DONS cruised to victory on Boxing Day, making light work of Leyton Orient at the Matchroom Stadium.
A first half strike from Dean Bowditch was doubled by a spectacular strike from Adam Smith in the second half as the visitors looked convincing and in control throughout. Charlie MacDonald added a third to complete the 3-0 away win.
Dons made just one change to the side that narrowly lost to Preston North End last week, with Mathias Doumbe replacing Mark Beevers. With it looking unlikely now that the on-loan Sheffield Wednesday will be extending his deal at stadium:mk, Karl Robinson was keen to get his new central defensive partnership working together as quickly as possible.
Last season’s encounter at the Matchroom Stadium saw three goals scored in the opening 15 minutes, and this game threatened to start in a similar manner. Darren Potter put a long range effort just over the bar after just 60 seconds for Dons, while at the other end Jamie Cureton was just beaten to Lee Cook’s cross by David Martin, as neither side showed any signs of a Christmas hangover.
Jabo Ibehre said he always looks forward to returning to his former club Leyton Orient, but showed where his loyalty lies when nearly fired Dons into the lead with an ambitious looking effort from the edge of the penalty area, but it was blocked out by Terrell Forbes and it went just wide.
But while Dons were looking comfortably on top, a stray pass in the midfield nearly put them behind on 20 minutes. Bowditch’s dawdled on the ball before losing possession to Cook in the centre, starting a three-on-two for the home side. Cook left it as late as possible before slipping Kevin Lisbie through on goal, but the front man’s shot was straight at Martin who made a simple save. Two minutes later, Cureton struck a brilliant effort on the turn which skipped just past the far post though it wasn’t long before the ball was back in the Orient half.
Bowditch and Ibehre looked in great touch, causing all sorts of problems for the home defence with their clever movement and quick passes though clear openings were proving hard to come by.
And it was a brilliant break to the near post from Bowditch that put Dons ahead in the 37th minute. In what has become a classic scene from Dons this season, the visitors passed around the home side quickly and effortlessly, finding Adam Smith on the right wing. And the full-back delivered a perfect ball into Bowditch who volleyed neatly and powerfully over Lee Butcher in the Orient net to put Dons deservedly ahead.
The goal brought about a mini-resurgence for the home side, but Dons never really looking in trouble – Cureton striking the base of the post looked to be Orient’s best chance to get back into the tie, but for the linesman’s flag ruling it offside regardless and Dons took their lead into the break.
And they started the brightest in the second half, taking the game to Orient. Dean Lewington struck a freekick into the wall from the edge of the box, Charlie MacDonald’s shot on the turn narrowly missed dipping in at the far post and Bowditch had two good efforts saved by Butcher all in the opening six minutes of the half.
Bowditch should have had his and Dons’ second of the game three minutes later when MacDonald faked to cross before eventually picking out the former Yeovil man on the penalty spot, but somehow, Butcher got enough on the shot to deflect it up and on to the crossbar.
But there was no denying Adam Smith as Dons finally got the all-important second goal. MacDonald broke down the right flank, but with no support, he turned around and played back to Smith. Taking two strides to compose himself, Smith fired a rocket into the top corner of the net from 30 yards leaving Butcher with absolutely no chance and Dons 2-0 up with 57 minutes played.
And it was made 3-0 five minutes later when Bowditch’s corner was half cleared, Lewington was able to shoot but the shot was parried into the path of MacDonald who had the simple job of tapping in from close range.
With a three goal cushion, Dons were happy to take their foot off the gas and contain the home side. This allowed Orient back into the game a little. Martin was forced into a fine save to defend his clean sheet when Adam Smith slipped in the centre, allowing Jimmy Smith a clear sight of goal, but his shot was a nice height for Martin as he collected it diving to his right.
Orient twice came close with shots from tight angles as the clock ran down, but the Dons stopper never looked in trouble. Chadwick, MacDonald and the excellent Bowditch were taken off with time to go and it was one of the replacements, Daniel Powell, that nearly bundled home a fourth with two minutes but couldn’t quite get the ball out from under his feet.
Dons moved up to third with the early kick off, and with Sheffield Wednesday losing 2-1 to Walsall, Robinson’s men are now just a point off the automatic promotion spots.
Referee: David Phillips
Attendance: 4,162 (362)
Leyton Orient: Butcher, Craig, Chorley, Cuthbert, Forbes, Dawson (c), Lisbie (Mooney, 78), Cureton (Tehoue 60), Spring (Porter 60), Jimmy Smith, Cook
Subs not used: Laird, Button
MK Dons: Martin, Smith, Lewington, Doumbe, MacKenzie, Gleeson, Potter, Bowditch (Balanta, 83), Chadwick (Powell, 78) , Ibehre, MacDonald (Williams, 83)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, O’Shea