It might not have been as routine as they’d have wanted, but MK Dons booked their spot in the third round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over Dover Athletic.
Ben Reeves scored the only goal of the game five minutes into the second half after a great cut back from substitute George Baldock.
The most notable change to Karl Robinson’s team sheet for the visit of Dover was David Martin’s return between the sticks after missing the last four games through injury. Suspended Darren Potter was replaced in the centre of the park by Alan Smith, while on loan wingers Samir Carruthers and Jason Banton came back in to the side.
As to be expected, the opening exchanges were all Dons. Banton looked keen to add to his collection of screamers this season with two early efforts - the first dipped sharply forcing Athletic keeper Mitchell Walker to tip it just over the top, while the second was deflected wide. Patrick Bamford too had two attempts, though neither were troubling the Dover stopper.
Martin, making his return to the starting line-up after four matches out, was barely troubled at the other end though as Dons’ back four comfortably dealt with the Dover attack. They came closest though on 28 minutes when a high ball into the box was misjudged by Martin, who could only get a palm to a high ball into the area, before blocking Nathan Elder’s close range effort. Fortunately for the keeper though, Chris Kinnear Jnr couldn’t direct his follow-up strike, and it went over the top.
Dover weren’t making it easy for the home side though, defending sternly as Dons hemmed them in to their own half. But with so many men behind the ball, it was proving troublesome for Dons to create much. Stephen Gleeson, who was putting in a shift in the engine room, bent a free kick into Walker’s hands, and midfield partner Smith sent a header well over the bar as the game drifted towards half time goalless.
A change at the break saw George Baldock replace Banton and his impact was almost immediate. Breaking down the right flank, he cut the ball back to Reeves hovering around the penalty spot, who shot into the roof of the net to finally break the deadlock.
Now chasing the game, the visitors pushed higher up the field in a bid to get back on level terms, but this just left gaping holes at the back for Dons to exploit. Carruthers came within inches of doubling the lead a minute later but he just missed Gleeson’s cross, before Bamford and Reeves struggled to get the ball to sit as it pinged around the Dover area.
Baldock was proving to be the catalyst in Dons changing fortunes in the second half, and should have added to the scoresheet twice within a matter of minutes. First, he collected a brilliant cross-field pass from Carruthers, skinned Tom Wynter but bent the ball the wrong side of the post. A minute later, he beat his man again, this time going near post, but Walker got a strong hand to it to keep it out.
Dover were riding their luck and could thank the upright for preventing them falling further behind midway through the second period when Carruthers’ low ball across the face came off Sean Raggett before bouncing off his own post.
For all Dons pressure though, it remained 1-0. Nathan Elder though should have equalised with 20 minutes to go as Dons failed to fully clear a deep cross into the area, and it dropped nicely for the Dover striker on the edge of the six yard box, but he scooped it high over the top.
With 14 minutes to go, Martin was replaced by Ian McLoughlin in goal - the keeper though didn’t look injured, remaining on the bench rather than going to receive treatment.
McLoughlin had little to deal with really though, despite Dover desperately pouring forward in the latter stages. A few headers were sent over the top and Michael Bakare fired in a dangerous looking strike in stoppage time, but it was straight at McLoughlin as Dons secured their third round spot.
Referee: Lee Collins
MK Dons: Martin (McLoughlin 77), Lewington, Hodson, Williams, Spence, Gleeson, Smith, Reeves, Banton (Baldock 46), Carruthers (Galloway 77), Bamford
Subs not used: Flanagan, Rasulo
Dover Athletic: Walker, Stone, Wynter, Kinnear Jnr (Orlu 90), Raggett, Forbes, Modeste (Bakare 57), Rogers, Elder, Cogan, Murphy (Charles 85)
Subs not used: Hook, Kamara, Woodall, Carew
Booked: Williams, Hodson