Dons stun Portsmouth with final win of 2019
MK Dons picked up a huge three points in their fight for League One survival after a brilliant 3-1 win over Portsmouth on Sunday.
Despite barely having the ball in the opening half, Dons struck twice before half time through Rhys Healey and Conor McGrandles. Despite a lot of huff and puff from the visitors in the second period, they could not find a way past an excellent Lee Nicholls until Alex Gilbey had made sure with a deft lob late on.
Portsmouth's stoppage time goal from Ronan Curtis would be important though as it meant Dons would not climb above Tranmere on goal-difference and will start 2020 in the relegation zone.
After their draw with Southend, Russell Martin made three changes to the side. Rhys Healey made his first start since September, while Sam Nombe dropped to the bench. David Kasumu came in for Ben Reeves and George Williams replaced Regan Poole.
Dons' passing approach in recent weeks has played them into trouble on a number of occasions, and against Portsmouth it was no different. Hearts were in mouths on numerous occasions as the visitors sometimes had two men bearing down on Lee Nicholls as he had to kick aimlessly long after the system failed to make the space.
Dons' biggest issue of the first half came when Joe Walsh was adjudged to have passed back to his keeper as Nicholls gathered, gifting Portsmouth an in-direct free kick on the edge of the six yard box. The keeper made up for it though with a brave save from point blank range as he raced off the line to get the block in.
The visitors were very much the team in control of the opening half hour, dominating possession and chances, but Andy Cannon's volley wide was their only other chance of note. Despite struggling to find their feet though, Dons would take a two-goal lead in with them at the break.
After a well-won tackle in the heart of midfield, Jordan Houghton got back to his feet to ping a brilliant ball 40-yards towards Healey's run. Beating Anton Walkes in the air, the striker then fired low past Craig MacGillivray for his second in as many games.
And incredibly, it was 2-0 seven minutes later when Lewington's defence-splitting pass found Healey, who laid it off to Mason and then McGrandles who rattled it home from 20 yards.
Portsmouth sought an early way back into the affair in the second half, but they came unstuck by an in-form Nicholls who made three terrific saves to deny half-time substitute John Marquis and Ronan Curtis in quick succession. The pick of the bunch came with 21 minutes remaining when he tipped Curtis' 20-yard effort around the post, at full-stretch to his left to put it around the upright.
Despite knocking loudly on the door throughout the second period, Portsmouth could not find a way through, and it was left to Alex Gilbey to put the icing on the cake for the home side, racing clear with substitute Kieran Agard, but going it alone to lob MacGillivray with six minutes to make it 3-0.
Curtis did eventually beat Nicholls in the third minute of stoppage time to pull one back for Portsmouth, and it turned out to be an important goal too, as it meant Dons would start 2020 in the relegation zone, rather than out of it.
Referee: Leigh Doughty
Attendance: 12,788 (5,083)
MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington, Brittain, Walsh, Williams, Houghton, Kasumu, McGrandles, Gilbey (Reeves 90), Mason (Agard 77), Healey (Nombe 68)
Subs not used: Moore, Poole, Cargill, Boateng
Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Walkes, Naylor, Burgess, Curtis, Bolton, Cannon (Pitman 72), Harness (Evans 72), Raggett, Harrison (Marquis 46), Close
Subs not used: Bass, Downing, Hawkins, Mnoga
Booked: McGrandles, Harness, Brittain, Kasumu, Walsh, Burgess