Dons began their Easter weekend double-header with a well-earned 2-0 victory over 10-man Hartlepool at Victoria Park on Good Friday.
Patrick Bamford opened the scoring after six minutes in an overall dull first half. But the sparks were flying in the second as Simon Walton was given his marching orders five minutes after the break after he kicked out at Bamford, before Dean Bowditch made it 2-0 just after the hour.
The chances of landing a play-off spot are still slim, but an ideal starter before the main course of Brentford at home on Easter Monday.
Dons made two changes to the side which lost last time out to Crewe. Alan Smith and Mathias Doumbe came into the starting line-up, replacing Chris Lines and the suspended Antony Kay.
Karl Robinson said before the game that Dons needed at least four points from the Easter double-header if they were to keep a realistic chance of a play-off spot, and they couldn’t have made a better start. With just six minutes on the clock, Patrick Bamford’s tenacity won him the ball in midfield, and a quick one-two with Stephen Gleeson saw him break into the area. Skipping past three Hartlepool defenders, he composed himself and finished neatly past keeper Scott Flinders to put Dons a goal to the good.
It made things instantly comfortable for the visitors. Taking the game back to their pace, Dons looked in total control against the relegation strugglers. Their possession football though began to grate on the Hartlepool players, with Evan Horwood and Andy Monkhouse both picking up early bookings for needlessly late challenges.
There was little to trouble Flinders though - the only chance a Shaun Williams strike going well off target. At the other end, Ian McLoughlin did his best to keep warm.
With Dons failing to make extra headway, Hartlepool began to edge their way back into the game with 20 minutes of the half remaining. Charlie Wyke and Jonathan Franks looked keen to capitalise on some indecision in the Dons’ midfield, though neither’s efforts were ever troubling McLoughlin.
The home side’s pressure made for a less then smooth route into the half time interval, but with little in the way of clear-cut chances, Dons went in 1-0 up.
Hartlepool’s route back into the game became severely blocked five minutes into the second half though as they were reduced to 10 men. Simon Walton collided with Patrick Bamford in the air and as the pair landed, tangled on the floor, the Hartlepool man dug his studs into the Dons man’s back. Referee Jeremy Simpson had little choice but to send Walton off, though he consulted with his assistant to make sure before dishing the card and ordering him off the pitch.
Bamford was the centre of controversy seven minutes later too when he clashed with Jack Baldwin, earning himself a booking. He was withdrawn seconds later and replaced with Luke Chadwick.
The home crowd, riled with a sense of injustice, roared on their side, but it was Dons who looked the more likely to net a second. Substitute Daniel Powell should have done better with his close range effort but Flinders was on hand to make the save. And Stephen Gleeson too made Flinders work to keep out his low effort from range.
But it was Dean Bowditch who made it 2-0 just after the hour mark. From Mathias Doumbe’s excellent challenge, Gleeson spotted Ryan Lowe’s clever run wide, pulling defender with him, allowing space for Bowditch to curl the ball past Flinders to double the lead.
From there, it was plain sailing for Dons. Flinders kept Powell out again after good work from Bowditch slipped him through, but his shot more hit the keeper than Flinders made a save.
Hartlepool threatened to threaten but crosses came and went without causing much trouble for McLoughlin who had probably the quietest game of his spell in the team. He was still as a statue though when Peter Hartley’s effort crashed off the post with six minutes to go.
Overall though it was comfortable, though the harder work of the weekend will come on Monday. With Coventry’s 10 point deduction helping, Dons climbed to 11th in the League 1 table ahead of Brentford’s trip to stadium:mk, nine points behind Tranmere in sixth with two games in hand.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Hartlepool United: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood (Holden 46), Baldwin, Walton, Sweeney (James 24), Monkhouse, Franks, Wyke
Subs not used: McHugh, Rowbotham, Boagey, Rutherford, Hawkins
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Doumbe, Williams, Chicksen (Galloway 73), Potter, Gleeson, Bamford (Chadwick 58), Smith (Powell 56), Bowditch, Lowe
Subs not used: Baldock, Lines
Booked: Horwood, Monkhouse, Bamford, Chicksen, Baldwin
Sent off: Walton