Dons leave nothing to chance this time

The Achilles of Kyle
The Achilles of Kyle

There was less hype, less at stake, fewer fans and fewer curious neutrals, but the second meeting of MK Dons and AFC lived up to the billing - at least it did for the home fans.

On paper, the result went as it should - the team second in League 1, playing at home, beating their League 2 opponents, but there was more to it than that.

Not many in these parts would claim that the first time the sides met back in December 2012, Dons were the beneficiaries of a bit of luck.

Jon Otsemobor will go down forever as the Heel of God, but a stoppage time flick, as dramatic as it made the otherwise drab match, could be considered an injustice on the behalf of the visitors that day.

This time around, the victory needed to be convincing, if only to dispel any potential senses of injustice the Londoners may have on the result last time out.

Ironically, after Matt Tubbs converted his 93rd minute penalty with the final kick of the game, the convincing victory was indeed confirmed.

Dons were simply better in every aspect of the game. Defensively, neither Antony Kay nor Kyle McFadzean looked under threat from the powerhouse Adebayo Akinfenwa nor partner Tubbs throughout.

In midfield, Dele Alli was at his frustrating best - skipping around tackles, mockingly rolling the ball around the hapless opposition, inviting fouls before some deft offloads to set up several first half chances.

In the final third, James Shea faced shots from all angles and takers, while Danny Green’s deadly set-pieces caused moment after moment of uncertainty in the penalty area.

While there were 10,000 fewer fans in attendance for the second match, the atmosphere was more potent than many had expected.

With more than 1,100 travelling supporters vocalising their hatred, the Cowshed upped their levels for an ordinary Tuesday night, biting back with vigour and noise to drown out the minority at the far end.

And it only added fuel to the fire when Dons opened the scoring in front of them.

As with Otsemobor’s Heel of God, there was an element of luck, not to mention sheer arrogance, to McFadzean’s opener. He swiped a heel towards Green’s corner beating Shea at his near post - a most unexpected tribute to Dons’ most unlikely idol.

As with any heated derby, tempers were flared, tackles were late and chests were puffed out. One such late tackle from Green earned him a mention in the referee’s book after a scrum ensued, only adding to the tension.

When Daniel Powell scored four minutes into the second half, it effectively killed the tie, but it hadn’t settled the nerves.

The home fans had to wait until the 76th minute for that, when Benik Afobe netted his first goal for the club, earning Dons their just desserts, dispelling any misconceptions doubters may have harboured about last time. This time, there was no luck involved. Dons were simply better.