DEAN Bowditch produced a fantastic display of finishing to net a hat-trick in MK Dons’ comfortable 4-1 win at Bury on Saturday.
Finding the back of the net for the second, third and fourth time this season, the 26-year-old celebrated his return to the team with an exceptional display as Dons climbed up to fourth place with their first League 1 win on the road.
Bowditch hadn’t scored since Dons’ League Cup first round victory at Cheltenham, but produced a couple of outstanding finishes to suggest a very welcome return to form for the man who scored 15 times last season.
Despite Lenell John-Lewis grabbing a late consolation for Bury, Bowditch’s goals after 33, 55 and 66 minutes made it an easy afternoon for Dons at Gigg Lane, with Luke Chadwick sealing the win in the final minute.
Dons made two changes to the line-up that started against Notts Count last Tuesday, with Bowditch and Jay O’Shea – rewarded for his equalising goal that night – in for Gary MacKenzie and Daniel Powell respectively in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
And Karl Robinson’s men took control of the game from the off – enjoying the majority of possession but without creating any serious chances as balls were played into the Bury box and often cleared with relative ease by League 1 bottom’s side.
Bury caretaker manager Peter Shirtliff was told earlier in the week that he would not be considered for the job permanently, but with Northern Ireland hero David Healy looking lively up front and former Dons man Mark Carrington in the middle, the hosts looked a threat on the break.
The problem for Bury was that they struggled to get him into the game, with the hosts hardly touching the ball in the opening 20 minutes as Dons looked to attack predominately down the right flank.
O’Shea and Tom Hopper – on loan at Bury from Leicester – tested the goalkeepers at both ends, but clear-cut chances weren’t coming easy in the first half, and when they did, they were often from distance.
However, the deadlock was suddenly broken in the 32nd minute when Bowditch latched onto Chadwick’s cross with a fantastic left-footed volley which flew past Bury keeper Trevor Carson to give Dons the lead.
And the visitors almost doubled their advantage barely a couple of minutes later when Bowditch timed his run perfectly to meet Dean Lewington’s centre, but Carson saved well and Bowditch’s effort on the rebound came back off the crossbar.
Both sides were forced into a change after that as Bury defender Adam Lockwood and Dons striker Charlie MacDonald – who went down in the goalmouth scramble that ensued – were both forced off to be replaced by Ryan Lowe and Marcus Marshall respectively.
And there was more bad luck for Dons before the break as Jon Otsemobor picked up a knock and made way for Mathias Doumbe. But the changes didn’t hamper the visitors too much and Robinson’s men went in a goal up, and in control, at the interval.
Healy, who joined Bury from Rangers in the summer, remained the biggest goal-scoring threat for the home side, but Dons always looked the most likely to find the back of the net again.
And a deserved second goal arrived 10 minutes after the restart when Bowditch eventually found the back of the net again after first Chadwick was denied by an excellent stop from Carson, and then O’Shea’s follow-up effort came back off the post. Keeping his cool, Bowditch collected the rebound and tapped home his second of the game to leave Dons in cruise control.
Against his former club, Lowe looked in great shape after coming on just before the break, and almost added a third Dons goal just past the hour mark when he turned and forced a good save out of Carson.
However, despite his efforts it was Bowditch who would make sure he kept the headlines – completing his hat-trick by cutting inside past two Bury defenders and finishing past Carson with aplomb.
With more than 20 minutes to play, Bowditch looked capable of scoring more, but his afternoon came to an early end when he was replaced by Powell, seemingly nursing a slight knock after netting his third.
John-Lewis pulled a goal back for Bury after some hesitation from Dons at the back, but the visitors would have the final say as O’Shea picked out Chadwick to slot home number four and complete a near-perfect afternoon.
Referee: Mark Haywood
Attendance: 2,321 (179)
Bury: Carson, Skarz, Lockwood (Marshall 39), Sodje, Hughes, Sweeney (Worrall 59), Schumacher, Carrington, Jones, Healy, Hopper (John-Lewis 66)
Subs not used: Belford, Byrne, Elford-Alliyu, Cullen
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor (Doumbe 45), Lewington, Kay, Williams, Gleeson, Potter, O’Shea, Chadwick, Bowditch (Powell 70), MacDonald (Lowe 41)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Chicksen, Smith