IT wasn’t pretty, but Dons came away from the County Ground with a 1-0 win and all three points against Swindon Town on Saturday.
Former Robin Sean O’Hanlon headed in Dons’ only goal in the first half and it proved to be the winner in a game of few clear cut chances that saw the visitors rarely troubled.
Last Saturday’s dramatic late goal scorer Adam Clayton remained on the bench while Jabo Ibehre returned to the starting line-up against a Swindon side who were looking to get out of the relegation zone.
After a tight opening five minutes, Daniel Powell was the first to test keeper Phil Smith with a left footed effort from the edge of the area which was nearly spilt into the path of Ibehre but gathered at the second attempt as Dons began to settle into their usual style of football.
Powell, who scored the opener against Carlisle last time out, looked the most dangerous man on the pitch in the early exchanges, and set up Ibehre for what should have been the opener on 11 minutes. Easily side stepping Alan Sheehan, Powell put in a low cross from the right flank to Ibehre on the edge of the six yard box, but he failed to connect cleanly allowing Jean-Francois Lecsinel to clear his lines.
But it didn’t take Dons long to make amends in somewhat controversial circumstances on 17 minutes. Peter Leven’s corner came in from the right and it appeared that O’Hanlon pushed his marker to the ground, leaving him unmarked to head in from six yards out.
Dons continued to look the better side, and they could so easily have doubled their lead when Mathias Doumbe’s cross was only palmed away by Smith nearly falling to Ibehre and Powell in the centre, but Jean-Francois was first to scramble it clear.
Meanwhile at the other end, David Martin was left a spectator in the Dons goal. Aside from claiming a handful of over hit crosses, the keeper hardly broke a sweat in the opening half hour.
Swindon’s first real chance came with 10 minutes of the half remaining, when a clever corner was hammered goalwards by David Prutton on the edge of the box, and deflected into the path of Jon-Paul McGovern whose shot was deflected narrowly wide despite claims of handball from the home fans.
Back at the other end, O’Hanlon was penalised for a similar offence to the one he scored from, as he tried to leap over Lescinel, and Luke Chadwick’s radar let him down as he blazed high and wide from the corner of the box as the sides approached half time.
Dons should have been two up in stoppage time when Stephen Gleeson’s long clearance found Powell in acres of space, but he wasted too much time on the ball when Ibehre and Keanu Marsh-Brown were unmarked in the centre.
However, Swindon also felt aggrieved not to be level before the break when Calvin Andrew got on the end of McGovern’s cross, but with Martin beaten he saw his effort come back off the bar from point blank range.
The second half began quietly, but both benches were riled when Marsh-Brown and Paul Caddis collided on half way, to which the Swindon staff took offence to, with assistant manager Ian McParland trying to go toe-to-toe with Dons boss Karl Robinson, prompting the referee to send the Swindon man to the stands.
Controversy continued to reign as Gleeson and Caddis then clashed, resulting in a booking for both, and Swindon felt they should have had a penalty moments later when Andrew’s shot appeared to hit O’Hanlon’s hand.
The home side continued to put pressure on Dons, winning a series of corners but not really troubling Martin. And Dons were not doing much better in attack themselves, despite the introduction of Sam Baldock with 15 minutes to go - Doumbe’s high and wide effort the only chance of any note in the second half.
Swindon were dealt a cruel blow when with 10 minutes to go a silly foul on Ibehre just inside the Dons half saw Andy Frampton pick up his second booking - very harsh on the Swindon centre back considering the offence.
The man advantage put the wind back in Dons’ sails, with Ibehre impressing up front and testing Smith in the Robins’ goal after some great hold-up play and a brilliant piece of skill to work his way into the box, before his shot was disappointing.
In another showing of dreadful refereeing, Angelo Balanta was only booked for a shocking two-footed lunge on Caddis on the half-way line in front of the dugouts - perhaps his only saving grace being that Caddis avoided contact.
Michael Rose’s late free-kick flew over the bar in stoppage time as the chaotic second half came to an end, with Dons picking up yet another away win, further cementing their place in the top six. But Friday’s clash with Huddersfield will prove a tougher test with both sides still in with a shout of automatic promotion.
Referee: Linnington. Attendance: 8305.
Swindon: Smith, Frampton, Caddis, Jean-Francois, Sheehan (Rose, 75), Douglas, McGovern, Prutton, Richie, N’Diaye (Benyon, 56), Andrew.
Subs not used: Lucas, Cuthbert, Ferry, Timlin, Bodin.
Dons: Martin, Lewington, MacKenzie, O’Hanlon, Doumbe, Gleeson, Leven, Marsh-Brown (Balanta, 64), Chadwick, Powell (Baldock, 72), Ibehre.
Subs not used: Searle, Chicksen, Flanagan, Clayton, Vine.
Bookings: Sheehan, Doumbe, Gleeson, Caddis, Prutton, Balanta.
Sent off: Frampton.