MK Dons 2-1 Fleetwood Town: Afobe’s spot on as Dons leave it late

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A late Benik Afobe penalty saw Dons come from behind to beat Fleetwood Town 2-1 at stadium:mk on Tuesday night.

The visitors were gifted a goal six minutes into the second half when Kyle McFadzean misjudged a ball in behind, allowing David Ball to lob David Martin. McFadzean would turn from Hyde to Jekyll though, smashing home the equaliser eight minutes later.

It was one way traffic for much of the remainder of the half as Dons poured forwards, but the winner came via the penalty spot as Gareth Evans pulled down Samir Carruthers, allowing Afobe net his 12th of the season to win it.

Following Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Leyton Orient, Karl Robinson made two changes to his starting line-up, with Darren Potter returning after illness at the heart of the midfield in place of Mark Randall, while Benik Afobe made way for Will Grigg up front.

Robinson was subject to speculation regarding his future at stadium:mk prior to kick off. The 33-year-old was linked to a move to the vacant manager’s job at Birmingham City, but rumours of an approach were quickly rebuffed by Dons, who said he was ‘going nowhere.’

And he won’t have been too disappointed by the way his side started against Fleetwood. Ben Reeves, Dean Bowditch and Dele Alli all came close to opening the scoring in the first 10 minutes - the latter’s shot requiring keeper Chris Maxwell to be wise to the swerving ball as he tipped it over the top.

But as the rain settled in for the night, so did the game. The tempo dropped from the breathless start, but Dons remained on the front foot. Similarly to Saturday’s game at the Matchroom Stadium, Dons faced a deep defensive line and struggled to get men in behind. They were free to play down the flanks, but crosses were bread and butter for Maxwell between the sticks, and anything down the middle was drowned out by the numbers Fleetwood had behind the ball.

There were a few chances though, Bowditch in particular fancying his chances of getting on the score sheet, testing Maxwell’s fingertips once again, this time sending the keeper at full-stretch to his left to keep out a curler from the left-hand edge of the box.

It’d be his last involvement though, as he hobbled down the tunnel three minutes prior to half time, and was replaced by Samir Carruthers.

But despite Dons’ pressure, it would be Fleetwood who would snatch an early second half lead. A ball up from the back looked to be bread and butter for Kyle McFadzean to mop up, but he miscued the bounce of the ball, allowing David Ball in behind and through on goal. With Martin racing out to narrow the angle, the striker deftly lobbed the keeper, giving the visitors a 52nd minute lead.

But the defender made up for his error in fine style eight minutes later as he rifled home the equaliser. Smart play from Carruthers and Reeves drew in the Fleetwood defence, and McFadzean, still at the sharp end after an earlier free kick, found himself with time and space on the edge of the box to fire past Maxwell, bringing the game back to level pegging.

Fleetwood’s goal-scorer Ball had a glorious chance to put his side ahead once more when Jamie Proctor’s strike, though well saved by Martin, was palmed into his path six yards from goal. With the keeper floored, Lewington bravely threw himself across the striker, deflecting the ball and hurting the striker in the process. Ball would struggle on for five minutes before being replaced by Jeff Hughes.

In the meantime, Maxwell was called into action to make a fine stop from Reeves from the edge of the area, and threw in a precautionary dive for good measure to ensure Alli’s strike went over the top seconds later.

McFadzean’s eventful night would come to a premature ending though. After heading Carruthers’ corner into the stands, the defender stayed down, and was quickly treated by the physios. Groggily, he made it to his feet but was clearly unfit to continue and was replaced by Tom Flanagan.

But it was another substitute, Benik Afobe, who would have the last laugh. Carruthers danced into the area with six minutes remaining, but was hauled back by Gareth Evens. Although theatrical, referee Gavin Ward was afforded no choice but to award the spot kick, which Afobe duly converted to give Dons the lead for the first time in the game.

The win means Dons remain in fourth in League 1.

Referee: Gavin Ward

Attendance: 6,736

MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Kay, McFadzean (Flanagan 78), Spence, Potter, Alli, Powell, Bowditch (Carruthers 42), Reeves, Grigg (Afobe 73)

Subs not used: McLoughlin, Baker, Randall, Hitchcock

Fleetwood Town: Maxwell, McLaughlin, Pond, Evans, Schumacher, Dobbie (Proctor 63), Morris, McAlinden (Haughton 78), Ball (Hughes 73), Jordan, Crainey

Subs not used: Davis, Roberts, Sarcevic, Southern

Booked: Schumacher, Spence, Evans, Pond, Morris