 minutes to play, the Dons went close to a third but Eisa couldn’t keep his right-footed effort down. At the other end, Cumming watched a Robertson header bounce wide of his goal following a deep cross in from the right.
Cumming then produced a fantastic reaction save to keep out Dane Scarlett’s close-range try on 79 minutes. The Dons made their first change of the afternoon, replacing Holland with Louie Barry out on the left flank.
Robson was also introduced as the Dons looked to see out the closing stages. They had Cumming to thank, who was faultless when called upon late on to gather crosses, balls into the box and the occasional long-range try.
The entire XI played their part, though, and when the final whistle sounded after seven minutes of additional time, they finally were able to celebrate a league victory – one which was enjoyed by the 250-plus Dons supporters who travelled.
MK Dons: Cumming, Watson, Tucker, O’Hora, McEachran, Eisa, Holland (Barry 81), Johnson, Grant (Robson 86), Harvie, Jules.
Subs: Ravizzoli, Grigg, Lawrence, Devoy, Dennis.
Goal: Johnson 34, Tucker 64
Portsmouth: Griffiths, Hume (Scarlett 68), Robertson, Ogilvie, Pack, Bishop (Pigott 68), Dale, Hackett, Mingi (Morell 68) Koroma (Curtis 84), Morrison (Jacobs 75).
Subs: Oluwayemi, Raggett.
Booked: Hackett, Ogilvie
Referee: S Barrott
Attendance: 17,426 (236 away)