A BRACE from Luke Chadwick saw MK Dons safely into the third round of the League Cup, beating Championship side Blackburn Rovers 2-1 at stadium:mk on Tuesday night.
After dominating the first half, it took Dons seven minutes of the second to take the lead. After a great break from Jon Otsemobor, Chadwick was on hand to rifle home past Rovers keeper Jake Kean to give the home side a deserved lead.
And Chadwick was in the right place at the right time again 16 minutes later as he pounced when Kean could only parry Daniel Powell’s powerful strike.
Dean Bowditch went close to scoring a third for Dons before David Goodwillie handed Blackburn a late lifeline, but it wasn’t enough as Dons booked their place in the third round draw.
New signing Jimmy Bullard was introduced to the fans ahead of kick-off after signing a deal to keep him at the club until December 31. He wasn’t part of the squad to play, but Stephen Gleeson returned from suspension and went straight back into the starting line-up, with captain Dean Lewington banned. Ryan Lowe was replaced by Charlie MacDonald up front.
It took Dons just 47 seconds to do what they failed to do for almost the entire game against Swindon – test the goalkeeper. They pushed forward from kick-off and Powell forced a good low save from Kean.
But if Powell should have done better, then Ruben Rochina should hang his head in shame for his miss two minutes later. Otsemobor’s back pass was never going to make it back to David Martin, and Fabio Nunes nipped in to square up the keeper. He cut the ball back to Rochina, but Shaun Williams bravely threw himself in front of the shot before Adam Chicksen cleared the danger.
The breathless start continued at the other end as MacDonald and Bowditch narrowly missed out on Powell’s low cross into the danger zone. Blackburn were restricted to pot-shots in the early stages, with Simon Vukcevic and Rochina both firing straight at Martin.
Williams was let off the hook when Edinho Junior snuck in behind him to steal the ball, but the Irish defender did well to muscle him off the ball, even winning a goal kick.
Chadwick spurned the best chance of the game up to that point when, after 18 minutes, he raced onto Powell’s defence splitting pass, but couldn’t keep his left-footed shot down as it sailed into the stand behind the goal. Dons looked by far the better side.
With Gleeson back alongside Darren Potter in the middle, it freed up the player of the season to do what he does best, orchestrating the play from the half-way line.
Kean needed to be at his best 11 minutes from the break when a brilliant move involving Powell, MacDonald and Chadwick resulted in the latter swinging a shot low on goal from inside the box, with the stopper at full stretch to keep it out.
Despite the lack of chances towards the end of the half, Dons were by far the better side. This was arguably Robinson’s strongest squad – Lewington aside perhaps, though Chicksen was proving a worthy replacement at left-back – and they were out-passing the Championship side with consummate ease, if not finding too many clear-cut openings along the way.
But when they did find an opening, they took it with both hands. Seven minutes after the restart, Otsemobor broke with pace down the right, out-muscling Marcus Olsson and making it to the by-line. Looking up, he picked out Chadwick in the penalty area, and he dummied his way around Scott Dann before firing home past a helpless Kean.
As the obligatory ‘Kean out’ chants resonated from the away end, Dons continued to put pressure on their Championship opponents, forcing them onto the backfoot and restricting them to counter-attacks. Substitute Goodwillie tried his arm from range which had Martin at full stretch, but the striker’s effort was just over.
While Blackburn fans continued their verbal war against manager Steve, it was another Kean, goalkeeper Jake, who would be left red-faced after he spilled Powell’s shot from the edge of the box, allowing Chadwick the simplest of finishes to put Dons two up after 67 minutes, and it was no more than they deserved.
Bowditch looked in scoring mood too, but he was unlucky to see his 25-yard shot curl just wide of the upright, close enough for keeper Kean to dive at full stretch just to be sure.
Maybe it was the infamous red card streak, or perhaps both sides wanted to come away from the clash unscathed, but referee Mick Russell barely blew his whistle all night but for a handful of offside decisions.
Blackburn handed themselves a lifeline with eight minutes remaining when Goodwillie was left unmarked in the six yard box to head in Nunes’ cross, just to make things a little less comfortable for the home side as the game neared its end.
Williams could have wrapped up the result with five minutes remaining but he saw his header cleared off the line.
Overall, it was a safe passage into the third round for Dons, with Blackburn offering little until Goodwillie’s header. Most importantly, the game saw the end of the club’s unwanted red streak which marred the opening four games of the season, and they will go into Saturday’s League 1 encounter with Carlisle full of confidence.
Referee: Mick Russell
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, MacKenzie, Williams, Chicksen, Potter, Gleeson, Chadwick (O’Shea, 76), Powell, Bowditch (Ibehre, 90), MacDonald (Ryan Lowe, 74)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Alli, Galloway
Blackburn Rovers: Kean, Orr, Nunes, Marcus Olsson, Dann, Jorge, Etuhu (Jason Lowe, 57), Junior (Goodwillie, 57), Rochina (Formica, 68), Hanley, Vukcevic
Subs not used: Martin Olsson, Morris, Usai, Ribeiro