A stout defensive display saw MK Dons pick up their second victory of the season, beating Chesterfield 1-0 at the Proact Stadium on Tuesday night.
Benik Afobe’s thumping second half strike was ultimately the difference between the sides, though the heads of Antony Kay and Kyle McFadzean played a huge part in the victory as Dons headed away ball after ball pumped into the box.
Troublesome for Dons though, were injuries to David Martin, who hobbled off at half time, and Lee Hodson, who had to be stretchered off with the second half barely underway.
With five assists already this season, Dons were without early season form man Danny Green who picked up some hamstring trouble in the 3-2 defeat to Peterborough on Saturday. Will Grigg also dropped to the bench, with Benik Afobe replacing him at the top of the attacking trio.
With both sides keen to play attacking football, the opening 10 minutes was played at break-neck pace. Afobe looked a real handful for the Chesterfield defence early on, and should have done better when he easily spun his man to race through on goal, only to see his shot saved by keeper Tommy Lee.
The home side won a series of early corners which Kyle McFadzean did well to get something on to avert the danger, while David Martin needed to be on his toes to keep out Samy Morsy’s strike from the edge of the box.
As the game settled, Chesterfield began to find a bit more of their rhythm, and forced Dons onto the back foot. McFadzean was having a busy night mopping up crosses, while Antony Kay had to impose himself when Romuald Boco easily beat Dean Lewington to deflect the shot out for a corner.
And the home side really should have been ahead on the half hour when Dons failed to clear from a corner, McFadzean had to head off the line before Sam Hird missed the open goal, hitting the right-hand upright with his header.
It was all hands to the pump for Dons at the end of the half as Chesterfield really tried to force the issue. Though for as many corners as they won in quick succession, there was little end product when the ball was hoisted high into the box. They found more success with short corners, but Lee Hodson put his body on the line to block Jimmy Ryan’s dangerous looking shot.
Having come together with Roberts in the first half, Martin struggled to make it to half time but was replaced at the change by Ian McLoughlin. Chesterfield failed to take advantage of the cold keeper though, when Kay’s clearance barely a minute into the half cannoned back off McFadzean, allowing Eoin Doyle to break clear. But his shot was well wide of the mark.
And they were made to pay for the miss as Dons took the lead three minutes later. Bringing the ball down well outside the box, Afobe shimmied his way into the area before unleashing an unstoppable strike past Lee.
As if losing Martin wasn’t bad enough, Dons were dealt another blow when, in a clash between Darren Potter and Jay O’Shea, Hodson went down holding his left leg. Thumping the ground in pain, the stretcher was deployed to bring him off the field. A despondent Karl Robinson could only shake his head as he stood over his injured full back, before replacing him with George Baldock.
Dons were denied what appeared to be a stonewall penalty when Lee cleaned out Powell as he latched onto Afobe’s neat ball through. Incredibly though, referee Darren Drysdale awarded a goal kick to Chesterfield.
Since coming on, Baldock made a good deal of difference down the Dons right, particularly going forward. His neat interchange with Afobe saw him race clear down the flank, but his low ball into the box was just out of reach of Reeves at the far post.
And it should have been curtains for Dons with 21 minutes to go when Reeves’ bent in a beautiful ball for Afobe to break the offside trap, but the goal-scorer couldn’t control the ball, giving Lee an easy collect.
With Chesterfield introducing the aerial threat of Armand Gnanduillet, Dons’ defence was standing firm under a strong siege from the home side as they boomed ball after ball into the box from wide - proving easy meat for McFadzean and Kay who were dominating in the air.
Dons were denied a second clear-cut penalty when Afobe was barged down in the area - once more Mr Drysdale seeing nothing wrong with the Chesterfield challenge from behind.
Will Grigg’s introduction late on caused problems for the Chesterfield defence as he replaced Dean Bowditch. Within a minute of his arrival, he forced a corner with a shot narrowly deflected wide, before teeing up Afobe, who had another half-hearted penalty appeal turned away for handball.
With six minutes added on for Hodson’s injury, Dons were under pressure but Kay and McFadzean remained imperious, as Dons escaped with all three points.
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 5,811 (246)
Chesterfield: Lee, Evatt, Darikwa, Morsy, Jones, Hird, Boco (Gnanduillet 61), Ryan (Gardner 80), O’Shea (Banks 61), Roberts, Doyle
Subs not used: Chapman, Raglan, Johnson, Dawes
MK Dons: Martin (McLoughlin 45), Lewington, Hodson (Baldock 53), McFadzean, Kay, Potter, Alli, Bowditch (Grigg 88), Powell, Reeves, Afobe
Subs not used: Flanagan, Randall, Hitchcock, Burns
Booked: Roberts, McFadzean, Reeves, Baldock, Morsy