Dons have a hoot as Owls get sent flying

A furious Owls keeper Keiren Westwood SNL-151215-220614012
A furious Owls keeper Keiren Westwood SNL-151215-220614012

Everything finally fell into place on Tuesday night as MK Dons brushed aside Sheffield Wednesday to win 2-1 and climb back out of the relegation zone.

Decisive, daring and dangerous, Dons looked back to their best as they made the promotion-chasing Owls look distinctly second best at stadium:mk.

Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Ipswich left a stinging feeling in the chest of Karl Robinson’s side, who felt they’d done more than enough to warrant at least a point against Mick McCarthy’s side.

But from the ashes of the defeat, Dons continued in a similar vein from the opening whistle, taking the game by the scruff of the neck and leaving Wednesday to chase the shadows cast by the floodlights.

Samir Carruthers, Dons’ biggest improver in recent weeks, was one again at the heart of things in the engine room, at times desperate to be on the ball driving forwards with force and enthusiasm.

In Josh Murphy and Rob Hall, he had allies in his mission and the trio had Wednesday pulled to and fro as Dons surged forwards.

All three shot off target in the opening 20 minutes, leaving Keiren Westwood relatively unchallenged in the Wednesday net, but the bullish nature of Nicky Maynard, and the quick feet of Carl Baker gave Dons a deserving lead after 25 minutes.

Shrugging off Alex Lopez, Maynard rode the challenge to draw out the defence and allow Baker in behind. Sliding him the ball, Baker cut back once, then twice - a familiar sight for Dons fans - before deftly lifting the ball over the advancing Westwood to justify Dons’ command.

It could have been two when the excellent Maynard saw his low, instinctive effort deflected just wide.

Such was Dons control, Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal hauled off Alex Lopez a minute before the interval in a tactical change for Ross Wallace, and then made another change at the break - removing the cumbersome and ineffective giant Atdhe Nuhiu for Lucas Joao.

But it would be Dons who would strike the critical second blow five minutes after the break.

Carruthers was once again at the heart of it, stealing the ball in midfield, catching Wednesday on the hop. Forced to turn and chase, Wednesday were a yard behind as Maynard sprung the offside trap and raced through one-on-one with Westwood. Drawing him out, Maynard calmly slotted the ball past him to double the advantage and his Dons goal tally in the process.

Now with a cushion, Dons were able to relax somewhat, but Wednesday weren’t giving up without a fight.

For the first time, they began to look like a side worthy of a play-off fight. In substitutes Wallace, Joao and then Gary Hooper, Wednesday had firepower in abundance, while Barry Bannan finally began to the on the ball and pull the strings for the visitors.

But try as they might, Dons’ defence was holding firm. Brave stuff from Antony Kay and Kyle McFadzean kept David Martin relatively unchallenged, though a big save from the keeper denied Fernando Forestieri pulling one back.

There was no stopping Hooper though as he lashed in Daniel Pudil’s low cross 14 minutes before time as Dons set themselves up for a desperate finale to hold on.

Try as they might though, Wednesday had territory and possession but little in the way of substance in seeking an equaliser.

Dons on the other hand held out, stood stout and through grit and determination, crawled out of the relegation zone.