Dons closed the gap to just four points to the all-important play-off spots with a hard-fought 2-0 victory against Swindon on Tuesday night.
Mathias Doumbe couldn’t have chosen a better moment to score his first goal of the season. His 58th minute header was the highlight of an otherwise scrappy affair, with neither side playing attractive football, opting for a more physical approach.
Swindon piled on the pressure in search of the equaliser, but Ryan Lowe’s strike with a minute to go wrapped it up for the home side, keeping their promotion dream alive for another week.
Despite putting the ball in the back of the net three times on Saturday, albeit being caught offside on each occasion, Ryan Lowe was dropped to the substitutes bench as Dean Lewington returned at left back. Daniel Powell also made way, replaced by Luke Chadwick.
After a frantic start with half-chances at both ends, Wes Foderingham thanked his lucky stars that he was allowed to stay in the Swindon net beyond eight minutes when he incredibly picked up the ball outside the penalty area. Patrick Bamford looked as though he would latch on the end of Chadwick’s through ball, but Foderingham edged just outside the box to pick up. He escaped with a booking.
It wasn’t a good start for the keeper at the other end either. Just four minutes later, Ian McLoughlin spilled Dean Parrett’s routine-looking shot, but he parried and it looped up and over him, spinning dangerously towards goal. Fortunately for the home side, he pounced before it could cross the line.
The game itself, while starting brightly, rapidly descended into a battle of the midfields with the defences. Both sides made progress down the flanks and entered the attacking thirds with relative ease, but simple didn’t get the strikers involved, with killer balls and crosses mopped up regularly by the respective back lines.
Swindon had the ball in the net after 32 minutes when McLoughlin appeared to drop a high cross into the box right on Andy Williams’ head, who had no say in the matter as it popped into the roof of the net. The linesman though spotted a foul on the keeper, who was holding his head - a real let off for the stopper.
Three minutes later, Bamford raced through on goal but the bouncing ball didn’t seem to drop for him. When it eventually did, he lifted it over Foderingham but couldn’t beat former Don Alan Navarro who hoisted the ball to safety.
The flurry of chances sparked the game into life as it approached half time. Tackles were flying in left, right and centre, while there was a light flurry of chances at both ends - Mathias Doumbe flashed a shot wide and Darren Potter had a volley blocked, while at the other end Gary Roberts misdirected a header just wide of the mark. Neither side could break the deadlock though.
After picking up a knock in the first half, Gleeson lasted just two minutes of the second, and was replaced by Chris Lines. The second half started scrappily. Neither side was given a second on the ball as the fast pace left passing skill on the side lines, though defending was brave as they threw themselves in front of shots.
But the deadlock was finally broken 10 minutes after the restart, and it came from an unlikely source. After Bowditch’s corner wasn’t cleared, and Bamford’s strike was blocked, the ball made it’s way to Jon Otsemobor who lofted the ball back into the danger area. As the Swindon defence cleared out, Mathias Doumbe out-jumped Navarro, heading back across goal and into the net, handing Dons the lead.
The goal sparked Swindon into gear, and it made for a tense affair as the game wore on. The visitors looked dangerous piling forward, but some stern blocks kept them at bay. Substitute Raffaele De Vita forced a good save from McLoughlin as he put a header on goal from one of Swindon’s countless second half corner, while Shaun Williams bravely blocked James Collins’ effort from the edge of the six yard box, and Doumbe too threw himself in the way of an Adam Rooney strike.
But as time ticked away, Swindon couldn’t make a break through and it played perfectly into the hands of Dons as they doubled the lead with a minute to go. After Alan smith was hauled to the ground, deemed fair by the referee, Bowditch mopped up and crossed deep to Lowe at the far post. The cross sailed over Nathan Byrne’s head, giving Lowe time to take two touches before lashing home, racing into the arms of his manager in celebration.
Shaun Williams sent a free kick just wide of the mark in stoppage time, but it was enough to send Swindon home pointless - the gap to Dons now just four points with 12 still left to fight for.
Referee: Mark Haywood
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Lewington, Shaun Williams, Doumbe, Potter, Gleeson (Lines 47), Chadwick (Lowe 62), Chicksen, Bowditch, Bamford (Smith 78)
Subs not used: McLeod, Powell, Baldock, Kay
Swindon Town: Foderingham, McCormack, Ward, Flint, Byrne, Luongo, Parrett (Adam Rooney 68), Roberts (Collins 62), Andy Williams, Ferry, Navarro (De Vita 62)
Subs not used: Bedwell, Devera, Luke Rooney, Ferguson
Booked: Foderingham, Flint, Ward