Persistence pays off for Dons

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LIFE was made easy for Dons on Saturday as they beat 10-man Notts County 3-0 at stadium:mk.

Julian Kelly’s third minute red card meant County would face an uphill task all afternoon, but Shaun Williams’ penalty was well saved by Stuart Nelson.

But Angelo Balanta raced clear to neatly lob the keeper after 10 minutes to give Dons the lead. Despite creating chances, the home side struggled to score a second, but it finally came nine minutes from time when Clinton Morrison fired home from Dean Bowditch’s cross. Daniel Powell scored an excellent third to complete the rout.

Two changes were made to the defence which appeared in Tuesday night’s draw against Charlton Athletic, with Mathias Doumbe making his first appearance this season and Gary MacKenzie returning at centre back. Stephen Gleeson missed out through injury, with Dean Bowditch replacing him.

In a quite incredible start, Dons were awarded a penalty when Dean Bowditch’s shot from close range was blocked on the line by Julian Kelly’s hand, giving the referee no choice but to send the defender off within the opening three minutes. But unlike in midweek when he opened the scoring, Shaun Williams’ spot kick was brilliantly saved by Stuart Nelson diving low to his left.

Magpies boss Martin Allen acted quickly to make up for their shortage at the back, introducing former Don Jude Stirling to a rapturous reception from the home fans.

But it only took 10 minutes for Dons to open the scoring, and it came from a terrific move through the centre. Angelo Balanta exchanged passes with Clinton Morrison, and broke through the defence before picking up his return ball and neatly chipping Nelson from the edge of the area into the empty net.

With the man advantage, Dons looked comfortable all over the pitch as they made County chase for much of the opening half. Williams tried to make up for his earlier penalty miss with a good shot from range, which had Nelson stretching to keep it out, while Bodwitch also forced a good save from the County keeper with his shot through a crowd of bodies.

Dons continued to pepper the County goal with crosses but just lacked that final bit of luck in putting the ball into the net as the visitors offered little in resistance. Karl Robinson though was growing impatient on the sidelines as his side failed to convert more and more chances – something they have been guilty of a lot lately.

But for all their chances, the score remained 1-0 as they went in at the break.

The firey atmosphere inside stadium:mk was raised a notch in the second half as Dons continued to pour forward in search of the illusive second goal, but County weren’t about to make it so easy for the home side as they built up several promising attacks in the opening 15 minutes of the half.

Robinson was incensed when it looked as though Doumbe had been elbowed in the face while defending a corner and raced up the touchline, before being met with Martin Allen who in turn accused Doumbe of diving.

Clinton Morrison had the best chance of the half in the 63rd minute when he got on the end of Chadwick’s brilliant chip into the area, but Nelson was again on hand to save well before pouncing on Chadwick’s follow-up.

David Martin was forced into his first save of the day in the 67th minute when Lee Hughes rifled an effort on goal, but the keeper was at full stretch to keep out his angled shot.

Luke Chadwick saw another effort skip just wide of the post with 15 minutes to go as Dons struggled to make their possession and territory count though the home side never really looked in any great danger as the game began to close out - Sam Sodje’s ambitious overhead kick was comfortably saved by Martin in one of County’s few chances.

But the killer blow came with nine minutes remaining as Dons secured all three points. Bowditch broke down the right flank and with men over, picked out Morrison in the centre who blasted in unmarked to double the lead at 2-0.

And to top it off, an individual bit of magic from Daniel Powell two minutes later made it three as Dons conquered over their tiring opponents.

David Martin was called into action again though, saving well from close range as Karl Hawley raced clear, but the result was beyond County.

The win sees Dons rise to second in the table, and now have more than a week off before next Monday’s trip to Oldham.

Referee: Darren Sheldrake Attendance: 7,620 (909)

MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Doumbe, MacKenzie, Beevers, Potter, Williams, Chadwick (McNamee, 86), Balanta (Powell, 72), Bowditch, Morrison (Chicksen, 89)

Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan

Notts County: Nelson, Kelly, Sheehan, Edwards, Pearce, Lee Hughes, Bishop, Jeff Hughes, Judge (Stirling, 6), Montano (Hawley, 49), Mahon (Sodje, 66)

Subs not used: Burch, Allen

Booked: Jeff Hughes, Bishop, Stirling, Powell

Sent off: Kelly