DONS had to come from behind but their quality eventually told as they saw off Colchester United 5-1 on Saturday.
A lacklustre start put Dons on the back foot at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, and despite three fine saves from David Martin, his defences eventually gave way when Matt Heath’s diving header found the net after 23 minutes. But the goal spurred Dons into action and Charlie MacDonald equalised for the visitors six minutes from the break before Tom Flanagan’s first goal for the club in first half stoppage time put Dons ahead at half-time. MacDonald added a second with quarter of an hour remaining to seal the victory. Stephen Gleeson’s strike just before the end was the pick of the bunch, though there was still time for Jabo Ibehre to tap home in stoppage time to complete the scoring at 5-1.
The home side looked by far the better in the early stages as Dons struggled to settle into their passing style. Colchester’s five-man midfield was smothering Dons’ usual quick give-and-go fashion as the home side were beginning to look more likely to open the scoring. Ian Henderson forced an excellent save from David Martin when he found space 25-yards from goal but the keeper did well to keep it out. And the stopper was looking on top form as he produced fine saves from both Anthony Wordsworth and Andy Bond. At the other end, Dons struggled to produce - a tame Adam Smith shot the only attack of note.
But all Colchester’s pressure eventually paid off in the 23rd minute when Wordsworth’s fine cross found Matt Heath in space, and his fine diving header was enough to beat Martin.
Going a goal down seemed to kick Dons into gear as they began their quest for an equaliser. As they started playing their usual brand of football, they began to get the upper hand. And their pressure paid off six minutes before the break when Charlie MacDonald was on hand to bundle Smith’s cross over the line to pull the score back to 1-1.
After MacDonald’s equaliser, Dons were very much in the ascendancy, though for all their pressure, they didn’t make Ben Williams work often enough.
But Dons’ pressure was rewarded in first half stoppage time when a deep corner from Gleeson found it’s way to Tom Flanagan at the far post, and he had time to control the ball and rifle home left footed to put Dons 2-1 ahead at the interval.
In typical Dons fashion, they burst out in the second half, putting pressure straight back on the home side. MacDonald did brilliantly to chase Powell’s long ball and dink it round the keeper, but square ball was just out of reach of Ibehre, and well cleared by Heath.
At the other end, Odejayi forced another brilliant save from Martin after he appeared to push Flanagan out of the way in the build up, and Henderson shot well wide as the game played out at a rapid tempo.
Daniel Powell looked the most dangerous player on the pitch as he attacked United’s left back Coker with pace and prowess, but it was the battle between Ashley Vincent and Dean Lewington that was really hotting up on the opposite flank. The pair exchanged digs and fouls throughout the second half with neither giving an inch against one another.
Andy Bond should have done better 20 minutes from time when he capitalised on Tom Flanagan’s misplaced header but despite being one-on-one, he blazed well over Martin’s bar – a signal that things just weren’t going right for Colchester.
But it was Dons who got the all important fourth of the game and effectively wrapped up the tie in the process with 16 minutes to go. Darren Potter’s clever ball wide to Dean Bowditch was inch perfect for him to control and neatly pass across the face for MacDonald to tap home from three yards for his second of the game putting Dons 3-1 up and looking certain for the win.
Dons weren’t happy with just three though as they continued to use attack as the best form of defence. Powell fired just wide, Bowditch had a vicious shot blocked and Jabo Ibehre just mistimed his acrobatic overhead kick. Despite being two goals ahead, Karl Robinson was still fuming with each chance missed.
But he certainly wasn’t angry when Gleeson struck with the outside of his right boot 20-yards out, nestling neatly in the bottom left putting Dons 4-1 ahead with three minutes remaining. Jabo Ibehre tapped in deep in stoppage time to complete the rout at 5-1.
The win means Dons remain fourth - well in the fight for the play-offs and within touching distance of the automatic promotion spots
Attendance: 4,249 (371 away)
Colchester United: Williams, Heath, Easterman, Wilson, Coker, Vincent, Wordsworth, James (Thomas, 69), Bond, Odejayi, Henderson
Bench: Rose, White, Izzet, Duguid
MK Dons: Martin, Smith, Lewington, Beevers, Flanagan, Potter, Gleeson (Williams, 88), Chadwick (Bowditch,66) Powell (Balanta, 87), Ibehre, MacDonald
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Doumbe
Bookings: Smith, Chadwick, Lewigton, Gleeson