A glittering first half performance earned MK Dons all three points against relegation fodder Notts County at stadium:mk on Saturday.
The 3-1 result reflects the balance of play on the whole, but it was the first half show that sealed it for Karl Robinson’s men.
Luke Chadwick got the ball rolling as he netted after just five minutes and it set the tone for the rest of the match. Shaun Williams added a second just before the break as Dons clicked into cruise control.
It was probably going to be a case of ‘how many’ for Dons, but their cocky swagger almost allowed Notts County back into the game as Callum McGregor caught the Dons defence napping.
Patrick Bamford made sure of it in injury time though, netting his fifth in six to lift Dons to sixth in League 1.
Samir Carruthers returned to the starting line-up after going away on international duty, taking Jason Banton’s place out on the left wing at the start of the game.
Notts County have had a torrid start to the season, and their start to the game wasn’t much better as Dons quickly found themselves ahead. A poor header back to his keeper by Alan Sheehan had Bartosz Bialkowski racing Patrick Bamford to get to the ball on the right-hand edge of the box. The striker beat Bialkowski there, and neatly turning, picked out Luke Chadwick just inside the area who had the simple task of firing into the open net to give Dons a five minute lead.
Dons were playing some great football in the early stages, taking the game to their opponents and looking likely to add to their early goal. Bamford and Chadwick were on the same wavelength and it almost slid in the latter with a little help from Carruthers on the left.
But without really having the ball, County were within centimetres of drawing level after quarter of an hour when Marcus Haber’s header looked to be looping over David Martin, but the keeper did well to just claw it back from under his bar - one County boss Chris Kiwomya would have liked to see back with goal-line technology.
The home side though went straight back up the other end, perhaps more alert to the potential threat of their opponents, and almost added the second when Stephen Gleeson made a late break into the area to meet Bamford’s cross, only to see his header come back off the post and cleared to safety.
With the trio of Bamford, Chadwick and Carruthers linking up brilliantly, it felt like only a matter of time before Dons were going to double the lead. But their finishing left a lot to be desired. Chadwick fired tamely into the arms of Bialkowski after a stunning lay-off from Bamford, who them went on himself to force a fine save from the County keeper when slid through later.
But it was none of the front line who would take the honours of doubling Dons’ advantage, but a member of the defence. After Gleeson was fouled on the corner of the area, Shaun Williams bent the ball brilliantly into the top corner of the net, leaving Bialkowski absolutely no chance but to pick the ball out of the net nine minutes before the interval.
It could and should have been 3-0 by the time the half-time whistle saved County. First, Carruthers’ strike dipped just too late over the top of the bar as he cut back inside onto his right foot. Then, in stoppage time, Williams’ ball over the top to Gleeson saw him in behind, but his ball back to Chadwick was just behind the midfielder’s stride.
And Dons started the second half the way they ended the first. Bamford and Chadwick were again within inches of extending Dons’ advantage, but with one scooped off the line and another straight at Bialkowski, the score remained 2-0.
But it was in the midfield that Dons were really looking impressive. Potter, Gleeson, Green, Chadwick and Carruthers were playing some fine one-touch stuff to give County the run-around as they retained possession for fun.
For all their arrogance and swagger though, it left Dons quite open at the back and just allowed Notts County a bit more of a look in. Mistakes and sloppiness at the back made life a little more difficult for Dons as County began to hem Dons in their own half. Ultimately though, they didn’t create a lot to cause Martin any trouble, but he was probably more active than his other half.
Bamford came in to the game in red hot form, having scored four in his last five outings for Dons, and deserved a goal for his efforts. But he was finding Bialkowski tough to get past, as his mazey run and shot looked destined for the bottom corner, but the tips of the County’s keepers fingers just got to it to tip it around the post.
County finally capitalised on Dons’ sleepy defence with 15 minutes to go when Callum McGregor pounced on the home sides’ static back four, ghosting in behind Jon Otsemobor and Antony Kay to pull one back.
The two goal advantage should have been restored two minutes later though when Bamford and McLeod raced through, combining to find Carruthers arriving late, but his header looped up and allowed Bialkowski to make a save worthy of his highlights DVD.
Dons should have been high and dry with five minutes remaining though, but three simple chances went begging. McLeod had two of the three, first firing just wide of the mark, and then straight at Biakowski when clean through. Bamford then rounded the keeper but his touch was too heavy and it ran out of play.
Bamford finally got his goal though in stoppage time to make sure of all three points. A good run from the striker was laid off to Dele Alli, who appeared to overhit the return ball, but in fact was perfectly weighted for McLeod in behind him. His strike was saved but Bamford pounced on the rebound, shooting into the empty net for 3-1 and the win.
Referee: Scott Mathieson
Attendance: 7,142 (430)
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, Lewington, Kay, Williams, Potter, Gleeson, Carruthers (Baldock 84), Green (McLeod 71), Chadwick (Alli 71), Bamford
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Alan Smith, Reeves, Banton
Notts County: Bialkowski, Dumbuya, Sheehan, Liddle, Manny Smith, Leacock, McGregor, Haynes (Arquin 58), Bell (Grealish 58), Haber, Labadie (Boucaud 70)
Subs not used: Spiess, Murray, Fotheringham, Temptest
Booked: McGregor, Haynes