IF ever there was a message to send out to AFC Wimbledon ahead of the much anticipated FA Cup second round tie on Sunday, this was it.
All talk of MK Dons’ goal drought has been forgotten after a brilliant November, culminating in a 5-1 thumping of Colchester on Saturday that lifted them into second place in League 1 and into the all-important the automatic promotion spots.
An untroubled performance saw Luke Chadwick hit another brace, with added strikes from Shaun Williams, Jon Otsemobor and Ryan Lowe completing the rout.
But it was the performance of Patrick Bamford which had the Dons fans talking afterwards as the 19-year-old, on loan from Chelsea, set up three goals and was just inches away from a well-earned debut strike for himself.
In truth, it was a cruise from start to finish for Dons. After Tuesday’s somewhat fortunate 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury, the home side left nothing to chance against Colchester at stadium:mk.
Without threatening, Dons controlled the opening 20 minutes, with Darren Potter and Stephen Gleeson given entirely too much time to dictate play and stroke the ball around in the miserable conditions.
So it was no surprise when Dons took the lead after 28 minutes. Dean Bowditch’s break down the right allowed Chadwick to break into the area, and a quick one-two with Bamford saw the veteran roll the ball under keeper John Sullivan.
Bamford’s influence on the game was becoming more and more apparent, and he could have had a goal to his name nine minutes later as he broke clear of the United defence, only to be taken down by Tom Eastman for a penalty, which Williams duly dispatched.
Angelo Balanta had a chance to make it three before half time, but somehow blazed over the bar, though Otsemobor’s powerful header on the hour mark all but wrapped things up.
Ian Henderson took advantage of Dons’ inability to hack the ball clear as he lashed home a consolation goal for Colchester two minutes later.
The visitors threatened to mount a comeback – though that lasted less than 60 seconds as Bamford and Chadwick countered, with the latter sliding home his second of the game, restoring the three-goal advantage at 4-1.
As Dons looked in complete control, Adam Chicksen, stepping in for the injured Dean Lewington, felt Colchester’s frustration as he was petulantly hacked down by substitute Gavin Massey, who was given his marching orders with 24 minutes to go.
Bamford, who seconds before Massey’s red card was also hacked to the ground on halfway, was given a standing ovation by the home fans as he was replaced by Lowe.
On loan Wolves winger Zeli Ismail then replaced the brilliant Chadwick with 13 minutes remaining, and got his chance to show what he is capable of – taking on full-back Dan Potts with consumate ease and even forcing Sullivan into a low save with a shot from the edge of the box.
But it was Lowe who would have the final say, bending in a spectacular shot from 20 yards to complete the rout, running to the bench to celebrate with fellow striker Charlie MacDonald.
Ibra Sekajja, Dons’ third teenage loan signing, made his debut with six minutes to go and he too looked more than comfortable in behind the lone striker, getting off a late shot in search of the sixth.
Unbeaten in six League 1 games, Dons have enjoyed the sort of month that champions are made of – closing the gap to leaders Tranmere to just three points.
It’s just as well that AFC Wimbledon will have the support of most neutral football fans on Sunday, because they’re going to need all the help they can get.