Bolton win marks the start of Championship life

Carl Baker battles with Bolton
Carl Baker battles with Bolton

If there was a moment to look back on and pinpoint when MK Dons became a Championship side, it was around the hour-mark on Tuesday night.

For many in attendance, the Bolton Wanderers game signalled the beginning of life in the Championship.

Sam Gallagher

Sam Gallagher

While it was Dons’ third outing in the second tier, previous opponents Rotherham and Preston have been regular combatants with Karl Robinson’s side over the last few years and helped ease his side into their new league’s surroundings.

Bolton on the other hand have never locked horns with Dons, and having spent over a decade in the Premier League before dropping down to the Championship in 2012 - the first of countless established opposition Dons will face this season.

For 45 minutes, Dons looked a match for Bolton, who have found themselves languishing at the wrong end of the table this season, still yet to open their goal-scoring accounts.

Neither side carved much in the way of clear-cut chances. David Martin needed to be the more alert of the two keepers, palming over a Dean Moxey fierce strike from the edge of the box, and doing something similar to keep out Zach Clough’s pot-shot from just inside.

Carl Baker’s now trademark cut inside and cut back onto his right foot was about all Dons had to boast in the opening half, though nothing troubled Ben Amos in the Bolton net.

It was comfortable for Dons, but it wasn’t enough for Robinson though.

He wanted his side to return to the free-scoring, fast-flowing, brave, bold side he saw stick their heads above the trenches last season.

And it’s exactly what he got when he introduced enigmatic winger Powell on 56 minutes at the expense of Cristian Benavente.

Two threatening runs at Lawrie Wilson had the full back trembling within minutes of his arrival. And when the defender missed Samir Carruthers’ ball in behind, Powell needed no second chance to bend the ball into the far corner and give Dons the decisive goal.

Try as they might, Bolton’s retort never really got going. Pressing a high line, Neil Lennon’s men looked threatening, but left David Martin, for the large part, an unused extra.

The introduction of Emile Heskey saw the dangerous Liam Feeney withdrawn, letting Dons off the hook somewhat.

But the experienced head of Matt Upson was drafted in to keep an eye the other former England international as Bolton boomed balls to Heskey late on in a bid to eke out one last chance.

But the mature defensive heads of Antony Kay and Kyle McFadzean cleaned up what little scraps he and Gary Madine may have fed off.

In fact, a lung-busting run from McFadzean, which saw the defender run the length of the field to latch onto Sam Gallagher’s ball, could have sealed the victory in emphatic fashion.

Unfortunately for McFazdean, his left footed strike in stoppage time, with only the keeper to beat, proved his talents lie at the opposite end of the pitch.

The game against Bolton not only signals the real beginning of Dons Championship adventure this season, but also marks the start of what could be a tell-tale month for the club.

Most of the games this season will be looked upon as ‘big games’ until Dons ditch the small-club mentality, but when facing opposition in the form of Reading, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Burnley and Leeds in the next month, they can’t afford to be rabbits caught in the headlights.