Five years ago: When MK Dons stamped their intentions on automatic promotion

Dons' Easter trip to the County Ground kick-started their drive for a top-two finish
Swindon's County GroundSwindon's County Ground
Swindon's County Ground

The Easter weekend of 2015 would prove to be key in Dons' history, and it all began on Saturday April 4 and a televised game against promotion rivals Swindon.

Mark Cooper's side started the game in third spot, a point ahead of Dons, with Bristol City and Preston North End in the automatic spots ahead. The Robins also had a game in hand over Karl Robinson's men, so defeat for Dons would have almost put paid to their chances.

Heading to Wiltshire, Dons appeared to have turned a corner. After four games without a win, they picked up wins over Oldham and Notts County to edge back into the promotion conversation. Kicking off at an earlier time for television, nearly 900 fans made the journey to Swindon and they were in for one of the most important displays for a long time.

"This game was the first time I saw a real change in mentality, and a real belief we could finish in the top two," said then-assistant manager Richie Barker.

There was an air of importance around the County Ground, the magnitude of the game lost on no-one there. Having missed the last seven games through injury, Dele Alli was back for Dons but it was Samir Carruthers who would be the man of the day in the midfield.

With a big screen in the corner of the ground showing the televised coverage, both sets of fans were left frustrated with referee Paul Tierney as replays showed his errors for the ground to see. Dons were denied what appeared to be two penalties earning him plenty stick come the half-time whistle. The screens did not show replays for the second period.

While the game swayed back and forth in the first 45 minutes, Carruthers would come into his own in the second period. Popping up all over the pitch, the former Villa man was instrumental in getting Dons up the field and played a key role in taking the lead. Having not long ago seen a shot well saved by Wes Foderingham, Carruthers dragged Dons up the field, and as the ball worked it's way out to Lee Hodson on the right, his shot was deflected, leaving Daniel Powell to score a rare header on the hour mark.

Carruthers was again involved when his excellent one-two with Alli saw the ball shifted for Will Grigg to bend in the second with 16 minutes remaining.

In a moment of infamy in Dons folklore, Dean Lewington somehow escaped punishment for a full-shove on Cooper when he ventured into the Swindon dugout, leaving the Robins boss on the floor.

Now at MK Dons, Ben Gladwin was plying his trade for Swindon back in 2015 and nearly got one back for the home side to set up a nervous finale, but when Grigg tapped in after Lewis Baker's deft flick to make it 3-0, the game was done and dusted.

The fortunes for the two sides would differ dramatically from there. Cooper was left to lick his wounds after the defeat, and the clattering from the Dons skipper, but his side would win just twice in the next eight games as they had to settle for the play-offs. Dons though would drop just two points in the remaining games en route to the dramatic final day and promotion to the Championship.