A quick-fire double from Britt Assombalonga ensured Peterborough did the double over MK Dons as they cemented themselves into the play-offs with a 2-0 win at stadium:mk.
A physical battle in the first half set the game up for a thrilling second period, and it turned out to be the case. Assombalonga missed a sitter before tapping in Mark Little’s 58th minute low cross. Two minutes later, he stepped up to rattle home a spot kick after George Baldock was adjudged to have fouled Conor Washington, effectively killing Dons’ chances of getting back into the game.
Posh keeper Bobby Olejnik was man of the match for his role in the busy afternoon in the fixture at London Road in September, but was barely tested.
After impressing in the 3-1 win over Notts County in midweek, Daniel Powell missed out on the derby through illness, handing Ryan Hall his first start since signing for the club in January.
With so much as stake from the game, both sides started brightly. Britt Assombalonga had an early penalty appeal turned away by referee Keith Hill when he collided with David Martin in the box, and Nicky Ajose forced the keeper into a finger-tip save with a dipping volley from the edge of the box as Posh forced the issue early on.
Izale McLeod, again playing as the lone striker, dragged Dons’ only real chance of the first 15 minutes wide of the mark after losing Jack Baldwin on the edge of the area.
Dons were certainly the better of the two sides in the opening exchanges, but found Martin on top of his game. Assombalonga won half a yard on Jordan Spence but his shot was comfortably saved in the end by the Dons keeper. Ajose was proving a tricky customer for Dons to keep tabs on, and he again forced Martin into a top save, diving full stretch to his right to tip the bending effort around the post.
It took Dons 26 minutes to carve themselves a decent effort. Space opened up for Spence as he picked up the ball on half way, and he rolled in Odelusi. With his back to goal on the edge of the box, he shimmied one way before turning the other, but his left footed effort was just wide of Bobby Olejnik’s goal.
The physical battle in midfield would ultimately dominate most of the game, and while both sides managed to get as far as the edge of the penalty area, both defences looked strong in numbers. Antony Kay was solid in defence and winning everything in the air to keep Peterborough out, but there was little edge going forward with McLeod guilty of trying to do too much when surrounded by the Peterborough defence.
Dons were certainly brighter at the start of the second half and looked much more threatening in the attacking third than in the previous 45 minutes. Ryan Hall punched a decent chance just wide of the mark, and Dons appeared to have a decent case for a penalty when Kay’s shot looked like it was blocked by Michael Bostwick’s arm. Keith Hill waved play on.
But Peterborough should have taken the lead 10 minutes after the restart when skipper Tommy Rowe raced into the box, but Martin was a match for his effort. The rebound though fell to Assombalonga, but with the goal open, he headed over.
Assombalonga made up for the miss barely a minute later though as he chased in at the far post to slide home Mark Little’s cross.
Things went from bad to worse another minute down the line when George Baldock was adjudged to have fouled Conor Washington in the box, and Assombalonga rattled home his, and Peterborough’s, second of the afternoon in a real sucker punch for the home side.
Referee Hill was dishing out yellow cards like Halloween sweets, with nine bookings during the course of the game, but saw straight through Dele Alli’s attempt to get Dons a late lifeline as he dramatically went to ground in the area, earning not a penalty but booking for his troubles.
Substitute Giorgio Rasulo looked Dons most dangerous player in the closing stages. The 17-year-old had a shot blocked by one of his own team-mates, had a decent shout for a penalty when he was sent flying by Ben Nugent as they rose for a header, and set up a brilliant one-two with Luke Chadwick, only for the more experienced midfielder to fluff his lines on the return ball.
The win means Peterborough remain in the final play-off spot, moving six points clear of Dons with a game in hand.
Next up for Dons is a trip to the Lamex Stadium to face Stevenage next Saturday.
Referee: Keith Hill
Attendance: 9,590 (1,867)
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Baldock, Kay, Spence, Smith (Chadwick 62), Gleeson, Alli, Odelusi (Bowditch 62), Hall (Rasulo 76), McLeod
Subs not used: Burns, Flanagan, Randall
Peterborough: Olejnik, Alcock, Baldwin, Bostwick, Assombalonga, Rowe, Ajose, Nugent, Washington (Isgrove 87), Little, McQuiod
Subs not used: Day, Brisley, Payne, McCann, Newell, Knight-Percival
Booked: Alcock, Lewington, Gleeson, Spence, Baldock, Nugent, Rowe, McLeod, Alli