DONS made light work of Rochdale on Saturday as they cruised to a 3-1 victory at stadium:mk.
Despite going a goal behind after Brian Barry-Murphy’s brilliant free-kick, Dons appeared to be firing on all cylinders as they scored three goals in 14 minutes in this comfortable victory. First, Adam Smith fired in from fully 35-yards to equalise before Charlie MacDonald put Dons ahead from close range. Mark Beevers bundled home from five yards just after the half hour to double the lead, and the home side never looked back as the controlled the game with ease.
Adam Smith returned at right-back after serving his one match suspension, while Tom Flanagan kept his place in the starting line-up, with Gary MacKenzie having to make do with a place on the bench. Jabo Ibehre and Charlie MacDonald continued up front.
Dons looked to get their usual passing game going from the off, but it was Rochdale that took the early lead thanks to a spectacular goal.
Stood nearly on the touch line eight minutes in, Brian Barry-Murphy brilliantly bent a free-kick into the packed box. But the curling set-piece caught David Martin unawares as it sailed over the keeper into the top corner to put Dale 1-0 up.
But it took another incredible strike, this time from Adam Smith, to tie things up after 16 minutes. Receiving the ball nearly 40 yards from goal, the on-loan Spurs man came forward and spotted an opportunity and let fly, leaving keeper David Lucas absolutely no chance as the ball flew into the net – one of the strikes of the season so far.
With the bit between their teeth, it took Dons just five minutes to take the lead from an excellent flowing move down the right. Smith, with chants of ‘shoot’ from the crowd, found Daniel Powell racing down the flank. He easily out-muscled Stephen Jordan and cut into the area before squaring to Charlie MacDonald who had the simple task of putting Dons 2-1 ahead after a breathless 21 minutes.
Dons weren’t willing to let Dale settle though, as the continued to dominate, and playing much of the game in their opponent’s final third as they sensed blood. And their reward came after 31 minutes when some excellent work on the left flank from MacDonald allowed space for Luke Chadwick to square across the box for Mark Beevers to bundle over the line, doubling the lead at 3-1.
With some breathing room, Dons let off the gas a little going in towards half time. This allowed Rochdale to build up some momentum in the midfield, where they had been thoroughly out-classed before. This spell though was cut short as Dons countered brilliantly with Chadwick and Ibehre, and Gleeson fired narrowly past the upright, with the home side settling for a 3-1 advantage at the break.
Seconds after the restart and MacDonald could have added his second when he brilliantly turned Marcus Holness, but with Lucas wrong footed, his effort dropped just wide of the post. And when the keeper had to tip Chadwick’s effort around the post, it showed that Dons were not willing to rely on their three first half goals.
After a fairly anonymous first half, Jabo Ibehre came into his own in the second. Showing that he’s not just a powerful runner, the front-man showed off his box of tricks by with a series of step-overs and twists to hold on to possession, as well as his usual reliable hold-up play in the centre of the park.
But for all their possession and territory, Dons failed to make an impression on David Lucas as the half wore on, though David Martin was hardly troubled at the other end – a Gary Jones strike from range straight at him the only time he was really called into action.
Dons really should have extended their lead seven minutes from time, following a calamitous error at the other end. Two Dale players collided on the edge of the box as they both shaped to his the same ball and the ball broke loose to Ibehre. Spotting Powell’s run, he played him through and the young winger burst over the halfway line and into the box unchallenged. But he should have looked up and squared to substitute Dean Bowditch who was in acres of space, but instead Powell’s shot was well saved by Lucas’ feet.
Angelo Balanta hit the outside of the post with a terrific effort from the edge of the box, but the three first half strikes were enough to hand Dons all three points.
Referee: Andy Woolmer
MK Dons: Martin, Smith, Lewington, Beevers, Flanagan, Gleeson, Potter, Chadwick (Bowditch, 75), Powell, Ibehre (Williams, 89), MacDonald (Balanta, 84)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, MacKenzie
Rochdale: Lucas, Darby, Holness, Barry-murphy, Kennedy (Akpa Akpro, 63), Jones, Grimes, Adams (Bunn, 74), Tutte (Eccleston, 78), Holden, Jordan
Subs not used: Edwards, Gray