Dons avoid problem with table manners

Daniel Powell.
Daniel Powell.

It would have been with great indignity and indignation had MK Dons left Ashton Gate sitting bottom of the Championship table on Saturday night.

The 4-1 victory over Rotherham on the opening day of the season is firmly restricted to the memories of those who have travelled with Dons this season, with a run of six defeats in a row threatening to cast doubt on whether the club are really cut out for life in the second tier.

Daniel Powell

Daniel Powell

Like it or not, Dons were in a real position of threat on Saturday as the bottom of the table loomed in a genuine capacity - a far cry indeed from that opening day when they sat atop the standings.

As 23rd played 24th ahead of this weekend’s international break, the stakes couldn’t have been much higher, or lower, than having to stare at a table reading your name at the bottom for two weeks.

But they were sparred that somewhat embarrassing stat of having sat both top and bottom of the league in the space of 10 games, and it came from one of MK’s most unpredictable sources.

Powell has been around the stadium:mk folds for what seems like the entirety of life in Milton Keynes, but is still just 24.

His goals this season alone have earned Dons four of their eight Championship points, while he sits third in the club’s all-time leading scorers list.

The oft-maligned winger netted the winner from the bench against Bolton back in August as Dons won their second game in three, but his goal in the 94th minute at Ashton Gate against Bristol City will hold considerably more significance.

Cutting in from the left-hand side, showing the defender inside - a cardinal sin for a man in any back line - Powell’s wonderful right-footed strike bent brilliantly around the out-stretched hand of Frank Fielding to ensure that City themselves would spend the next fortnight propping everyone else up.

As football clichés go, a game of two halves perfectly describes the performance in Bristol. In fact, the half-finished Ashton Gate too was something of a metaphor for the game for both sides.

Neither side displayed the same qualities which made the fixtures between last season’s League 1 stand-out performers quite so enthralling.

Last year, those matches could have been in the Championship. This time, it looked like a relegation scrap.

Dons were potentially the victims of their own downfall though as Antony Kay gifted the ball to Bobby Reid after just five minutes. Drawing out David Martin, Reid’s simple square to Jonathan Kodjia, the thorn in Dons’ side for 45 minutes, ensured the Robins would spend most of the game in the position of power.

Kodjia looked as though he had more than the measure of Kay and centre-half partner Kyle McFadzean as he stretched them out of place and out of sorts.

Twice he broke down the left touchline, first teeing up Luke Freeman who blasted over the top, before learning and going himself two minutes later, forcing Martin into a palmed save.

Realistically, City should have been high and dry by half time, but rather than coming out all guns blazing, they changed tact and allowed Dons back into it.

Dons were a mere shadow in the first half, but were the more dominant in the second. Simon Church, chance-less in the first 45, hit the post again, but a goal looked a way off.

Carl Baker, Rob Hall and Nicky Maynard had half chances, but deep into time added on, Powell’s wonder-strike rescued not only a point for Karl Robinson’s side, but also sparred their blushes.