Dons kept the pressure firmly on Preston in the battle for automatic promotion as they beat Doncaster 3-0 at stadium:mk.
After a goal-less first half, substitute Dean Bowditch got the last touch on a bizarre opener, before Carl Baker’s brace ensured all three points, though more than a fair share of eyes were on the result at Meadow Lane as Preston beat Notts County 3-1 to remain a point clear of Karl Robinson’s men with two games to go.
After thrashing Leyton Orient 6-1 on Saturday, Dons welcomed back Samir Carruthers from suspension. He replaced Dean Bowditch on the flank in the only change to the starting line-up.
The home side looked desperate to snatch an early lead. There was an urgency about them from the opening minute, though the Doncaster defence were wise to the threats and put themselves on the line. Andy Butler bravely blocked a couple of Rob Hall efforts in the opening 20 minute as Saturday’s hat-trick hero had the better of full-back Cedric Evina.
But Doncaster weren’t without threats of their own. Unlike Leyton Orient at the weekend, the visitors looked dangerous on the counter, with Kyle Bennett and Harry Forrester looking to exploit their pace on the break. David Martin remained untested though.
The attacking prowess of Samir Carruthers, Dele Alli, Lewis Baker, Rob Hall and Will Grigg looked lively, and incredibly aware of their team-mates around them. Such was, a set piece nearly gave them a 25th minute lead when Lewis Baker spotted Carruthers outside the box, and the former Aston Villa man forced a top stop from Stephen Bywater in the Rovers net. Dean Lewington put the ball into the net, but was adjudged offside.
But with Doncaster happy to absorb the pressure, they limited Dons to shots from range, and it worked. Alli tested Bywater’s resolve with a couple of low drives, while Hall and Grigg both pinged shots over the top before the break as the sides went in goal-less. Meanwhile, Preston led 2-0 against Notts County.
The game had a similar feel in the second half too. Doncaster looked happy to escape with at least a point, while Dons continued to plug away, sometimes too impatiently, seeking out a crack in the defence.
It appeared as though it would take something special to beat Bywater, and it almost came in the form of a sensational volley from Dele Alli in the 63rd minute. As the ball dropped out the sky, Alli couldn’t have timed it any sweeter from the edge of the box, connecting clean as a whistle only to see it skim just over the top.
But from needing something special, it took something far more bizarre to put Dons ahead two minutes later. Substitute Carl Baker whipped a ball in deep to the far post, but it looked for all the world as though Mitchell Lund would deal with it. But his clearing header deflected off another substitute Dean Bowditch, who had only been on a matter of seconds, and past Bywater to put Dons into the lead.
With news filtering through that Notts County had pulled one back against Preston, the tension inside stadium:mk mounted. But Doncaster weren’t ready to give it up just yet, and David Martin needed to be at his very best to tip Richie Wellens’ fierce strike over the top as it came through a crowd of people.
Nerves were eased somewhat with 14 minutes to go when Alli picked out the run of Carl Baker, who proceeded to tie Cedric Evina in a knot to put home Dons’ second of the night, giving themselves some breathing room.
And when Baker put home the third with five minutes to go, it was all done. But similarly, it was curtains at Meadow Lane as Preston made it 3-1 to secure all three points too.
It leaves the equation exactly the same, now with just two games to go: Dons a point back.
Referee: Roger East
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, McFadzean, Kay, Spence, Potter, Alli, Carruthers (Powell 85), L Baker (Bowditch 64), Hall (C Baker 57), Grigg
Subs not used: Burns, Hodson, Green, Cole
Doncaster Rovers: Bywater, Evina, Furman, Jones, Forrester (Whitehouse 83), McCullough (Clarke-Harris 67), Tyson (Main 67), Butler, Wellens, Bennett, Lund
Subs not used: Marosi, Stevens, Wabara, Middleton
Booked: Evina, Forrester