Josh Murphy netted a dramatic last minute winner at stadium:mk to see off Cardiff City 2-1 to continue Dons’ fine Boxing Day tradition.
Improving their record to seven wins from eight the day after Christmas, Dons remained outside of the Championship relegation zone thanks to goals from the excellent Nicky Maynard and Murphy’s last minute strike, sandwiching Craig Noone’s sensational equaliser for the visitors.
After the positive showing, despite losing, at the City Ground last time out, Dons boss Karl Robinson made just one change to the side which started against Nottingham Forest. Goal-scorer Josh Murphy regained his place in the starting line-up, replacing Dean Bowditch. And for the first time in a month, Simon Church was back on the substitute’s bench.
With defensive errors proving to be Dons’ downfall all too often this season, both full-backs were let off the hook by the other in the opening exchanges. Despite Dons seeing more of the ball, it was Cardiff who looked the more threatening. Dean Lewington was caught upfield when the Welsh side were able to break down their right through Sammy Ameobi. His ball across the face was just out of reach of the sliding Tony Watt, who was put off by Jordan Spence.
Ten minutes later, it was Lewington’s turn to let Spence off the hook as the same happened on the opposite flank, with the skipper able to poke Scott Malone’s cross from Kenwyne Jones’ toe.
Both sides looked solid in possession in the opening half hour, but it was only Cardiff making any inroads. Dons struggled to get anywhere behind the attacking third, with neither Murphy nor Rob Hall on the opposite flank making any impact whatsoever.
At the other end, Watt’s dance through the defence resembled a video game, but was guilty of overdoing it as he ran it out of play. They should have done better though when Aron Gunnarsson shrugged aside an off-colour Antony Kay to go one-on-one with David Martin. The keeper stood his ground though, and Gunnarsson could only fire straight at him.
With a sticky first half behind them, it took just four second half minutes for the first goal, and it came for the home side. Maynard, given the ball on the edge of the box by Carruthers, did well to wait for his moment before firing low from the edge of the box across David Marshall and into the bottom corner.
It made for a far more lively encounter as both sides pushed for a goal. The counter-attacking nature of the game though didn’t really have either keeper tested. While Marshall kept his powder fairly draw, Martin was also on a watching brief as he saw Cardiff try, and fail, to hit the target.
But there was nothing he could do about Craig Noone’s unstoppable equaliser with 10 minutes to go. Cutting inside McFadzean from the Cardiff right, the substitute unleashed a rocket of a shot into the far top corner to pull the Bluebirds level.
The goal meant it would be a frantic finale. Dons could have retaken the lead with four minutes left on the clock when Cardiff simply couldn’t clear, with Murphy, Maynard and substitute Carl Baker all having shots blocked. Kyle McFadzean too had a header cleared off the line as Dons piled it on late in the day.
And their persistence paid off in the final minute of the 90. Lewington’s long ball up the touchline had been aimed at Sam Gallagher, who replaced the excellent Maynard, but was beaten to it by Bruno Manga. His header only went as far as Murphy though who beat the defender and tucked the ball past Marshall from a tight angle to win it for the home side and keep them out of the relegation zone.
Referee: Iain Williamson
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Spence, Kay, McFadzean, Potter, Carruthers, Murphy, Hall (Baker 69), Reeves (Bowditch 90), Maynard (Gallagher 89)
Subs not used: Cropper, Hodson, Powell, Church
Cardiff City: Marshall, Peltier, Manga, Connolly, Malone, Ameobi (Noone 69), Gunnarson, Ralls, Pilkington, Watt, Jones
Subs not used: Moore, Fabio, Whittingham, Mason, Dikgacoi, O’Keefe
Booked: Kay, McFadzean, Noone