A second half Carl Baker strike saw MK Dons climb back into third place with a 1-0 win over Sheffield United.
Both sides cancelled each other out almost perfectly for over an hour, which didn’t make for an action packed affair, with precious few chances at either end to speak of.
But Baker’s 66th minute strike, coming after Will Grigg’s hold up play, was enough to settle things, lifting Dons back to third, leap-frogging Preston North End.
With Benik Afobe officially a Wolves player, Karl Robinson wasted no time in drafting in a replacement, albeit temporarily. Jonson Clarke-Harris was named among the substitutes after signing on loan from Rotherham on Friday. On the field, there was an unfamiliar look to the side. With Darren Potter out, Samir Carruthers was out to prove himself in the centre of the park after a season of indifference, while Ben Reeves was out on the right flank, Carl Baker on the left and Dean Bowditch in behind Will Grigg.
As to be expected, there wasn’t much to separate the sides in the opening half an hour. The home side saw a lot of the ball, but could do little with is as United sat back, keen to hit on the counter.
Dons had the better of the chances though, with Baker hitting the side netting after a neat move with Bowditch, while Dele Alli forced Mark Howard down low at his near post after a good ball through by Jordan Spence. United looked fairly toothless at the other end.
Baker was proving to be the key man for Dons, and he sparked the crowd into life five minutes before the break as he forced Howard into a save low to his right, tipping it around the post for a corner.
United should have gone in at the break ahead though, with Dons having David Martin to thank. Bob Harris’ quick free kick caught the Dons defence on the hop, and allowed Jamal Campbell-Ryce to bring the ball down inside the area. But as he turned to shoot, he was met with a face full of the Dons keeper who had closed the angle, getting a foot to the rushed strike, sending it wide as the home side breathed a sigh of relief.
The second half was, more or less, a carbon copy of the first. Both sides passed nicely in the centre of the park, but failed to make anything stick in the final third.
That was until Robinson brought on new boy Jonson Clarke-Harris, and within a minute, Dons were in front. Dean Lewington’s ball from wide was well held-up by Grigg on the edge of the box. He laid it off to Baker, who made no mistakes in smashing it past Howard into the bottom corner.
Clarke-Harris could’ve doubled the lead two minutes later when he raced clear of the United defence, but with the angle tight, hit the side netting.
The flurry of activity, and falling behind, sent the away side into a late charge to salvage a point. And they should have been level 15 minutes from time when Campbell-Ryce mugged Baker on the right-hand side, but his fierce ball across the face of goal didn’t get a single touch as it raced out of play on the opposite side. And substitute Che Adams wasted a good free kick on the edge of the box, halfheartedly firing it into Martin’s chest.
As desperation kicked in, United piled forwards but couldn’t make Martin work, and the writing was on the wall.
Referee: Lee Mason
Attendance: 9,633 (1,451)
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, McFadzean, Kay, Spence, Carruthers (Randall 87), Alli, Reeves (Baldock 90), Bowditch (Clarke-Harris 64), Baker, Grigg
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Hodson, Green, Hitchcock
Sheffield United: Howard, Alcock (Adams 82), Harris, Doyle, Murphy, Scougall (Reed 45), Baxter, McNulty (Higdon 64), McEverley, Campbell-Ryce, Kennedy
Subs not used: Long, McGahey, Diamio, Wallace
Booked: Baxter, Harris, McFadzean, Spence, Baker