A GOAL on the stroke of half time from Dan Powell was enough to give Dons another win on the road, this time at the expense of Hartlepool.
In a tactical first half, void of many chances, Powell neatly rounded the keeper to slide home the decisive goal just before the break to lift Dons back into the League One play-off spots.
Gary MacKenzie returned to the centre of defence after serving his suspension, meaning Tom Flanagan dropped out of the squad, and Jabo Ibehre couldn’t recover from his illness, leaving Rowan Vine as the lone front man.
After surviving an early phase of Hartlepool pressure, Dons began to settle into their usual passing style, penning Pool into their own half. However, nothing but a Luke Chadwick shot high and wide came of their territory.
On the wet, heavy pitch, neither side created anything clear cut in the opening half-an-hour, resulting in an atmosphere as miserable as the weather. Antony Sweeney found a little space in the penalty area to try an ambitious cycle kick, but it was well wide, causing David Martin no problems.
The only positive note from the first half was the way both sides had set out to play. A lot of the football was played out along the ground, but the final ball was just lacking, often over hit and skidding off the wet surface and away from danger.
But with the last kick of the half, Dons took a dramatic lead. A spectacular cross-field ball from MacKenzie was brilliantly controlled by Powell on the edge of the area, and he turned towards goal. With keeper Scott Flinders rushing out, Powell calmly rounded him but looked as though he’d lost his footing before getting his shot away. Agonisingly for the Pool fans though, his shot came off the inside of the far post and trickled across the line to put Dons ahead going in at the break.
Hartlepool had their first real chance of the game six minutes after the interval. Veteran Richie Humphreys, who was making his record-equalling 472nd appearance for the club, created the chance for Ryan Donaldson 15 yards out, who swung his right foot and Martin could only watch as the shot bounced off the top of the crossbar and out of play.
With the crowd awoken, Pool began to put the pressure on. Martin was nearly caught out with the ball at his feet when two Hartlepool players closed him down, and Humphreys’ long throws were just as good as crosses at times when the big centre-halves in the box. However, Sean O’Hanlon and MacKenzie were proving to be immovable for Dons as they won everything in the air.
But at the other end, Dons were not faring much better either. Both Vine and Keanu Marsh-Brown hit shots high out of the ground as they went in search of the second goal.
Martin was called into making his first save with 27 minutes remaining when Evan Horwood’s free-kick was met by Donaldson at the far post, but his swinging shot was dived on by the keeper to keep his side ahead.
Pool thought they were level when Sweeney’s cross hit a number of players on its way though, before it was turned in by Donaldson, only for the referee to give a free-kick in favour of Dons for an infringement in the goalmouth scramble.
Stephen Hughes replaced Vine just after the hour, with Powell taking over the reigns as the lone front man.
Pool also made a double substitution as they piled forward in search of the equaliser, but Dons’ defence stood strong, although Brown tested their resolve with a long-range effort just wide of Martin’s post.
The woodwork came to Dons rescue again seven minutes from time when another Hartlepool set-piece allowed Donaldson to shoot on goal, with his shot coming back off the bar and into the path of Sweeney, but the usually reliable forward put his head wide, despite Martin being well beaten.
Stirling was thrown on to act as a big target man up front, in the place of Powell, who had run himself into the ground. But despite their efforts, Pool could not break through the defence and Dons held on for a well deserved win, another on the road in 2011. It also sees them back into the play-off spots in sixth place.
Referee: G Sutton. Attendance: 2,620 (111)
Hartlepool: Flinders, Haslam, Collins (c), Harttley, Horwood, Sweeney, Murray (Larkin, 70), Liddle, Monkhouse, Donaldson (McSweeney 84), Humphreys (Brown, 70)Subs not used: Rafferty, McSweeney, Gamble, Boyd, Yantorno, Brown
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington (c), O’Hanlon, MacKenzie, Doumbe, Leven, Gleeson, Chadwick, Powell (Stirling, 83), Marsh-Brown (Guy, 78), Vine (Hughes, 66) Subs not used: Searle,Chicksen, Amoo, Woodards
Bookings: Vine, Powell, Liddle