Scott Wootton scored a dramatic winner in stoppage time as MK Dons beat Rochdale 1-0 at Spotland.
Making his first league appearance since moving to Leeds, Wootton nodded past the imperious Conrad Logan, who earlier saved Ben Reeves’ penalty.
The Dale keeper, who spent pre-season training with Dons, was the standout performer, though his opposite number David Martin also made several key second half saves to keep a clean sheet and Dons in the game.
Dons travelled to Spotland without record signing Kieran Agard and Darren Potter for the game against Rochdale, but were dealt another blow when Paul Downing fell ill, ruling him out of the clash. Without three, Scott Wootton, Dean Bowditch and Samir Carruthers were drafted in as replacements.
It was a frantic start to the game for both sides. Dale looked to press a high line and pen Dons in in the early exchanges, but the visitors soon settled but the pace of the game was fierce.
Dons looked a threat from set pieces, and twice called Conran Logan into action - first when Nicky Maynard redirected Joe Walsh’s header, and then when Ed Upson arrowed a free kick in low at the near post, forcing the keeper to dive lot to his right.
The home side didn’t create many clear cut chances, but their possession and territory was a constant threat to Dons, particularly from the flanks. On several occasions, Nathaniel Mendez-Liang and Joe Bunney doubled up on Dean Lewington to get into promising positions, but the final ball was, more often than not, dealt with by the impressive Wootton.
The second half was played in a similar way to the first, with Dale dominating the opening 10 minutes before Dons settled. David Martin needed to be at his best to deny Matthew Lund’s early free kick, but the crosses kept on coming from the home side to keep him on his toes.
Dons’ first real attack of the half came on the hour mark when Maynard gave himself room in the box to turn and shoot, but saw his effort deflected into the path of GC Williams, who couldn’t connect. The bench were in uproar though when Carruthers went down in the box as Dale failed to clear, prompting no response from referee Carl Boyeson.
Karl Robinson introduced Ben Reeves with 20 minutes to go in a bid to give his side a bit of attacking prowess and it almost paid dividends immediately as the game opened up. GC Williams burst down the left and picked out Maynard in the middle. Conrad Logan though, who spent pre-season with Dons, made an incredible save to deny Maynard, before Reeves’ follow-up effort was saved.
Logan would be the hero for Rochdale again seven minutes later too as Reeves missed the chance of the game. His quick feet saw him skip around Niall Canavan, but he was taken down, winning a penalty. The spot kick though was poor, at a nice height for Logan who could save with his feet.
It gave Rochdale a boost in the arm and only some heroics at the other end from Martin denied them going ahead as he got something on Donal McDermott’s effort to see it over the bar.
As both sides pushed for a winner, Logan was once again the hero for the home side, making a remarkable double save from Daniel Powell, but he was helpless to prevent Wootton’s header deep into stoppage time as he climbed highest to reach Upson’s free kick and win it for Dons.
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Rochdale: Logan, McNulty, Canavan, McGahey, Lund, Mendez-Liang (Davies 80), Thompson (McDermott 67), Allen, Cannon, Bunney (Andrew 60), Henderson
Subs not used: Lillis, Tanser, Camps, Odelusi
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Walsh, Wootton, Baldock, Upson, Carruthers, GC Williams, Bowditch (Reeves 70), Powell, Maynard (Tshimanga 88)
Subs not used: Nicholls, GB Williams, Tilney, Rasulo, Thomas-Asante
Booked: Upson, McGahey, Lund